DUI Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
Updated: Apr 26
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Getting charged with a DUI in California is a serious problem, and it can result expensive fines, jail time and it can tarnish your image. The California Criminal Code punishes people accused of DUI harshly. Following a DUI charge, you can face an administrative driver's license revocation by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, in addition to fines and jail time (DMV).
DUI refusal situations, which occur when a driver refuses to take a breathalyzer test, have special considerations. If you are charged with DUI or DWI in California, you should have an experienced DUI defense lawyer to help you through it.
The Basics of DUIs in California
Anyone operating a vehicle in the state of California is breaking the law if the following conditions exist:
If you are an adult who is 21 years of age or older and driving a passenger vehicle in the state, you must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher.
If you have a commercial driver's license and are driving a commercial vehicle, such as a tractor-trailer or other big truck, the BAC must be 0.04 percent or higher.
If you're under the age of twenty-one, your BAC should be at least 0.01 percent.
DUI laws in California refer to more than just alcohol. You cannot legally drive a car in the state if you are under the influence of illegal substances or have taken an excessive amount of over-the-counter or prescription drugs that contain alcohol, such as cough medicine.
DUI Hearings at the California Department of Motor Vehicles
The arresting officer is allowed by statute to suspend or revoke your driver's license immediately and submit a copy of your suspension, as well as your driver's license and a copy of the police report, to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV would then conduct its own inquiry into the facts against you presented by the arresting officer in order to decide if the suspension or revocation of your license should be upheld.
The officer will give you an Order of Suspension/Revocation after suspending or revoking your license. This will act as your temporary license for the next 30 days, after which the suspension or revocation will take effect. The California DMV would mail you an Order of Suspension/Revocation if the arresting officer did not give one.
To request an administrative hearing with the California DMV, you will have ten days from the date of your license suspension or revocation. If you do not request an administrative hearing during the ten-day timeframe, the DMV will retain the suspension or revocation, and you will lose your driving privileges.
An administrative hearing is the opportunity to provide proof that challenges the evidence given to the DMV by the arresting officer in order to demonstrate that the suspension or revocation is unjustified and that the driver's license should be restored.
If you want to have a chance of winning your administrative hearing, you'll need to hire a DUI defense lawyer who has experience scheduling and defending clients at administrative hearings. You do not want to request a hearing and then represent yourself at the hearing; this is a losing proposition. You would want to ensure that the DUI defense lawyer you employ has experience defending clients at administrative hearings.
If you or your DUI Attorney request an in-person hearing, the California DMV will schedule you for a telephone hearing by default. You and your DUI defense lawyer should prefer an in-person hearing rather than a telephone hearing because it is difficult to efficiently present evidence in your favor and contest the evidence against you over the phone.
When you or your DUI Attorney schedules your administrative hearing, you can ask for copies of the DMV's documentation of evidence so that you and your DUI defense lawyer can prepare an effective defense against the DMV's evidence before your hearing date.
Getting A Restricted California Driver's License
Requesting a restricted license at your DMV hearing is not the time or place to do so. Your license is revoked by the hearing officer. You can apply for a restricted license at a California DMV office. For you to be eligible for a restricted license, you must have had your first DUI offense within the last ten years, have passed a chemical test, have a.08 percent or higher on the test, and be at least 21 years old at the time of the test. Just travel to and from work and the first offender DUI program with a limited license.
To get a restricted non-commercial license, you must first:
Enroll in a first-time offender program that has been approved by the state. (In order to apply for a restricted license, you must notify the program administrator.)
Request that the program administrator submits an electronic Proof of Enrollment Certificate (DL 107) to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Obtain California SR22 insurance and present it to the DMV as evidence of financial responsibility. (Your insurance agent will either file the SR22 form with the DMV directly or provide you with a copy to file with the DMV.)
You would also have to pay the DMV a reinstatement fee.
Before applying for your restricted license, you must wait until the 30-day suspension period has expired.
DUI Penalties in California for First Offenses
In California, a first offense DUI charge means you haven't been convicted of a DUI in the previous ten years. A first offense charge is known as a misdemeanor, and the following penalties apply:
Jail Time: The minimum sentence is 96 hours in prison (48 hours must be served continuously), with a maximum sentence of 6 months. In place of jail time, the court can grant you a 3 to 5-year probationary time, depending on the circumstances of your case. You will be on court probation, which means you will not be required to report to a probation officer.
