DUI FAQ | Frequently Asked Questions About Drunk Driving
As one of the best DUI attorneys in Los Angeles, we often hear these frequently asked questions regarding drunk driving.
DUI Frequently Asked Questions
A DUI refers to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or a combination of both. A DUI is shorthand for driving while impaired, being charged with driving under the influence, or getting convicted (found guilty) of “drunk driving.” “DUI” is a generic term for anything related to court proceedings or an arrest for drinking and driving.
A blood alcohol level, also known as BAC level, is a measurement used to determine a person’s level of impairment from alcohol or drugs or a combination of both. The BAC level is used to determine whether to arrest and charge a driver with a DUI. The legal limit in California, and virtually every other state, is .08%, which means that an alcohol content of .08% or higher is considered illegal and will bring about DUI charges. The BAC level can be tested by either doing a breath test on a “breathalyzer,” or by giving a blood sample using a traditional blood draw.
Many people are often shocked to find out how high their BAC level is and are confused about how their BAC level could get so high, stating that they are small (or large) so there is no way they could get that high. The BAC level is relative to each individual and takes into consideration their total weight, body mass index, metabolism, liver function and several other factors, so the actual BAC number is a percentage of the person’s total blood content.
.08% BAC is the national standard for being impaired so any test result at or above .08% will cause a DUI charge. Interestingly, prosecutors can charge DUI even when the BAC level is below .08%. The DA can file a DUI even on .01% BAC if they feel that there is impairment shown from driving poorly (weaving, speeding, etc.) or from poor performance on field sobriety tests. Also, a person could be using alcohol and marijuana, for example, and have a BAC well below .08 yet the DA will still seek a DUI conviction.
DUIs have aspects that are extremely time-sensitive and urgent. The best thing to do is find the right lawyer ASAP who can request a DMV hearing immediately. The right attorney will make sure the DMV doesn’t suspend a person’s driver’s license until there has been a hearing to challenge the case and until all defenses have been put forth.
A driver does not need to answer questions at a checkpoint but must provide their name, driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration upon being requested to do so by a police officer. Beyond those basic pieces of information, the driver does not need to disclose any other information. The driver does not need to disclose whether or not they had been drinking prior to the checkpoint.
In general, a person suspected of DUI will be given a choice between a blood test or a breath test. If the driver chooses the breath test but is unable to give a large enough breath sample (or the machine isn’t working properly), then the driver is required to give a blood test, even if they don’t want to. A driver is allowed to decline all tests except for the blood test. If the blood test is unavailable, the driver will be required to submit to any of the remaining options for testing – either breath or urine (rarely used anymore).
A driver can usually choose between blood or a breath test, except when officers suspect drugs are involved, in which case they will require a blood test. If officers believe the driver is impaired with drugs, the driver has no option other than the blood test and refusing to consent to a blood draw has severe consequences.
Mouth alcohol refers to any alcohol in your mouth that may be expelled by blowing into a breath machine. Mouth alcohol can come from just taking a sip of alcohol, from GERD (acid reflux) bringing up stomach contents that contain alcohol into the mouth, from dental work that cause excess fluids to remain in the mouth, etc. If someone gargled with alcohol and then blew into a breath machine, we would anticipate an elevated BAC result because of the mouth alcohol that is going into the breath machine.
Mouth alcohol is not an accurate indicator of impairment since it is not related to your actual BAC, since the alcohol is in your mouth and not being measured in your blood. Mouth alcohol is why police are required to observe a suspected DUI driver for 15 minutes prior to taking the breath test, to make sure they do not burp or regurgitate, causing excess alcohol to go from the stomach to the mouth, and then into the breath machine.
Expect to be held in jail during the booking process from anywhere from 2 hours to 24 hours, the average being about 12 hours until release. Upon release, the jail will give the driver important paperwork outlining the date for the upcoming court case and urgent DMV requirements that need to be handled. In the first 24 hours after an arrest, most people are stunned and don’t know what to do or who to turn to. We handle every aspect of the case and explain the entire process to each client so they can feel comfortable knowing that everything is being properly handled by an expert.
