Driving under the influence (DUI) is common, but most people do not know it can attract a significant jail term and tarnish your reputation. Fortunately, you do not have to deal with the officers and the prosecutors alone if you are under arrest or investigation for an alleged DUI offense.
According to the Fifth Amendment, you have a legal right to have an attorney represent your best interests at every stage of the criminal justice system upon an arrest for any offense. An attorney with extensive knowledge and experience defending clients with DUI charges can help you fight the alleged DUI charge to achieve an appealing outcome.
Experienced attorneys at Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm understand DUI laws and what is at stake if you are under arrest for any alleged DUI charge. When you contact us, our skilled defense attorneys will investigate your case without delay to prepare mitigating arguments that could work out in your favor for a lighter charge or acquittal of the entire case.
Do not hesitate to contact our profound attorneys if you have a DUI charge in Pasadena for an exceptional and cost-friendly legal representation to attain the best possible results on your case.
Everyone knows drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs is a dangerous practice that can put your life and other road users at risk of severe injury or death. Typically, drunk driving or drug driving is inherently dangerous because an intoxicated driver cannot operate a vehicle like a cautious driver because of the impairment.
That is why sobriety checkpoints are crucial to curb these cases and related accidents on our roads. A sobriety checkpoint or DUI checkpoint is typically a predetermined location where police officers have the authority to stop vehicles for a brief DUI investigation.
Although a police officer does not need reasonable suspicion to stop you at a DUI sobriety checkpoint, he/she must have probable cause to initiate an arrest on suspicion that you could be drug driving or drunk driving.
Red eyes, watery eyes, slurred speech, open alcohol bottles in your car backseat, and alcohol smell from your breath are examples of the indicators that could give a police officer a reason to believe that you could be drunk driving or drug driving.
Upon an arrest at a DUI checkpoint for an alleged DUI offense, you should expect two legal proceedings, including:
- Administrative hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) (if you are under arrest for drunk driving)
- Criminal court proceedings for the alleged DUI charge
To avoid automatic license suspension by the DMV, you must request a DMV hearing within ten (10) days after an arrest. Although the DMV standard of proof in determining whether or not to suspend your license is lower than a criminal court proceeding, it is wise to hire an experienced DUI attorney to represent your interest during the DMV hearing.
Although it is not a violent crime like robbery or murder, impaired driving can come with severe penalties upon conviction in the criminal court at trial. No matter the circumstances, it is advisable to retain the services of an attorney if you are under investigation or arrest for an alleged DUI offense.
A DUI defense attorney can be your voice during the investigation and in court to fight for the best favorable outcome on the alleged DUI charge.
An Overview of Primary DUI Laws Under Vehicle Code 23152
Generally speaking, DUI laws are broad, covering some offenses you never thought were unlawful. Depending on your unique case’s facts and circumstances, you could be up against any of the following DUI offenses or charges if you are under arrest on suspicion that you were drunk driving:
Drunk Driving Offense Under Vehicle Code (VC) 23152(a)
According to VC 23152(a), it is illegal for any person to operate a motor vehicle while he/she is under the influence of alcohol. Drunk driving is undoubtedly one of the most common DUI offenses, especially on weekends and holidays.
Unlike what most people think, the prosecutor will charge you with a drunk driving offense, even if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level is not above the legal limit of 0.08%. According to VC 23152(a), being “under the influence” means you have impaired mental and physical abilities, potentially affecting your ability to drive a vehicle cautiously as a sober driver would under similar circumstances.
Before an arrest for a drunk driving offense at a sobriety checkpoint, police officers must have probable cause to believe that you are not physically and mentally capable of operating a vehicle due to alcohol impairment. To know whether or not you have alcohol impairment, the officer will ask you to blow a breathalyzer and perform various field sobriety tests (FSTs).
A breathalyzer is hand-held equipment that uses your breath vapor to determine whether or not you have alcohol in your system. Since the officers need enough evidence to initiate a DUI arrest, they could also require to perform any of the following FSTs to know whether or not you have alcohol impairment:
- Walk and turn test
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test
- One-leg stand test
Typically, the primary purpose of these FSTs is to help the officer observe your alertness, physical ability, and balance, which is vital when you are on the wheel. If your performance on any of these tests is poor, the officer will arrest you on suspicion that you were drunk driving. Once you are under arrest, it is wise to remain silent and call an attorney as soon as possible.
Having an attorney during these times is critical for the relevant legal advice that you need and legal representation in court. Unfortunately, DUI is a “priorable” offense, meaning the standard penalties for VC 23152(a) violation will be stricter if you have past DUI convictions.