Fines: With a first offense charge, the overall fines and assessments would range between $1,400 and $1,600. For an extra charge, the court would allow you to pay your fines over time. Both fines must be paid within 45 days if you do not want to be charged an extra fee. Depending on the court, you might be able to work off a portion of the fine by doing community service.
A first-time offender found to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of less than.20 percent would be eligible to enter a state-approved 30-hour first-time offender program. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) was higher than. 20 percent, you would be forced to complete a 60-hour state-approved first-time offender program.
Ignition interlock: If your blood alcohol content was.15 percent or higher at the time of your arrest, the court might order you to install an ignition interlock system on your car.
Suspension: If you are at least 21 years old, made to take a chemical test, and you were found out to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that was.08 percent and higher, your driver's license will be suspended for four months. Your license will be suspended for one year if you are under the age of 21 and your BAC reading was.01 percent or higher.
Your license will be suspended for one year if you are at least 21 years old and refuse or fail to perform a chemical examination. Your license will be revoked for one year if you are under the age of 21 and refuse or fail to complete a chemical examination.
If the California DMV issues you a restricted license, you can only travel to and from work or school with it. Before the California DMV will grant you a restricted license or reinstate your license at the conclusion of your suspension time, you must provide evidence of financial responsibility in the form of a CA SR22 insurance policy.
DUI Penalties in California for a Second Offense
In California, a second offense DUI charge means you've already been convicted of one DUI over the last ten years. A conviction of a second offense is known as a misdemeanor and carries the following penalties:
Jail time: A second offense conviction will result in a sentence ranging from 10 days to a year in prison. The court can grant you a 3 to a 5-year probationary period and reduce your jail sentence duration depending on the circumstances of your case. You will be on court probation, which means you will not be required to report to a probation officer.
Fines: A second offense conviction would result in fines and assessments ranging from $1,800 to $2,800. For an extra charge, the court would allow you to pay your fines over time. Both fines must be paid within 45 days if you do not want to be charged an extra fee. Depending on the court, you might be able to work off a portion of the fine by doing community service.
A second-time offender may be eligible to enroll in and complete an 18-month state-approved multiple offender program. During the first 12 months of the program, participants must complete 52 hours of group therapy, 12 hours of alcohol and substance education, 6 hours of community reentry screening, and biweekly individual interviews.
After completing 90 days of the probation period, second-time offenders can be eligible for a restricted license. To be eligible for the IID restricted license, they must be enrolled in an alcohol treatment program.
Suspension: If you are 21 years old or over and have taken a chemical examination for a blood alcohol content (BAC) of.08 percent or higher, your license will be revoked for one year. Your license will be revoked for one year if you are under the age of 21 and your BAC reading was.01 percent or higher.
Your license is going to be suspended for two years if you are at least 21 years old and refuse or fail to complete a chemical examination. Your license will be suspended for the same amount of time if you are under the age of 21 and refuse or fail to complete a chemical examination.
California DUI Fines for a Third Offense
In California, a third offense DUI charge means you've been convicted of two previous DUI charges within the last ten years. A charge of third-offense is classified as a misdemeanor and carries the following penalties:
Jail time: A third offense conviction would result in a minimum of 120 days in prison and a maximum of one year in prison. The court can grant you a 3 to 5-year probationary period and reduce the duration of your jail sentence depending on the circumstances of your case. You may be placed on court probation or formal probation, which requires you to report to a probation officer.
Fines: For a third offense charge, fines and assessments can vary from $1,800 to $18,000. For an extra charge, the court would allow you to pay your fines over time. Both fines must be paid within 45 days if you do not want to be charged an extra fee. Depending on the court, you might be able to work off a portion of the fine by doing community service.
Treatment: A third-time offender will be forced to enroll in and complete a 30-month multiple offender program approved by the state. The curriculum requires 76 hours of group therapy, 12 hours of alcohol and drug education, 120-300 hours of community service, and bi-weekly interviews.
Ignition interlock: After completing 6 months of the probation period, third-time offenders can be entitled to have their license restored. To be eligible for the IID restricted license, they must be enrolled in an alcohol treatment program.
Suspension: If you are at least 21 years old and have taken a chemical examination for a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of.08 percent or higher, your license will be revoked for one year. Your license will be revoked for one year if you are under the age of 21 and your BAC reading was.01 percent or higher.
Your license may be suspended for three years if you are at least 21 years old and refuse or fail to perform a chemical examination. If you are under the age of 21 and refuse or fail a chemical test, your license will be suspended for three years.