Most DUIs are NOT felonies. An average DUI is a misdemeanor only, which means the maximum jail time is one year at most. Even in a serious DUI with a car accident and high BAC level, the charge is typically not a felony. A felony is a concern when there is an accident causing injuries to someone else, or if the driver gets a 4th DUI within 10 years.
A DUI typically will not ruin your life. In most cases, DUIs are misdemeanors that can be negotiated so that the punishment is very minimal (or nothing at all), and a DUI record can be expunged fairly quickly. A felony DUI carries much more risk for one’s future as job prospects, applying for housing, credit, etc, can be impacted if someone is declared a felon.
Most DUIs happen between 8pm and 2am. Bars in California close at 2am so that is generally a time when people who drove to a bar end up driving home.
It can cause a permanent blemish on your background check which can cause problems with travel (Canada will not allow you in with a DUI), renting cars, renting apartments, qualifying for financing, a mortgage, getting a job, etc.
No. Some DUIs can be dismissed and never appear on the record. DUIs that lead to criminal convictions can be erased or expunged through the expungement process, typically after 3 years of law-abiding conduct.
Yes. A DUI typically carries two points with the DMV which can raise the cost of insurance or lead to additional suspension time. A DUI with an accident carries three points instead of two.
DUIs carry a wide range of penalties which depend greatly on how the court negotiation process goes. The most severe penalties include jail time or prison time. Most DUIs don’t require jail but do require DUI classes, fines, community service, labor, probation, AA meetings, MADD meetings, working at the hospital and morgue, license suspension, the requirement of a breathalyzer in your vehicle (Ignition interlock device), etc.
The cost of a DUI can vary widely. Costs can range from a couple thousand to in the tens of thousands depending on the severity of the case. Most cases are not particularly complex so the costs are lower. We offer flexible payment plans to accommodate people in all different financial situations.
There are two types of under 21 DUIs. The first is when the BAC level is under .05. In that case the prosecutor will usually not file a misdemeanor, but will file the case as an infraction. The consequences of an under 21 DUI in these types of cases are severe since the DMV will automatically suspend your license for one full year, without the ability to drive to work or school.
And then when the court case settles, it will restart the one-year suspension. The other type of under 21 DUI is when the driver is .08 BAC or above, in which case it is treated as a misdemeanor with significant punishment and a one-year driver’s license suspension.
Getting charged with a DUI means that the state is accusing you of driving under the influence, which can either be a misdemeanor or felony on your record. Having a misdemeanor or felony on your record is technically considered to be a crime on your record. Most DUI’s are misdemeanors, which carry the possibility of jail time. Felony DUI’s are much more serious and carry the possibility of state prison time.
There are a couple of ways that a DUI can become a felony:
- The most common way is if you injure someone else in an accident caused by the DUI.
- They can be a driver or passenger of another car
- A passenger in your car
- A pedestrian or bicyclist
- If the other party complains of any sort of injury, the officers are likely to book the DUI driver under a felony DUI, requiring at least $100,000 bail to be released from jail. It is then up to the district attorney’s office to decide if the injuries qualify the DUI as a felony or not. Any injuries more than bumps and bruises can trigger a filing of a felony DUI.
- A felony DUI can become even more serious if the injuries are considered “great bodily injury.” Great bodily injury would include broken bones, significant lacerations, internal bleeding, or other longer lasting injuries. If the DA charges the DUI driver with great bodily injury, it is a sentencing enhancement meaning the state prison time maximum increases significantly and the crime because a “strike” offense on your record, which has severe long term consequences.
- A DUI causing death is also a felony carrying severe prison sentences.
- Getting arrested for four DUI’s in ten years will also trigger a filing of a felony DUI.
- Once you have a conviction for a felony DUI, a future DUI can be treated as a felony DUI as well, even if it is very minor.
Aside from those factors, most DUIs will be filed as misdemeanor DUIs, which are significantly less serious than a felony DUI.
Your 1st DUI:
There is a range of penalties and charges that can occur on any first offense DUI. On the light end, cases can be dismissed or reduced to a non-dui charge. On the harsh end, first-time DUI drivers face a maximum of six months in jail. In most first-time DUI cases without an accident or extremely high BAC level, jail is not a huge concern. A first DUI almost always carries with it a requirement to complete an alcohol education course, among other costly punishments.
