After drinking alcohol and deciding to drive, you risk facing DUI charges that result in multiple penalties after arrest. Typically, you will have to deal with the subsequent events leading up to the penalties over a few days or weeks after the arrest. Since fulfilling all legal obligations and requirements may be challenging to complete by yourself, working with a DUI defense lawyer is advisable. With your lawyer’s services, you do not have to worry about making many court appearances or filing submissions in court. Moreover, your attorney will help significantly if your matter proceeds to court, as he/she will undertake all necessary preparations on your behalf.
At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we specialize in providing the best defense services for clients dealing with DUI charges, among others. Our years of experience in the field have equipped us with invaluable skills, giving you the best chance of achieving a positive case outcome. Moreover, we are dedicated to providing personalized services that put your needs first for a smooth operation. Therefore, you do not have to struggle alone when dealing with a DUI charge in Pasadena, California.
DUI Laws Applicable in California
For any action to fall under a crime category, a codified law must exist. Thus, the law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and legal officers handling the case will have a point of reference. In California, DUI provisions are available under the California Vehicle Code, with different sections prohibiting various violations.
Section 23152(a) makes it unlawful for anyone in California to handle a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The state of being under the influence involves severe intoxication that causes cognitive deterioration. Consequently, your mind-body coordination is impaired and could expose you and other road users to various risks.
Further, the vehicle code specifies the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels that instigate severe intoxication leading to impairment. Under section 23152(b), the code prohibits motorists from driving with a BAC level of 0.08% or more.
The laws under this section create the administrative per se rules applicable in conducting DUI arrests. You may face immediate arrest, provided your levels exceed the limit, especially by a large margin.
The alcohol concentration limits are well researched and established, and anyone who exceeds the set level will experience significant disorientation from the alcohol interaction in the brain. Additional restrictions exist for different motorists, depending on their age and profession.
Therefore, commercial drivers are restricted from driving with a BAC level of 0.04% or more. Examples of commercial motorists include taxi drivers, commercial bus operators, limousine service drivers, and truck drivers.
The stricter restrictions are set because of the crucial roles these professionals play in their industries. For example, a truck driver operating the vehicle under the influence may risk causing a severe accident if he/she is intoxicated.
Minors under twenty-one years also operate under different DUI rules as directed by section 23136 of the vehicle code. Subsequently, their BAC limit is at 0.01% based on the zero-tolerance regulations prohibiting this category of people from consuming any alcohol. Due to the regulations, minors should resist handling vehicles even after drinking negligible amounts of alcohol, as the consequences may be significant.
Since drivers also pose a safety risk to other road users by using drugs, the law prohibits DUIs related to substance abuse under section 23152(f) of the vehicle code. The regulations prohibit drivers from handling their vehicles after using narcotics or prescription drugs.
Legal medications also fall within this category because your prescription may lead to mind-altering sensations. Thus, if you know that your medicine makes you drowsy or disoriented, you should refrain from driving after consuming the dose.
What to Expect When Stopped at a DUI Checkpoint
Approaching a DUI checkpoint can be quite scary, especially if you have consumed alcoholic drinks and do not know what to expect. Therefore, acquiring information ahead of the encounter will help you remain calm and cooperate with the police officers. On top of this, you will recognize when your rights are being violated to prevent an unlawful arrest process.
When an officer stops you at the checkpoint, you want to remain calm and follow the orders. Trying to evade the officer is a punishable offense in a separate provision under the California Penal Code. Hence, even when you feel vulnerable to breaking the law, we recommend staying put and declining from giving any information until you contact your attorney.
The law enforcement officer will then examine your vehicle and ask you to exit the car for further probing. At the same time, he/she studies your behavior to try and find any evidence that could demonstrate intoxication.
When the officer asks you various questions, you may answer them as long as they do not provide self-incriminating evidence. Therefore, you should learn of the different ways officers probe you to try and obtain evidence for use against you.
For example, if they ask you what you have been doing beforehand, you may decline to answer. Providing any information could give them a lead to pick your story apart and discover that you have had a few drinks. On top of this, the officers may engage you in these questions to observe your mannerisms while answering them. Consequently, they could easily depict your intoxication levels compared to when you remain silent.
The Issuance of Tests at the Checkpoint
Apart from questioning you, the law enforcement officers have to obtain additional information to form probable cause for arrest. Subsequently, they will impose several tests to test your cognitive abilities and any alcohol traces in your body.
The first and most common test is a preliminary breathalyzer test conducted by the officers at the checkpoint. They will ask you to blow into a portable breathalyzer device. After a few seconds, the device will display the preliminary blood alcohol content level in your body, giving the officers a chance to determine whether you have exceeded the legal limit.