SR22 Requirements in California
The California DMV will require you to file an SR22 form before they will reinstate your license or grant you a restricted license following your suspension or revocation time. Your SR22 insurance must be extended for a term of three years.
If your SR22 coverage lapses over this three-year cycle, your insurance company is required by statute to promptly notify the California DMV of the lapse. If your insurance lapses, the California DMV will revoke your license immediately, and you will need to re-file an SR22 form with the DMV before they give you a new one.
Interlocking Ignition Systems
Ignition Interlock Devices, or IIDs, are often required in California for a driver with a restricted license to operate a vehicle. Anyone who has been convicted of a DUI in Los Angeles County must now add an IID on their vehicle.
IIDs are related breathalyzers that prohibit your car from starting until it decides that your blood alcohol concentration is below a pre-programmed level. If you are required by the court to have an IID installed in your vehicle, you must pay for it to be done by a licensed IID installer within 30 days of the court's order.
The DMV will then require you to fill out and submit a "Verification of Installation" form, which serves as notification and evidence that the system was installed. After that, you must pay the DMV an administrative fee for processing your Verification of Installation form. If you are required to mount an IID but do not own or have access to a vehicle, you must inform the court within 30 days.
You must also pay and plan for the IID to be recalibrated and maintained every 60 days by a professional IID installer. If the installer finds signs of tampering with the system, he or she will alert the DMV. If you fail to properly manage the unit, the installer will alert the DMV. A limitation is imposed on your driver's license during the time you are ordered to have an IID installed, specifying that you can only operate a vehicle with an IID installed. If you refuse to mount and retain an IID when the court orders it, you will be charged with a misdemeanor and could face up to six months in county jail as well as a fine.
Criminal Penalties As Result Of DUI Conviction in California.
A first DUI conviction in California is usually considered a misdemeanor. Whereas you could face penalty assessments in the thousands of dollars, most motorists face a fine of $390 to $1000. (in addition to those). If probation is issued (which may last anywhere from three to five years), no prison time is required. Even if it's your first offense, a judge can sentence you to up to six months in prison.
Though a judge may impose a number of conditions, in many cases, the following probation conditions apply:
Apart from traffic infractions, you must not break all other laws.
You must agree to roadside alcohol testing if an officer requests it.
You cannot drive if you have detectable levels of alcohol in your bloodstream.
Administrative Fines (Administrative Penalties)
If you were legitimately arrested for a first-offense DUI and chemical tests revealed that you have a BAC of.08 percent or higher, you will be given a "Order of Revocation/Suspension," and your license will be seized. There will be a temporary license given. You must now choose between fighting the charge and accepting the consequences.
If you fail to agree to a chemical test, your license will be automatically revoked for a year, regardless of the outcome of your case.
If you tested positive for a.08 percent BAC, the DMV would revoke your license for four months. However, after serving a 30-day hard suspension, you will be eligible for a restricted license. Restricted licenses enable you to drive to and from work and a DUI educational program (or for work).
An educational DUI program must be completed, fines must be paid, evidence of insurance must be provided, and other conditions must be met in order for a license to be restored or limited.
What Is The Difference Between DUI Checkpoints And Roadblocks?
A DUI roadblock, also known as a checkpoint, is a situation in which a police department has set up a checkpoint in the middle of a road to see if someone is driving while inebriated. The general principle is that, except under extremely restricted cases, a roadblock or a checkpoint is unconstitutional or unlawful, and they must pass constitutional muster. Checkpoints are usually set up as a deterrent for DUIs and for education because police want to prevent people from drinking and driving while inebriated. However, in order for checkpoints to be legal, certain factors must be met, as stated in the Ingersoll case, a Supreme Court case that states checkpoints can be set up as long as certain safety and legal procedures are followed.
The checkpoint's location, number of officers, signage, cone patterns, and location where officers conducted the screening and investigation will all have to be relevant. In addition, a notice had to be issued, and the procedure could not be made to take an unreasonable amount of time. The checkpoint cannot be used for general crime prevention; instead, it must be used to discourage DUIs and search for DUI drivers.
There are several factors to consider, which is why motions to dismiss or claims that the officers have no reason to search, detain, and arrest the person are common in this field. They had to be very mindful about where these checkpoints were set up, how they were set up, and who was running them, as well as how they were sponsored because it's always necessary to be able to explain the bigger picture to the judge to inform them that checkpoints are a source of income for local police departments.