Absolutely. The DMV suspends driver’s licenses in nearly every single DUI, .08 BAC and higher. Suspensions range from 4 months to one year on a first offense, but get very complicated since there are two separate DMV suspensions. One comes before court (typically) and the other comes only once the court case is finished.
Most likely not. Jail time is not required and can typically be negotiated away. The vehicle code mentions 48 hours in jail on a first DUI but very few prosecutors ask for such punishment, and even when they do, a skilled defense attorney can argue it away. The maximum jail time on a first DUI is six months in jail, unless the DUI is filed as a misdemeanor with injury (the maximum jail term is one year – see Vehicle Code section 23153 for additional information).
Judges and prosecutors typically seek jail time on a first DUI if there is a car accident, high alcohol level, driving on suspended license, or a “refusal.” In most cases we can attack the case and find flaws which allow us to eliminate all jail time. In some cases where the court requires it, we can substitute community labor or Caltrans instead of jail time.
If you refused to give either the chemical test (breathalyzer test at the police station) or the blood test, there are significant consequences. The prosecutor will ask for 48 hours in jail as well as other enhanced penalties. We can generally negotiate the 48 hours of jail away and eliminate the refusal allegation altogether, saving our clients thousands of dollars and two days in jail, which will also shorten their driver’s license suspension time.
Additionally, it is possible to refuse all tests only to have the officers get a warrant to take a “forced blood draw.” The officers can literally hold you down while a nurse draws your blood. In these cases, even if your BAC level is below the legal limit of .08%, you will still be charged with a DUI with refusal and will lose your license for one full year on a first DUI.
The prosecutor will ask for an alcohol class. These classes range in length from 3 to 9 months and must be attended weekly. The DMV also requires the same class to have your driver’s license reinstated. If you have a high alcohol level (anything over .15% BAC), the prosecutor will ask for a 6 or 9 month alcohol class. We can negotiate these down and many times get the shortest possible class even in cases with very high alcohol levels.
If convicted of a DUI in court, the DMV will require the installation of an ignition interlock device (the breathalyzer) for several months. The driver would have full driving privileges during this period.
The court can also order a one month vehicle impound, AA meetings, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) meeting, Hospital and Morgue program (looking at dead bodies at the morgue), community service, labor, probation and fines.
Probation is typically for three years and is known as informal or summary probation on a first DUI, meaning it is “non-reporting probation,” and the requirements include: do not drive with any measurable amount of alcohol or drugs in your system, do not refuse to complete any drug chemical test, field sobriety test or preliminary alcohol screening test, when requested to do so by a peace officer. Finally, the court requires that you obey all laws and orders of the court. Any new arrests would subject you to additional punishment and jail time up to the maximum confinement term of confinement.
The fines range from about $1800 to more than $7,000. Even in the worst cases, we can typically negotiate the lowest possible fine with a long payment plan option, giving our clients a year or more to pay approximately $1,800 in fines to the court.
On a first DUI, there are two separate DMV suspensions. One is known as the APS suspension which begins soon after your arrest. In order to prevent or delay this suspension, we need to challenge the DMV in a hearing immediately. This is extremely time sensitive and waiting too long will result in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license. The DMV is very black and white and tends to suspend in nearly every case where the driver had a BAC level of .08% or higher. This results in a four month driver’s license suspension, however, most drivers are eligible for a restricted license after the first 30 days of suspension.
The second suspension occurs after the court case if the driver gets convicted of a DUI in court. This suspension ranges from 6-10 months, depending on the alcohol level. Drivers can typically drive during this period on a restricted license or with the ignition interlock device installed.
If the driver refused the chemical test and the DMV finds the refusal to be valid (they do so in nearly every single refusal case), the DMV will suspend your license for one full year. It gets worse. There is no restricted license eligibility during the one year period. That is why it is absolutely critical to aggressively fight the DMV in refusal hearings to challenge every aspect of the police report to prevent catastrophic consequences, which typically lead to loss of employment.
The refusal also has drivers license consequences in court. If the court finds the refusal to be true, they will re-suspend your drivers license. For example, if the DMV suspended your license due to a refusal on January 1st, but the court case takes six more months to resolve (with refusal allegation found true), the suspension for one year would begin January 1st, but it would restart all over again at the conclusion of the court case for one full year. In that scenario, the total suspension time is 18 months, with no restricted license eligibility. It is vital to negotiate away the refusal allegation in court to prevent this double suspension.
