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What Happens During a DUI Arrest in California?

Updated: Aug 27

What's The Process Involved In DUIs In California?

A fun night out with friends quickly devolved into a nightmare involving the cops. You drank one too many glasses of wine, and now you've been arrested for driving while inebriated (DUI). Misdemeanors, on the whole, are less serious offenses than felonies. Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your California Attorney Search.

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They are sentenced to substantially less time in prison. A preliminary hearing and the convening of a grand jury are not required in a misdemeanor DUI prosecution, but they are required in a felony DUI case. This is where a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer can assist you.

It is possible to be convicted of DUI as a misdemeanor or felony. As a result, DUI is referred to as a "wobbler" violation in legal circles. You might be prosecuted with a misdemeanor DUI if you caused a minor injury to another person while driving under the influence of alcohol. Even if it's your first violation, the police will prosecute you with felony DUI if the injuries are serious. In addition, if the motorist was carrying children under the age of fourteen or had a very high blood alcohol percentage, a DUI accusation becomes a felony (BAC).

Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, the courts may upgrade a DUI charge from a misdemeanor to a felony. For instance, if you are arrested for DUI while also breaking other laws, the courts have the authority to increase your charges. Drunk drivers who kill others in an accident nearly often face felony charges. This sort of DUI is classified as vehicular manslaughter, vehicular homicide, or second-degree murder in one of three ways.

Felony DUIs

In California, a felony DUI is defined as one of the following three offenses:

Vehicular manslaughter.

Drunk driving that results in serious injury is considered a felony. Scrapes, cuts, and bruises will not result in a felony charge. It may, however, result in charge of misdemeanor DUI with harm. The prosecutor must prove that the victim was seriously injured. A felony DUI would be committed if you intentionally hit another car or person while inebriated. If someone dies as a result of your drinking, you could be prosecuted with second-degree murder or DUI manslaughter.

Multiple DUI offenses (four or more in the last 10 years).

For any further DUIs, the courts will charge you with a felony after your third conviction. Convictions for "wet reckless" driving are among his previous convictions. (A "wet reckless" charge is the outcome of a plea deal to lower a charge of drunk driving where the blood alcohol level was borderline prohibited and there was no prior record or accident.) A repeat DUI offender may benefit from alcohol addiction therapy. When convicted of a frequent DUI offender, you can use completion of such treatment to reduce jail term. Habitual DUI can be charged as a misdemeanor by the prosecution. However, this only happens in exceptional circumstances when your DUI Lawyer negotiates a reduction on your behalf.

Felony DUI conviction in the past.

If you've once been convicted of a DUI felony, each subsequent DUI offense within ten years will be charged as a felony. Even if your BAC is modest or your current DUI does not result in serious injury, you will be charged with a felony.

You can also be charged with felony DUI if you do any of the following:

  • Assault with a dangerous weapon is a serious offense (the law considers your car a deadly weapon),

  • Driving with a high blood alcohol content (.15 or more),

  • Driving with a suspended, limited, or revoked license,

  • You should not drive with children in your vehicle if you are inebriated.

DUIs can still be charged as misdemeanors by prosecutors in these circumstances. They do not charge every DUI satisfying the following conditions as a crime. They have to do more than prove that the motorist was under the influence and that harm occurred. The prosecution must establish that the motorist was inebriated when he or she broke another rule and that the extra offense was the cause of the damage, according to California Vehicle Code Section 23513.

How Do They Test for DUI?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has authorized these three tests.

Standing on one leg:

The driver must exit the vehicle, raise one foot, and maintain that position for thirty seconds. The officer will make various observations as the leg is lifted. Is the driver able to drop the leg in under thirty seconds? Is the driver moving around to keep his or her balance? Is the driver bending or leaning to keep the leg elevated? It's easy to see how people could fail this test for a variety of reasons. The officer is required to ask about and record any circumstances that might interfere, but under duress, drivers frequently forget to mention them. This is where we'll look for information to counter the prosecutor's arguments.

Walk-and-Turn Test:

This test requires the suspected intoxicated driver to walk nine steps in a straight line from heel to toe. The motorist is then instructed to spin around and return to the original starting location on one foot. During the walk-and-turn test, the officer looks for a variety of impairment indicators. Losing balance, pausing, taking too many or too few steps, turning wrongly, and stepping off the line are all indicators. We'll ask you how the exam was performed again to see if the officer followed the appropriate protocol this time. When your Criminal Defense Lawyer confronts the officer at your DMV hearing or in court, your recollection will give the clues your team needs for your case.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN):

When the motorist is ordered to follow an object held by the arresting officer, the term HGN refers to the fast movement (or jerking) of the eye back and forth. When delivering this test, the officer is instructed to use a comprehensive set of procedures.

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Recognize that the instructions presented to law enforcement officials are frequently not followed to the letter during an arrest. This is critical for the preparation of a successful defense. Because the test was not administered properly, the district attorney's case is vulnerable to attack.

It's likely that you've been requested to take tests that aren't included here. You can have also declined to take the tests. Below is a more thorough discussion of the repercussions of refusing to take a test further below.