Listed below are the potential penalties you should anticipate for a first offense DUI, second offense DUI, and third offense DUI respectively:
First Offense DUI
If you do not have a past DUI charge conviction, a conviction for VC 23152(a) violation will attract the penalties listed below:
- Detention in jail for up to six months
- DUI probation for three to five years
- Attend a DUI school for not more than three months
- Up to six months jail term
- Driver’s license suspension for not less than six months or longer
- Possible installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle
- A fine ranging between $390 to $1,000
Second Offense DUI
The prosecutor will file your DUI case as a second offense DUI if you have a past conviction for a DUI offense within the past ten years. A conviction for a second offense DUI will result in:
- Up to one-year jail term
- Suspension of your driver’s license for not more than two years
- Up to a $1,000 fine plus any penalty assessment
- DUI probation for up to five years
- Attend a DUI school for a maximum of thirty months
- A fine of between $390 to $1,000
Third Offense DUI
Typically, a third offense DUI conviction will attract more severe penalties because it shows you are a notorious driver. These penalties include:
- DUI probation for not more than five years
- A fine of between $390 to $1,000
- Incarceration in the state prison for not more than six months
- Suspension of your driver’s license for a maximum of three years
- Mandatory installation of IID in your car (if you want to drive with a suspended license)
- Up to 30-month DUI school
A DUI offense is typically a misdemeanor in the eyes of the court. However, it could quickly turn into a felony if any of the following is true:
- You have a felony DUI conviction on your record
- You have three past DUI convictions on your record within ten years
- You led to the injury or death of another person
If you are under 21 years of age, the prosecutor will file your case as underage DUI, which is illegal under VC 23136. Typically, VC 23136 makes it a crime for a person aged below 21 years to drive with any amount of alcohol in his/her system.
Typically, a conviction for VC 23136 violation will attract a one-year driver’s license suspension and the penalties listed above for VC 23152(a) violation. Apart from the license suspension, these penalties are avoidable if your attorney can convince the court to drop or reduce the alleged charge.
Driving With a BAC of 0.08% or Above Offense Under VC 23152(b)
Also commonly known as “per se” DUI law, Vehicle Code (VC) 23152(b) is the statute that makes it illegal for a motorist to drive a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or above. Unlike a drunk driving offense under VC 23152(a), the prosecutor will file this DUI charge against you, even if you were not “under the influence,” meaning you had the physical and mental ability to drive a vehicle.
Typically, when you are under arrest for a drunk driving offense, the prosecutor can also file a DUI charge against you for VC 23152(b) violation. Although these DUI offenses are chargeable separately, the potential penalties you could face if you are guilty of them will not be separate. That means only one DUI conviction will appear on your criminal record. In short, these two DUI offenses will merge into one.
Unless you have a past felony DUI on your criminal record or the incident led to the injury of another person, the prosecutor will file your case as a misdemeanor. To obtain a conviction against you for VC 23152(b) violation, the prosecutor presiding over your case must provide convincing evidence to prove that:
- Your BAC level was 0.08% or above during the time of the arrest
- You were driving a vehicle
The prosecutor must prove the above facts beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction against you for VC 23152(b) violation. A conviction for VC 23152(b) violation will attract penalties similar to those listed above for a drunk driving charge conviction under VC 23152(a).
Like a drunk driving offense under VC 23152(a), the penalties you are likely to face upon a conviction for VC 23152(b) violation will also grow stricter with each subsequent conviction on your record. Hiring an attorney is a step you cannot regret if you are under arrest or investigation for an alleged DUI offense.
A skilled DUI attorney can increase your chances of beating the alleged drunk driving charge for a dismissal of the case or a lighter charge like wet reckless.
Other DUI Laws that You Ought to Know
In addition to the above primary DUI charges under VC 23152(a) and VC 23152(b), the prosecutor could file other DUI-related charges against you under the circumstances explained below:
You Were Driving a Commercial Vehicle or Truck With a BAC level of 0.04% or Above
Section VC 23152(d) is the statute that makes it unlawful for any driver with a commercial driver’s license to operate a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or above. While impaired driving is inherently dangerous, these dangers can increase if you are a commercial vehicle driver because these vehicles are typically larger than passenger cars.
To secure a conviction against you for VC 23152(d) violation, the prosecutor must prove:
- You were driving a commercial driver
- Your BAC level was 0.04% or above at the time of the arrest
A conviction for VC 23152(d) violation will carry the following probable penalties:
- A fine ranging from $390 to $1,000
- Up to one year in jail
- Informal (summary) probation for not more than three years
- Attend a DUI class or DUI school for not more than thirty-six months
- Driver’s license suspension for not more than one year
Like any other DUI offense, these penalties will increase with each subsequent conviction on your record. A conviction for a second offense DUI can permanently make you lose your commercial driver’s license, affecting your income flow. Ensure you find an attorney willing to fight hard for your legal rights to avoid a wrongful conviction for a crime you did not commit.