On a normal misdemeanor DUI with no refusal, it doesn’t make a difference what the BAC level is when considering restricted license options. The DMV doesn’t care if the BAC is .08% vs. .48%, the driver is eligible for a restricted license after 30 days of suspension.
When the police suspect you of driving under the influence they will ask you to step out of the car and undergo standardized field sobriety tests. Once such test is blowing into a handheld breathalyzer known as the “PAS” (Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test). Drivers often report that they blew into the PAS several times and the officers had difficulty obtaining a result, or if they did get a result, would not disclose it to the driver. The PAS test is optional. Declining it will likely lead to the police arresting you, but it is the last field sobriety test and the officers have most likely already made the decision to arrest you based on the initial field sobriety tests.
Blowing into the PAS does not meet the implied consent requirements mandated by the DMV. The DMV requires that drivers submit to a chemical breath test or blood test when asked to do so by a peace officer. The PAS is considered to be neither of those tests and is not required of drivers (unless they are on probation already). Some drivers refuse to breathe into the breathalyzer at the police station after blowing into the PAS, saying that they’ve already given a breath sample and that should be enough for the officers. That is contrary to the law and drivers are still required to blow into the chemical breath machine or give a blood sample even after giving a breath sample in the PAS device. If you blow into the PAS but then decline the chemical breath test at the station, or the blood test, the police officers can mark it down as a refusal which brings significant penalties against you.
If you choose to take either the chemical breath test or the blood test, and the test you choose becomes unavailable or is not working, you are required to give the other remaining test. For example, if you choose to blow into the chemical breath test at the station and the machine is malfunctioning, the officers will then ask you to take a blood test. If you do not comply, they will mark a refusal on your DUI since you did not take the only available (and properly functioning) test.
Once the 30 day suspension is complete, the DMV will require an SR 22 and proof of enrollment in a state-approved alcohol program to obtain a restricted license. The SR 22 is proof of supplemental insurance required on every single DUI. We do not recommend using your normal insurance carrier to secure the SR 22 because notifying them of the DUI will automatically raise your rates in most instances. The DMV will charge a small reinstatement fee and give you the restricted license which is good for several months. It allows for work related driving and driving to and from alcohol classes.
If you need recommendations for the top SR 22 providers, we can provide you with them free of charge. The earlier you secure your SR 22, the more money you will save on the cost, as it will increase once the DMV takes an action against your license.
You will need to visit the DMV in person to secure the restricted license.
It depends on your employer. Certain jobs, like Lyft or Uber, will not employ drivers who have a DUI. Other employers, like school districts and hospitals, have mandatory disclosure requirements, which require you to report to them immediately if you have been arrested. These provisions are outlined in the employee handbook. Generally speaking, if you are required to report, it’s best to do so promptly so it doesn’t appear that you are hiding anything. Certain positions have an agreement with the Department of Justice wherein they are automatically notified upon an employee’s arrest, and in those cases, it is generally best to tell them before they confront you and ask why you didn’t disclose the arrest earlier. Jobs that require licensing, like nursing, teaching, law, real estate, finance, and many others, can all be adversely impacted by a DUI arrest. In these fields, there can be administrative consequences on top of the criminal and DMV consequences. Generally, they will do an inquiry and demand to see all police reports and court documents and will make an independent assessment on what punishment or job loss should be given.
We represent many police officers charged with crimes, especially DUI. This includes Sheriff Deputies, LAPD and California Highway Patrol Officers. In many cases, law enforcement officers are treated more harshly in court since the court believes they should be held to a stricter standard and know better than to drive under the influence.
Most of the time people charged with DUI will keep their jobs, if it is a first offense. When repeat offenses occur, the consequences become much more severe.
On a second DUI, the punishment goes up drastically from a first DUI. To begin with, there is mandatory jail time on a second DUI. The minimum jail is 96 hours while the maximum is one year. The fines go up quite a bit as well. In terms of alcohol classes, the DMV and court require you to complete an 18 month alcohol program. There is no way to avoid taking the alcohol course and the DMV will not reinstate your driver’s license unless you take the required state-approved alcohol course.