DUI checkpoints are permitted and legal in California as long as they adhere to Ingersoll and subsequent cases that specify what is and is not permissible. They are often considered legal in California, despite the fact that I believe they should not be because they are roadblocks that are ineffective in achieving their stated objective.
When an individual is stopped at a DUI checkpoint, what are their constitutional rights?
At a DUI checkpoint, a person's civil rights do not vanish, though they are subjected to review on occasion. They are not forced to submit to any field sobriety tests, breath tests, blood tests, or other similar tests unless the police have fair suspicion to apprehend them and probable cause to arrest them. Someone who has been legally arrested is required to submit to a chemical examination, but they are not required to answer questions or give any information to the police; the checkpoint is simply a tool for officers to use, and people are only required to follow the rules of the road.
People must drive safely inside the columns and stop if the officer gives them a lawful order to do so if they set up a cone pattern or funnel traffic a certain way, but they do not have to obey when it comes to talking to them or giving them extra details.
What Happens If A Checkpoint Is Ignored?
If anyone comes across a checkpoint, there should be a way for them to turn around and avoid it, but everyone must be careful not to break any vehicle codes in order to avoid a checkpoint. They may choose to avoid the checkpoint, go around it, or turn to go in a different direction as long as they don't break any laws. However, police also set up a chase and try to catch people who break the law when attempting to avoid the checkpoints, whether it's an illegal turn or crossing a solid line, so the police can still pull them over for a vehicle code violation rather than only passing through the checkpoint. People must exercise extreme caution in this regard.
Is It Possible For People To Refuse To Answer Questions During A Checkpoint?
Someone stopped at a checkpoint should not have to answer questions about where they came from, where they intended to go, or how much they had to drink. They could give the police their driver's license if they ask for it, but they do not have to answer questions about where they came from, where they were going, or how much they had to drink. The stop should be brief, only long enough to ascertain whether or not the person has been drinking; the police do not need to ask any questions to do so.
Is a DUI resulting from a stop at a checkpoint any different?
If someone is stopped at a DUI checkpoint and detained for DUI, the case will be handled similarly to a normal DUI case. The police reports may be filled in easily because they will have models ready to fill in the blanks on a preprinted form. The checkpoint case would be special in court since virtually any DUI checkpoint or roadblock case would go through a denial hearing to decide if the checkpoint was constitutional; It must be proven that the stop was not based on anything peculiar to that vehicle.
What is the most common blunder made by people going through DUI checkpoints?
One of the most common mistakes people make is passing through a DUI checkpoint in the first place. Either they don't notice it quickly enough, or the signage is incorrect, but going through the checkpoint at all is a mistake. Drivers should be able to notice these checkpoints, change their route, and go in a different direction to avoid them entirely.
Another blunder people make is being too chatty; they don't just open their window and display their ID. Instead, they spent so much time arguing with the cop, allowing him more time to form a rational assumption that they were driving under the influence, that the car was not properly registered, or that there were equipment violations. When anyone passes through a checkpoint, police can see something unrelated to DUI and direct them to a secondary screening area, giving officers more time to determine whether they have been drinking.
What are the most common misunderstandings about checkpoints and roadblocks?
The most common misunderstanding about roadblocks or checkpoints is that they are often legal and serve some reason, when in fact, they are a huge intrusion into people's lives. Police aren't very good at determining who is or isn't disabled just by looking at the checkpoint. People believe checkpoints are a good use of time and money, but other types of law enforcement are much more successful. The reality is that they stop and detain entirely innocent people, asking for their documents and inquiring about their backgrounds and destinations.
Inexperienced police are granted a lot of authority and power to search, arrest, and interrogate law-abiding people, which is dangerously similar to a German roadblock asking for someone's documents.
While In A Parked Vehicle
If an officer finds anything suspicious, they will conduct a welfare check; normally, an officer will receive a call from 911 dispatch stating that someone is passed out or sleeping in a vehicle or that a car is stopped in the middle of the road. The word "welfare check" refers to a police response to see what's going on in case someone is ill or wounded and needs assistance. Welfare checks do happen; they could see a car parked in a deserted parking lot late at night, or a car with the lights on but not moving, or a car parked in the middle of the road; it may be any of dozens of situations that fall under the community caretaker area of a police officer's responsibilities, which means they have the right and investigate to ensure that no one is in danger.
Under what circumstances would a person charged with DUI for sitting or sleeping in a parked car?