Even if your BAC was 0.04% or above, an experienced attorney can apply various defense arguments to counter the charge for the best possible outcome.
You Led to the Injury or Death of Another Person
Typically, DUI causing injury or death offense will come with more substantial penalties because it is a felony. According to VC 23153, you commit a DUI causing injury offense when you drive a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and in doing so, you cause an accident leading to the death or injury of another person.
Below are a few examples of instances that would attract a charge under VC 23153:
- Drunk driving and hitting a tree, causing the death of your passenger
- Driving an automobile with a BAC of 0.10% and colliding with a cyclist
To secure a conviction against you for VC 23153 violation, the prosecutor must convincingly prove the following facts or elements of the crime:
- You did drive a vehicle
- You were under the influence of a drug or alcoholic beverage while on the wheel
- While operating your car under the influence, you did neglect to perform a legal responsibility
- There was an injury or death of another person due to your failure or negligence
The prosecutor will file your DUI causing an injury charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony because it is a wobbler offense. A conviction for a misdemeanor VC 23153 violation will make you subject to the potential penalties listed below:
- $5,000 maximum fine
- Summary or information probation for not more than five years
- Three-month driver’s license suspension
- Up to one-year jail term
- Restitution to all the injured victims
However, if the prosecutor files your case as a felony, a conviction will result in:
- A strike on your criminal record under the Three Strikes Law codified under section 667 of the Penal Code (PC)
- Incarceration in the state prison for not less than four years
- HTO (Habitual Traffic Offender) status for three years
- Complete a court-approved DUI class or DUI school
- A fine not exceeding $5,000
You Had a Passenger Under 14 in Your Vehicle
Typically, your DUI case will aggravate if you had a passenger under the age of fourteen years on board at the time of the arrest on suspicion that you were drunk driving or drug driving. According to VC 23572, you should expect the following sentencing enhancement if you are guilty of the alleged DUI with a passenger under 14 charges at trial:
- An additional forty-eight hours in jail if it is your first offense DUI conviction
- A further ten days in jail if it is your second offense DUI conviction
- An additional thirty days in jail if it is your third offense DUI conviction
- A further 90 days in jail if it is your fourth offense DUI conviction
It is important to note that the above additional jail time will be consecutive to the sentence for the underlying DUI offense conviction, making your ultimate sentence more severe. The prosecutor could also file child endangerment charges against you if you had a child under age fourteen (14) in your car at the time of the arrest on suspicion that you were drunk driving.
To avoid these sentence enhancements, you must fight the underlying DUI offense. Retaining the services of a DUI attorney is the key to fighting the underlying DUI charge for the best attainable outcome.
Defenses That Your Attorney Can Apply to Counter the Alleged DUI Charge
Whether it is your first or fourth DUI offense, it is not wise to fight the alleged charges alone. A skilled and experienced defense attorney can challenge the prosecutor’s evidence against you using the following common and viable legal defenses:
- The arresting officer did not follow the proper procedures to test your BAC or level of intoxication
- Your performance on field sobriety tests is not a reliable indicator of intoxication
- The breathalyzer equipment was faulty
- The higher BAC level was due to a medical condition, for example, diabetes
- The arresting officer had no probable cause to initiate the arrest
- Your stop at the DUI checkpoint was illegal because the arresting officers did not have a reasonable suspicion to select your vehicle to pull over for a brief DUI investigation
- The detected signs of intoxication like watery or red eyes were due to an underlying medical condition, allergies, lack of sleep, or fatigue
You do not have to go through these challenging and confusing times alone. Undoubtedly, the outcome of the alleged DUI offense is uncertain. However, if you have an attorney in your corner, you can increase your chances of beating the alleged DUI charge for the best attainable outcome.
A skilled and dedicated attorney will keenly examine every detail of the alleged DUI case to prepare bullet-proof legal arguments that can convince the court to drop or reduce the alleged DUI charge. Generally speaking, the sooner you contact a DUI defense attorney, the better if you are in trouble with the law for an alleged DUI offense.
Find a Dedicated Pasadena DUI Attorney Near Me
Typically, DUI laws in the state of California are complex and ever-changing. To increase the possible chances of fighting the alleged DUI charge, it is a brilliant idea to retain the services of a skilled DUI attorney who understands the ins and out of DUI laws and the criminal justice system.
At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we focus on providing our clients with top-notch legal services using our extensive knowledge of DUI laws for the best possible outcome on the alleged DUI charge. We invite you to call our profound DUI attorneys at 626-628-0564 if you or your dear friend is under arrest or investigation for an alleged DUI offense in Pasadena.