Court probation is usually five years and courts generally order you to come back to court regularly to show progress reports and proof of completion of your court obligations.
On a second DUI the DMV suspension becomes very complicated. The initial suspension is for one full year, but with eligibility to get a restricted license after 90 days of no driving (assuming you are not currently on probation for a prior drunk driving conviction). The second requirement for the restricted license is conclusion of your court case. For example, if the DMV suspension begins on January 1st, and the court case concludes six months later, the driver would not be eligible for a license until the court case is over. At that point, the court is going to require the installation of an ignition interlock device anyway.
A “refusal” on a second DUI is hugely problematic and brings about a two year license revocation. It also adds mandatory jail time to the sentence.
A third DUI is even worse – with a minimum of 120 days in county jail, up to one year. The license punishments are even more severe than on a second offense. The alcohol class is still an 18 month program, but in many instances the court will order several other forms of punishment including years of ignition interlock requirement, years of AA meetings, rehab, and more.
The fourth DUI within 10 years is an automatic felony. Offers from the court and district attorney typically start at 16 months state prison on these cases.
Yes, in most cases it can. If we cannot beat the case in court, we can petition for an expungement once the probation period is complete. The court will require that all court requirements have been successfully fulfilled before granting an expungement. Once the expungement is granted, the charge will appear as “Dismissed” on your record and show that you are not guilty of the offense. An expungement will not clear your DMV record however, which logs DUIs for ten years. Keep in mind that even if your DUI is expunged, if you get a future DUI, the court and DMV will consider the expunged DUI as a prior DUI and greatly increase your possible sentence and punishment.
Some of our clients have a need to have probation terminated early. For example, Canada will not let DUI offenders enter the country. If we can have probation terminated early, we can also have the charge expunged and they typically have their travel rights restored. In order to do this, we need to draft a motion for early termination of probation and set a court hearing. The court is generally not inclined to shorten probation absent good cause for doing so. We have been successful in many cases in having probation shortened after we show the court a compelling reason for terminating probation. Some of those reasons include adverse immigration consequences, not being able to visit a sick relative in Canada, or other significant hardship that the court would deem sufficient. Some people ask if they can have probation shortened by going to jail. The answer is yes, if you take the maximum jail sentence (between six months and one year), probation will terminate at the completion of the jail term.
The DMV is critically time sensitive. It has to be handled quickly and correctly, otherwise an automatic suspension will follow. It is very difficult to manage requesting your own DMV hearing and conducting the hearing itself. It is highly recommended to have an attorney handle the process for you.
We handle the DMV process every step of the way for each client to make sure their rights are protected and we aggressively attack the State’s case. We conduct a formal DMV hearing where we can cross examine police officers. We look for inconsistencies in their statements, dash cam video that contradicts their version of events, and nail them down to answers on the record that they cannot later change when they feel it is convenient to do so. We treat the hearings like formal court proceedings and preserve a record that can be used to further attack the police officer’s testimony in court or on appeal. In many cases the officers are not well prepared for the DMV hearings and we immediately over power them with fact specific questions that require fact specific answers. We do not accept ambiguous or vague responses or “I don’t recall.” We require that the officers make a complete statement about the incident and then use it many months later in court to demonstrate inconsistencies, weaknesses, or outright fabrications by the police officers.
Because the DMV is so time sensitive, the most pressing thing to do is to find the right attorney for you. Not every attorney matches well with each possible client. The attorney client relationship is exactly that – a relationship. And it is based upon mutual respect, trust and a shared desire to win. Many attorneys hop on the phone, make promises about getting your case dismissed and demand money. Some will pressure you to get money immediately from family and friends and tell you that they are your only hope to avoid jail time. Some will tell you they play golf with the DA and will get your case dismissed. Some will tell you they know the police officers on your case. These are sales tactics.
At the Law Offices of Hart J. Levin, we are not good sales people. We never make promises. We don’t tell you about our golf game with the DA (I’m a terrible golfer) or about how the officer on your case was at our last barbeque. We tell you the truth about your case and what we can do for you. We do get many cases dismissed and it is not because we know the judge and prosecutor (which we almost always do), or that they are friends of ours (which many are). It is because we work harder than anyone else in this field to deliver incredible results for our clients.