Field sobriety tests are also a common means for the police to determine whether you are intoxicated and whether you can coordinate your body. Typically, field sobriety tests should not be mandatory, as they do not follow well-defined rules to establish probable cause.
While law enforcement officers may insist on subjecting you to the tests against your will, you have the choice to decline and ask for other means of conducting tests. On the other hand, if you accept to perform the sobriety tests, you should expect to engage in several physical activities.
For example, the officer may ask you to walk in a straight line or balance your body by standing on one leg. Some tests are easier to perform, including using your eyes to follow an item stringed by the officer close to your face. The test checks for possible eye discord arising from the blurred vision that drunk suspects often handle.
Chemical and Breathe Tests
The preliminary tests conducted at a DUI checkpoint are used to justify a police arrest, especially if the officers noticed signs of intoxication. After your arrest, the officers will detain you in the closest station for further tests using standard procedures.
Among the different options is taking another breathalyzer test using more advanced devices. Based on the details obtained from the breath test conducted in the station, the officers can enter records for use in a DUI hearing.
Alternatively, the officers may subject you to a chemical blood test, primarily if you are suspected of a drug DUI. Since the breathalyzer device cannot display information on the level of drug intoxication, blood samples are the better option to obtain evidence.
Usually, the officers will liaise with certified professionals appointed to conduct these tests on behalf of the law enforcement department. Since you will already be detained in police custody, accepting to undertake the test is always a better option.
Despite this, you can retain your right to refuse the chemical or breath test, mostly if you strongly believe that it would be self-incriminating. However, you should note that a failure to comply and take the test may lead to harsher penalties in court if your DUI matter goes to trial. Even when a DMV officer handles your case, he/she may use the details on your refusal to take the tests as grounds for imposing harsher penalties. On top of the possible penalty enhancement, refusing to take a chemical or breath test provides inferred behavior that shows you are guilty of a DUI offense.
The DUI Hearing Process
Once the officers at the station complete the tests and book you, you will be ready for a DUI hearing. Additionally, you will learn of the possible charges you may face based on the nature of your offense. Using the information, you will have the chance to request release, depending on whether you will have to post bail.
Typically, offenders facing misdemeanor charges can be released from jail upon the competition of the booking process. The procedure involves collecting your essential details like your name, vehicle registration number, license, and ID card numbers, as well as your fingerprints and photograph.
If you face a felony DUI charge, you are likely to pay bail before securing your release. This is because you will need to appear in court for a bail hearing where the judge determines the best option concerning your release.
For example, he/she will check whether you are a flight risk capable of escaping the country to avoid trial. He/she will check on your criminal record to check if you are a repeat offender. Often, people with a criminal record face stricter and harsher conditions. Despite this, your defense lawyer can help you negotiate for bail release.
Once the officers retain your details, reaching you in the future becomes easier. Before leaving the station, you must submit your driver’s license as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will use it to summon you for a hearing. You will receive a court citation directing you to make a court appearance on a specific date in the more severe DUI cases.
In the meantime, you will use a temporary driver’s license also issued before your release to make up for the surrendered original copy. After receiving all these necessary documents, you may leave the premises and begin preparing for the subsequent hearings.
Hearings at the Department of Motor Vehicles
Most DUI hearings will be handled at the DMV because they do not involve extreme violations. An appointed DMV officer handles most cases, including first offenses. If you receive instructions to apply for the hearing, you should do so within ten days after the arrest.
Thus, working with a defense lawyer is easier, as he/she will help you keep track and present the hearing application on time. Failure to comply with the DMV hearing requirements results in detrimental consequences, including a license suspension within thirty days from the expected deadline.
Further, you lose your chance at a DMV hearing, meaning that your attorney may have to negotiate for reconsideration or face a court trial. DMV hearings are easier to handle because they are more informal, with quicker access to the final determination.
For example, the DMV officer handling your case can conduct the hearing through a phone call or online video platforms. However, if you prefer in-person hearings, you may choose and appear in the DMV office. You should also note that you do not have to appear for a DMV hearing, provided you have a defense lawyer present to represent your position.
After listening to the officer presenting a case against you on the prosecutor’s behalf and to your attorney, the DMV officer issues a final verdict. The decision should be in writing and should contain the case findings.
You will also learn of the penalties you face through this written document, so your attorney should obtain it as soon as it is ready for perusal. Normally, the presiding DMV officer will issue the final verdict within a month, depending on the office’s workload.
The Court Hearing Process
Conversely, you may have your DUI matter handled in court, where the prosecutor presses charges and requests for a full criminal trial. The process is often reserved for more serious DUI offenses like DUIs causing death or felony offenses from multiple repeated charges.