A DUI charge can result in two types of penalties. The first type is administrative, and it results in the suspension of your license. If you fail or refuse a sobriety test, the police can confiscate your license. It will be a long time before your case even reaches the courtroom. Because license suspension is an administrative action, this step is possible. The second form of penalty is one that is governed by criminal law. Fines or prison time are possible penalties.

There are two sorts of criminal offenses: felonies and misdemeanors.

  • A felony has far more serious consequences than a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor conviction has a lighter penalty than a felony sentence. Misdemeanors are punished by a minor monetary fine, usually less than $1000. The defendant may be sentenced to no more than a year in prison.

  • Felonies, on the other hand, are more serious offenses that carry large monetary fines and may include a term of more than one year in prison rather than a local jail.

A misdemeanor drunk-driving offense is defined by California Vehicle Code 23152. It states that such a violation does not harm a third person physically. Even if your BAC is less than.08 percent, the police might arrest you with felony DUI. If you're under the influence of any drug, whether over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, or illegal narcotics, you could face charges. You may also be forced to give reparation to the persons who have been injured. The police will almost always charge you with multiple infractions of the DUI statutes. As a result, you could face several charges.

DUI offenses in California are subject to a statute of limitations. The prosecution has three years to file felony DUI charges. So, if you've been caught for DUI and the prosecutor is taking a long time to file charges, don't feel too comfortable. He or she is most likely preparing charges against you behind the scenes.

You should be aware of your legal rights, which the police frequently disregard:

  • The police should have enough data to form "probable cause." They can only stop, detain, and arrest you after that.

  • They must provide you with information about your constitutional rights. They must read you your rights before questioning you, which is known as the "Miranda" warning.

  • They should inform you that you are not obligated to participate in field sobriety testing.

  • You should be given the option of having your blood or breath tested. If you refuse, the arresting officer must advise you of the legal repercussions.

  • The breath sample is not saved by the cops. As a result, the arresting officer must allow you to obtain a blood sample for further independent testing. Your CA Criminal Defense Lawyer will send the sample to a laboratory for testing, which will be used in your defense.

The majority of felony DUIs entail injuries as a result of an accident. The prosecution must believe that you caused the collision while inebriated in order to charge you with felony DUI. Consider the following scenario: you've had a few beers and are driving home. Another vehicle runs a stop sign and rear-ends your car as you go through an intersection. Even though you were inebriated, you should not be given a ticket because you were not the one who caused the collision.

The number of people convicted in California varies by county. In Orange County, about 85% of arrests result in convictions. In Los Angeles County, only roughly 70% of those charged are found guilty. As previously stated, a felony DUI conviction can have serious consequences for the average Californian. It may make it difficult to get professional licenses and some job possibilities. It also jeopardizes your prospects of running for public office and even jeopardizes your civil rights, such as your ability to bear arms. It can lead to deportation and can be used as a cause to keep non-citizens out of the country.

You Get a Felony DUI, What Happens Next?

Even if you have a past conviction outside of California, the court will raise the penalty, such as prison time, if you are convicted of a felony DUI. The criteria for showing felony DUI are similar to the criteria for demonstrating minor DUI. However, the case must fit the three criteria outlined above. Your DUI Attorney will challenge a past felony DUI conviction if it is the basis for charging you with a felony.

If you are convicted of felony DUI for the fourth time in ten years, you will be sentenced to at least 180 days in jail. You could also face fines, probation, and penalty assessments. You will also be required to complete an 18-month alcohol education program, which is more intensive than the misdemeanor program. You may also be ordered to participate in a rehabilitation program by the court.

The IID is slightly larger than that of a cell phone. The DMV has hooked it to your ignition, and you must give it a breath sample before starting your car. If the IID detects alcohol on your breath, the vehicle will not start. You'll need to take more breath samples at regular intervals while driving. The extra samples are taken to make sure that alcohol is still not present in your system. If you share a car, the other drivers will be required to produce breath samples as well.

Once your license is reinstated, the necessity to complete SR22 documents is the final part of felony DUI sentencing. SR22 is a form of financial responsibility certificate that verifies that you have the bare minimum of liability insurance. The filing of an SR22 will result in a large increase in your insurance premium.

Various factors determine the penalty for felony DUI convictions:

  • The accident's nature and causation

  • The seriousness of the accident

  • The criminal background of the defendant

  • The amount of persons that have been affected

  • The defendant's age, circumstances, and reasons for previous DUIs

DUI convictions, whether felony or petty, can deplete your financial resources and damage your career. They can also break up your family and ruin your reputation in your neighborhood. Allowing this to happen to you is not a good idea. Felony charges DUI is not a minor traffic violation; it is a serious crime that necessitates the services of a California Criminal Defense Attorney with extensive experience in complex situations. To handle a DUI felony case, you'll need a DUI Attorney with experience and knowledge.

1st DUI Arrest

If you are convicted of DUI in California, you will face a variety of punishments. Here's where the crime's features and the circumstances of the case come into play. These traits are commonly referred to as "aggravating and mitigating variables." It makes no difference whether the sentence is the outcome of a jury verdict or a plea deal (discussed below). Your offense may be deemed minor by the judge, and you may be granted informal probation. The penalties (minimum and maximum) that a judge can impose for a first-time DUI conviction are determined by laws and range from probation to jail time.