Court is very formal which is why people who try to represent themselves regret their decision in the first 60 seconds. The judge expects that if you represent yourself, you will know the law as well as an attorney and there will be no allowance for ignorance of the law or court procedure. Virtually no one represents themselves in court because of the catastrophic consequences that always follow.
If you hire a private attorney like us, we appear for you so you do not have to attend court hearings. Court typically takes about three to four months and several formal court hearings to resolve. We handle each hearing for our clients so they can continue working and not spend all day in the courtroom. A few judges (some in West Covina for example) will require your attendance on the last court appearance only. In general, you never need to appear in court once we are on the case.
Occasionally people ask if they can use the public defender if they have extremely limited financial means. The public defender is available to those who are below the poverty line. People are typically not satisfied with the service a public defender offers since they typically handle about a hundred cases per day and do not have time to hear your version of events or to discuss the case with you. Some of them are skilled attorneys, but they are simply too busy to spend more than a minute or two on each case.
We can typically help people who are financially limited by offering flexible payment plans. That way they get the service they want and can pay over time.
The first court date is always known as the “arraignment.” At the arraignment, we enter a not guilty plea for our clients. We let the court and district attorney know that we plan to vigorously fight the case. We demand all evidence and reports, request discovery, and seek all audio/video and calibration logs on the case. We then set a future court date for a “pretrial conference” to go over discovery items, begin negotiations with the court and prosecutor, and to inform them what we are seeking (whether it is a dismissal, reduction in charges, etc.).
On misdemeanor DUIs, it does not help your case if you appear. The district attorney and court do not care if you attend. They only speak to your attorney about the case and their preference is to deal with attorneys only, to move through the court calendar more efficiently. Occasionally, it makes sense to have you appear in court with us and if that is the case, we will always let you know well in advance so you can plan accordingly.
On a felony case, you must attend every court proceeding with us, as mandated by the court. You will not be required to speak however. We will do all the speaking on your behalf.
Courts are very strict about requiring an accused person to have an attorney. If you cannot afford one, you may qualify for a public defender (generally a new attorney who is handling a massive caseload to gain experience). If you can afford an attorney, the court will require that you are represented by an attorney. If you try to represent yourself, the judge will warn you that it is extremely dangerous to try to handle the case without an attorney since the judge will require that the person know the law and courtroom procedures just as an attorney would.
Judges do not want people representing themselves since they lack legal training and the court does not have time to explain or handhold. Less than 1 percent of people attempt to represent themselves due to the extreme risk. Everyone else gets an attorney to guide them through the process.
After handling many cases over the years, we have seen specific patterns emerge. Some officers, California Highway Patrol especially, will advise very cooperative people who have been arrested that the DA will give them a reduced charge or dismiss their case and not to worry. There are several reasons they do this, one of which is to keep you calm and more cooperative with them. The reality is always the same – despite the fact that the officer is telling you that you will probably get a reduced charge, the officer is going to write a full police report and specifically state at the conclusion that they recommend a filing of DUI. They will never recommend a filing of a wet reckless or a dismissal of charges. They always recommend a filing of DUI.
Only a skilled lawyer can secure a dismissal or reduction in charges. In some cases it cannot be done, but often times we can find issues with the evidence or other reasons that warrant a reduction in charges or dismissal.
As a former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney, I was taught well by the DA’s office that DUIs are not to be dismissed. If there are problems with the evidence, go to trial and let the jury figure it out. The reason for this is simple – public perception. On DUI cases, the DA does not want to dismiss a charge only to have the offender get another DUI and end up killing someone, resulting in the DA being written about in the Los Angeles Times. The DA’s mantra is “never end up in the paper.” So as a matter of policy, they do not dismiss DUIs (or domestic violence cases). They will proceed forward even on a weak case so that they do not get blamed for being soft on crime or going light on someone who poses a public safety risk.
