What Happens When You Get a DUI in Los Angeles?

Many people reach out to us and ask, “What happens when you get a DUI in Los Angeles?” While this is one of our most frequently asked questions, the answer is different in nearly every case. In general, getting a DUI in Los Angeles means that you are subject to California’s strict DUI laws. California DUIs carry two cases, a DMV case and a separate court case, known as the criminal case.

As former district attorneys and prosecutors, we have vast experience and utilize our expertise in DUIs to fight each case to achieve the best possible result. DUIs can be scary and life-changing. We have had the privilege of successfully helping over 3000 people clear their DUIs. 

After a DUI arrest in Los Angeles, most people are overwhelmed and have no idea where to turn to for the right help. Having an excellent lawyer is critical to maintaining your record and protecting your future. We specialize in challenging complex DUI cases and have earned a DUI attorney rating of 10 out of 10.

What Happens When You Get Pulled Over for a DUI: Facts

The most important thing to understand after you’ve been arrested for a DUI in Los Angeles is that the clock is ticking and you must act urgently in order to preserve your license. After the DUI arrest, the police will typically release you with a notice to appear in court to fight the criminal case and they also provide you with a temporary driver’s license since they confiscate your traditional driver’s license.

The temporary license has instructions which are confusing and often not applicable in your case. You’ve only got 10 days to make sure the DMV hearing has been requested properly. When you hire our firm, we handle the whole process for you. We immediately contact the DMV to make sure they do not suspend your license without giving us a chance to challenge the case and fight the DMV in a hearing, in order to protect your license. If you don’t act quickly, you will receive an automatic suspension which can go up to 3 years in length.

The DUI Arrest Process in Los Angeles

When you are pulled over for a DUI in Los Angeles, it is generally the LAPD, California Highway Patrol, or Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department who initially pull over your vehicle. In order for the police to pull you over to check for impairment, the officers must observe a vehicle code violation. That means that the officers cannot pull you over for no reason. They have to show that you broke some law. It could be speeding, weaving, or as slight as having no front license place. Any vehicle code violation will be enough to justify them stopping your car.

After they approach your car they will start asking questions, usually starting with “where are you coming from tonight” or “where are you headed tonight.” The answers to these questions are largely irrelevant. The officer is actually trying to engage you in conversation to determine if there are objective signs of impairment such as slow and slurred speech, red and water eyes, an odor of alcohol on your breath, etc.

The more they get you talking, the easier it is for them to evaluate if you are impaired.

Assuming they believe that you are impaired from alcohol or drugs or both, the officer will then start the standardized field sobriety tests, known as “FSTS.” The first test is typically the “pen test,” known as the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. They ask you to follow the pen with your eyes to see if your pupils move rapidly and have difficulty tracking.

Then they ask you to step out of the car and onto the sidewalk to perform more tests. The next test is typically the walk and turn, wherein you are asked to walk 9 steps in a straight line, turn around and walk 9 steps back. This is done “heel to toe” which is not easy and often causes people to lose their balance.

There are other tests as well, including the balancing on one leg test and the 30-second count test where they time you counting to 30.

After these tests are done, the officers will typically ask you to blow into a portable breathalyzer known as a PAS machine (Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test). This test is optional, however, most people feel pressured into taking it and end up providing samples. It is not a good idea to do this test.

If you take the test and the BAC result is .08% or higher, the officers will immediately place you under arrest.

Once you are placed under arrest, they will ask you if you want to take a breath test or a blood test. Many people are confused by this since they just blew into a breath machine and don’t understand the need to do it again at the station. This is because the handheld breathalyzer is optional, while the formal breath test or blood test is mandatory.

Once you choose your desired test, they will administer it. If you choose the breath test, they will make you blow into the machine at least twice to get multiple results. If you choose blood, it may cause a delay since the officers may need to drive you over to the hospital to have a nurse pull a blood sample.

You then get put in the holding cell for processing. Processing can take anywhere from 3 hours all the way to 24 hours. Once you are ready for release, the officers will provide you with a notice to appear in court and a temporary DMV license. They do not explain what you are required to do so many people feel lost when they are leaving the station without their driver’s license and with a notice of suspension and pending court date.

It is at this point that it is critical to contact a skilled DUI specialist who can tackle the case for you and build your defense quickly.

What to Do After You’ve Been Arrested for a DUI


  • – Be respectful to the officers. Being uncooperative makes the situation much worse and can result in additional charges being filed against you.
  • – Provide your driver’s license and registration and proof of insurance.
  • – Agree to take a chemical breath test at the station or a blood test.


  • – Do not refuse the chemical breath test or the blood test. Refusing leads to extremely harsh penalties in both court and with the DMV, including jail time and a very long driver’s license suspension.
  • – Don’t admit to drinking.
  • – Don’t take any field sobriety tests but remain courteous and respectfully decline.
  • – Do not blow into the handheld breathalyzer known as the PAS device.
  • – Do not try to stall to get your alcohol to go down. The officers can recognize this and mark it as a refusal.
  • – Do not mention any prior DUIs you may have had in the past.

How Many Years Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in California?

A DUI conviction stays on your record indefinitely unless it is expunged. A DUI can be expunged from your record once your probation is complete. Typically the probation period is three years long and after that, an expungement is possible. Once it is expunged, it will remove the conviction from your criminal record and the charge will show as being dismissed. You will no longer need to disclose the conviction to prospective employers, job applications, rental applications, or otherwise. Some of our clients have unique concerns that require they not be on probation for very long and in these cases we can file a motion to terminate probation early. Once terminated, the case can be expunged even though three years have not elapsed.

A DUI in Los Angeles or a DUI anywhere in California is priorable for ten years.

That means that if you get a DUI in 2012 and then another one in 2022, if the arrests occurred within 10 years of each other, the 2nd DUI arrest will count as a 2nd DUI offense which carries much harsher penalties, including jail time. An expungement will not remove the prior DUI from being used as a prior offense by the DA if you get a new DUI within 10 years.

Speak to a Los Angeles DUI Attorney About Fighting Your DUI

Being arrested for DUI in Los Angeles is frightening and completely overwhelming. Not only do you undergo an unpleasant arrest and detention, but you are left to navigate a complex system of rules and confusing laws. Less than 1% of DUI defendants attempt to represent themselves because the danger is so high. In any DUI you face significant suspension time, jail time, community service and other penalties. It can easily overwhelm someone who isn’t familiar with the process.

At the Law Offices of Hart J. Levin, we take away the guesswork and handle the entire case for you. We answer all your questions and work closely with you to guide you through the process. We’ve had tremendous success in helping people facing DUI charges because we offer compassion, expertise and a relentless drive to help our clients. If you are in need of help, call our Los Angeles DUI attorneys today for a free consultation.

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