People who sit or sleep in parked cars are often charged with a type of DUI, which is not the same as driving under the influence. There must be movement of the vehicle, even though it is just a minor movement, for someone to be charged with real DUI in California, and there is no movement if someone is in a parked car. There are several exceptions, such as whether the person was parking in the middle of the road or had been in an accident, but in general, if the person was parked in their property's driveway or in front of their house and never started the vehicle, they would not be deemed to be driving under the influence.
There are excellent cases to bring to trial because people will often leave the house or a party and stay in the car because they have decided that not driving is the best option. Juries are generally aware of this and want to warn people to be careful and not drive while inebriated. These cases are more difficult to justify if the car was found parked alongside the freeway; however, even if the car was legally parked on a surface street, the prosecution would find it difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt whether or not the person had any alcohol in their system at the time of driving, or even if they rode. And if they were in the driver's seat, only because it was their car doesn't mean they drove it there, and it wouldn't be called a DUI if the car was legally parked, nobody saw it move, and there was no crash.
Does someone have to be sitting in the driver's seat in order to be charged with a DUI?
An individual does not have to be in the driver's seat to be charged with a DUI; circumstantial evidence may lead to an arrest for driving under the influence. Someone could be parked on the freeway miles from the nearest on-ramp. If they're the car owner, even if they were in the passenger seat, the car obviously didn't get there on its own so that police could arrest them based on that circumstantial evidence. The case would then become a question of whether it could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the person drove and was impatient.
Even if someone (at the time of getting caught) was in the backseat or passenger seat and the keys were not in the ignition, police would still make a DUI arrest. All they have to do is consider circumstantial evidence and determine probable cause. When a police officer pulls a suspected violator over and notices the driver and passenger switching seats, several people can be arrested for driving under the influence. When a person is stopped on the side of the road, the police officer will ask who was driving, and various people will confess to it even though they were not, and the officer will arrest anyone in the situation. Even if they are not in the driver's seat, several people may be detained for DUI in a variety of cases.
Is it possible to be charged with a DUI even though you don't have the keys to the car?
You may still be charged with a DUI even though you did not have the car keys because cars do not often need keys to be driven, and keys may often be lost. This is true if there was an accident and the car was registered to them because, depending on the officer's sophistication, they would be able to create an impressive amount of circumstantial evidence to show that they were driving while intoxicated.
Having no keys to the car can be a very good defense to driving while intoxicated, and I've been able to get not-guilty verdicts in cases where there were no keys to the car, but it was my client's car, he was in it and asleep, and the prosecution was unable to prove that he drove it; without finding any keys, the jury did not believe the person was, in fact, driving the car.
Home Arrest After a DUI Conviction.
There are occasions when a person is arrested for DUI even though the police never see them driving, resulting in an in-home DUI arrest. Usually, this happens in an accident where someone writes down a license plate number, and police traced it to the car's and owner's house, or when police escort someone home or receive a tip from a civilian witness. They can check to see if a car is parked in the driveway, then knock on the door and drag someone out of their home for a DUI investigation and arrest.
Is a warrant needed for police to enter your home for an in-home DUI arrest?
The police need a warrant to access a house, as a general rule. Although some exceptions may try to exploit, so be careful about that. Rather than wasting time or money contacting a judge for a warrant, they will usually attempt to obtain consent. When the individual opens the door or rings the bell, the officers will ask them to come outside and speak with them, and if they do, the officers will be well on their way to conducting an investigation.
They are well on their way to getting enough probable cause to make a lawful arrest if they get admissions from the person that yes, they do have a car, and that is the make, model, and license number, and that they were driving it. There are a variety of defenses available in these situations, but we want to prevent detention and any encounter with law enforcement if at all possible.
If the police arrive at your door, note that you are not expected to answer the door, unlock the door, or speak with the officers. If they have enough evidence for a warrant, let them get one and return with it. All of this will take time and effort on the police's part, and they may or may not follow through, but if you come down and open the door and have a consensual encounter with police, you're more likely to be arrested for DUI or some other crime than if you choose to leave the door shut.
It's your home, and when you're inside, you're the king of the castle, so they shouldn't enter without a warrant. There could be exigent situations, such as if you were involved in a hot chase and police pursued you to your home. In most cases with a traditional DUI, the criminal investigation takes a long time, and blood alcohol levels can vary significantly over time; the longer they wait, such as if police may obtain a warrant, the more complicated their case becomes.
People can shower or watch TV in their own homes; they can sit down and drink a beer, all of which makes it almost impossible for the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what that person's alcohol level was when they were driving.
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