Unfortunately, the officers will say otherwise. Even if you are an Olympic gymnast, the officers are going to write up your field sobriety tests to show a degree of failure. The tests are actually designed to induce failure, the question is at what point. Early failures in the test indicate more impairment. Fewer failures indicate lesser impairment. For example, one of the field sobriety tests is the 30 second count. In that test, if you counted 30 seconds in 29 seconds, technically you were “off.” The officers use every small deficiency to prove their case against you to show that you were impaired. Another field sobriety test is the one leg stand. In that test, officers will notate how much the person is “swaying.” Officers will notate a minimum of one to two inches of swaying, which is normal for a sober person anyway. Officers will universally state on the police report that you had a strong odor of alcohol on your breath, red and watery eyes, slow and slurred speech, an unsteady gait, etc. These subjective factors, along with the subjective field sobriety tests, are then written up in a report in an effort to show impairment. The tests are in no way objective. Remember, the officers are there to generate arrests and write reports. Not to let people go. They spin each detail to fit their narrative and support their arrest report.
We have had cases dismissed where the officer notated a very strong odor of alcohol on the driver, who then gave a blood test. When the blood test came back there was only marijuana in the driver’s blood, and we were able to prove that the officer was fabricating evidence to support an illegitimate arrest.
Acid reflux or GERD causes stomach contents to enter the mouth. In theory, if there was alcohol in your stomach and you had acid reflux, that alcohol could go back into your mouth. If you then blew into a breathalyzer the result could detect mouth alcohol, which is not a proper reflection of your blood alcohol level. The officers are required to do a fifteen minute observation period before administering the breath test. That means they are supposed to stare at your mouth for 15 minutes to see if you burp or regurgitate at all. Officers typically do not do this and say they monitored you for 15 minutes, even counting the time you were in the back seat while they were driving you to the police station.
This must be challenged. And in cases where you have acid reflux, it is even more critical as the results might unfairly implicate you when your BAC level is actually below the limit. In summary, acid reflux and GERD can impact the BAC results. But the officers are trained to take more than one breath sample to detect if one result appears abnormal or too far apart from the other result.
We coordinate with our clients’ physicians to show histories of acid reflux and GERD and to demonstrate that breath results will not accurately depict the true blood alcohol level.
Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange and San Bernardino counties have over fifty courts. Some have different attitudes towards DUI. For example, Ventura is known to be the toughest court on DUIs, asking for jail time on each DUI. We can generally negotiate with the prosecutors to eliminate all jail time. In general, Ventura county prosecutors seek punishment that is roughly double what LA County prosecutors seek.
But certain courts within LA county are very different. Pomona is known as one of the toughest courts in LA, while downtown (Metropolitan) is widely regarded as the best court for DUI. The truth is that in certain courts we can get results that wouldn’t be obtainable in other parts of the county. We have cases in Metropolitan court (one of the courts where I worked as a prosecutor) where we get a DUI with an accident and a .14% BAC dropped to speed exhibition only. That result is nearly unheard of and in places like Pomona, they would rather go to trial than make an offer like that. Generally speaking, the busier the court, the easier it is to get a great outcome. Slower places take DUI much more seriously and want to set an example in their town.
There is no option to have your court moved either. The arrest location will determine where the officers will file the case with the local prosecutor’s office. Fortunately, we have so much experience in each of these courts that we know which prosecutors to avoid and which supervisors to consult with to achieve the most desirable outcome.
Los Angeles County, as well as several other counties in California, are part of a pilot program approved by the State. As part of this pilot program, anyone convicted of a DUI must install the breathalyzer in their vehicle. On a first DUI, the requirement lasts for five full months. If you own more than one car, you must install the breathalyzer on every vehicle you wish to drive. You will not be permitted to drive any vehicle that is not equipped with the device. Further, anyone else who drives your car with the device installed will be required to blow into it to start the car.
There is an exemption to opt out of the breathalyzer – but only if you agree to have your license suspended for at least five months. This exemption completely prohibits you from driving the interlock period. This exemption has to be filed in a timely manner with the DMV, otherwise it is not allowed.
The breathalyzer requires a breath sample to start the car but also rolling tests – meaning the driver is periodically required to breathe into the machine while the car is operating to keep it going.
We do offer flexible payment plans that allow you to pay your legal fee over time, interest free.
Costs include up to $7,000 in court costs, class costs ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, DMV reinstatement costs, SR 22 costs, higher insurance rates, and more.