When your matter results in a court trial process, we recommend consulting your attorney as soon as possible for adequate preparations to prevail. Doing this will improve your chances of raising valid defenses and counter-arguments against the prosecutor’s claims. In return, you will have better chances of securing a good case outcome.
Under the criminal law rules of evidence, the prosecutor holds the burden of proof to show your crime involvement. He/she must also prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt before the judge can convict you. Subsequently, one of your attorney’s strategies should be to cast reasonable doubt that raises valid concerns on the prosecutor’s arguments.
The elements of the crime for a prosecutor to prove in a DUI case include:
Your Intoxication Level Exceeded the 0.08% Limit
The most important element to prove is that you violated DUI regulations per se, meaning that you undoubtedly exceeded the legal limit. To do this, the processor relies on police reports, chemical and breathalyzer test results to indicate your intoxication levels.
You Were Driving
Secondly, the prosecutor must show that you were driving the car and not simply sitting inside it without movement. Since the element requires you to handle the car, you cannot face DUI charges as a passenger, provided you have not exchanged seats with the driver.
When the prosecutor provides enough details on these two elements of crime, the judge may include issuing a verdict against you. Further claims to present will depend on the type of charges you faced.
For example, a felony DUI based on four or more previous violations will require the prosecutor to produce your documented criminal record. Similarly, causing severe injuries or manslaughter from driving under the influence also requires more evidence.
Your attorney plays a significant role in the entire court trial process, as he/she is responsible for raising defenses on your behalf. To do this, there must be a secure source of proof for each claim to discredit the prosecutor.
Some important sources of proof come from witness testimonies, surveillance footage, and findings from the attorney’s investigations. A reliable lawyer can also enter into negotiations with the prosecutor to prevent a trial, if possible.
Penalties for Committing a DUI Offense
If the judge finds you guilty of the charged DUI offense, you will receive several penalties. However, the punishments vary depending on the type of charge you faced and whether you are a past offender. The following are the main DUI penalty categories.
First DUI Offense Penalties
First-time offenders would receive the most lenient penalties unless the DUI resulted in adverse consequences. The punishments include:
- A six-month jail sentence
- License suspension for up to four-month
- Attending mandatory DUI school for up to nine months
- Paying fines between $390 to $1000
- Installing an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for up to six months
Second DUI Offense Penalties
Upon committing a subsequent DUI offense, the penalties may be slightly enhanced to:
- A maximum of one year in jail
- Attending mandatory DUI school for up to one and a half months
- License suspension for two years
- Mandatory installation of the IID for one year
Third DUI Offense Penalties
Similarly, the severity of penalties increases for third-time offenders to:
- Mandatory DUI school for up to thirty months
- A three-year license suspension
- Paying fines between $390 to $1000
Felony DUI Offense Penalties
Felony DUIs include aggravated actions that result in significant aftermaths. For example, causing manslaughter for driving under the influence will fall under this category. Offenders with four or more previous DUI convictions will face the same charge for the subsequent offense. Thus, penalties include:
- Paying fines ranging between $390 to $5000
- A one-year maximum jail sentence
- Paying restitution to accident victims
- Spending up to thirty months in DUI school
- One-year license revocation
DUI Causing Injury Penalties
Finally, if your DUI offense caused injuries to third parties, the judge will impose separate punishments. However, the severity of penalties received also depends on the nature of injuries sustained.
You may have to spend one year and four months in jail or an enhanced sentence of two to three years for extreme cases. Additionally, you may have to pay a fine ranging from $390 to $1000. Your driver's license may be suspended for up to five years, and a mandatory rule to attend DUI school for up to two and a half years is also a possible repercussion.
Defenses for DUI Offenses
As mentioned, your lawyer plays an important role in presenting defenses to help you avoid a conviction. The following are applicable DUI offenses that may help your case, depending on the circumstances:
- Your BAC levels were high because of a medical condition
- The testing procedures were substandard
- You were not informed of your Miranda rights before arrest
- The police lacked probable cause to stop and arrest you
- Police misconduct occurred, including planting evidence and coercion to give self-incriminating evidence
Find a DUI Defense Lawyer Near Me
When you are in police custody after violating DUI laws, you may have multiple challenges to combat, including securing your release and avoiding harsh penalties. Additionally, facing any type of DUI charge may be detrimental to your general life, as you may acquire a criminal record that may be difficult to expunge. Because of this, working with a DUI defense lawyer is a great option when seeking additional support in combating the charges.
Our team at Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm is ready to provide the best defense services for anyone seeking assistance in Pasadena, California. Thanks to our due diligence, dedication, and value towards our clients, you will enjoy first-rate legal services. We aim to provide the best experience throughout your DUI case to help you achieve the best results possible. For more information on our services, call us today at 626-628-0564.