Fortunately, we can negotiate the court fees to the minimum even in the worst cases, and allow you a year or more to pay them. If you cannot afford them, they can be converted to community service or county jail.
We can typically save about $5000 of the maximum fine.
Classes range in price but we can generally negotiate the classes down to the lowest legally allowed, which leads to a savings of about $1800.
We can give you a referral for the SR 22 that will average a savings of roughly $1500 total over three years.
In conclusion, if you have a skilled attorney who can fight the case, you shouldn’t pay $10,000 or anything close to it. We can typically save you much more than our attorney fee alone.
Los Angeles has a massive and complex criminal court system. You are not a person to the court – you are a case number. The district attorney does not know who you are or care about why you were arrested or what issues you were having that caused you to drive under the influence. With fifty to one hundred cases on calendar a day, the prosecutor is not going to take the time to look into your case or to see if you deserve a break. That is where we come in. We show them the person, the circumstances behind the arrest, and hardships that would be caused by a conviction. Our cases last as long as we need them to, to achieve the results we want. If we aren’t making headway with the prosecutor in court, we set up a meeting with the supervisor or have a “chambers conference” with the judge to explain to them the situation and problems with the evidence. Our attitude is simple – whatever it takes to get the right result. No matter how long, how difficult, how impossible our goal may seem – we fight for it and achieve a result that our Client deserves.
This has worked time and time again for us and we have achieved a history of stunning results. Nothing makes us happier than when the judge tells our client “your attorney did an amazing job for you. You are very lucky.” I am very grateful when a judge, prosecutor or police officer recommends our firm to a loved one who is in trouble. It is an honor that we do not take lightly. We also defend many active military clients who entrust us with their future service in the military.
Most recently we had a marine who was charged with a DUI, car accident, BAC of .14% in San Fernando court (generally known as a difficult court). After nine months of fighting the case, we got the DUI charges dismissed and the client was reinstated back into active duty.
Here is our pledge. We will keep you informed after each court appearance. We return all phone calls and emails. We will give you an honest assessment of the case and what to expect. Most importantly, we pledge to do an extraordinary job on your case and to achieve the best possible result. During your time of need, we will be in your corner 100%, defending you and taking the weight off of your shoulders.
Don’t take our word for it. Take a look at what our former clients had to say…
When charged with a DUI, there are a million things that can go wrong, things that can ruin your career or have a devastating impact. Choosing the right attorney is one of the most critical decisions you will make. Call us now for your free case assessment and begin your winning defense strategy now.
This is how the DUI/DMV process works:
As long as you have retained us within 10 days of the arrest, we can request a hearing with the DMV for you. This allows us to challenge the case with the DMV in an effort to protect your license. DMV hearings, however, are very rarely successful for the driver. If you have retained us after 10 days of arrest, your license will automatically be suspended after 30 days from the arrest.
We request a hearing by sending in a notification to the driver safety branch of the DMV letting them know that we represent you and to place a “stay of suspension” on your file. This orders the DMV not to suspend your license until we have been given a chance to challenge the case in a DMV hearing. If we do not specifically request a DMV hearing (known as an Admin Per Se Hearing), the DMV will automatically suspend your license without conducting a hearing.
The hearing process can be slow. The DMV is very backed up due to budget constraints. As long as we have sent in the request within 10 days of the arrest, your rights are protected. The DMV will generally contact us to schedule a date for the hearing about two weeks after we send in the original hearing request. After we agree upon a date for the hearing, the DMV will automatically mail us the police reports for the case. Reports take another two to three weeks to arrive. The DMV hearing is often scheduled about 60 days after the arrest date. You, the driver, are automatically entitled to drive without any restrictions up until the DMV hearing date. Even though the pink temporary license given to you at the time of arrest states you can only drive for 30 days, once we have requested the hearing, you can drive until the hearing, which can be months after the arrest.
The DMV will notify us (including you) of the result of the hearing by mail only. They will not tell us at the time of the hearing what their result will be. You do not have to be present at the hearing at any time.
You will not need a restricted license until after the DMV has conducted your hearing and suspended your license. Typically you are required to wait 30 days after they suspend your license to apply for a restricted license.