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San Diego DUI Lawyer

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Being charged with DUI is a serious offense and has many consequences that can negatively affect your life. If you find yourself in this situation, contact a San Diego DUI lawyer at San Diego Criminal.

Finding yourself charged with DUI can be very stressful because you don’t know where to begin or what to do. It’s highly recommended that you don’t wait until the last minute to retain legal counsel.

With varying circumstances, penalties for DUI can be harsh. Depending on the severity of your situation penalties can include license suspension, expensive fines, and even jail time.

Contact an experienced San Diego Criminal defense lawyer at (619) 777-7171 and schedule a risk-free case evaluation.

What Comes Next After I Get Charged With A DUI?

The officers writing the police report will send a sworn copy to the DMV along with the appropriate form for suspending or revoking your driver’s license. If your driver’s license was confiscated, it will also be sent along. Next, the DMV will conduct an administrative review. This involves examining the police report, the suspension or revocation order, and the results of any alcohol tests (blood, breath, or urine) you took.

If the DMV upholds the police request for a license suspension or revocation, you can contest this decision by requesting a DMV/APS hearing. You have 10 days to request this hearing after receiving the order.

If the DMV concludes its review and finds no basis for suspending or revoking your license, the action will be set aside and you will be notified in writing of the review results.

If I’m Convicted of DUI In San Diego, What Kind Of Criminal Penalties Could I Face?

California law takes driving under the influence very seriously. If you’ve recently been arrested for this offense, the penalties facing you are severe. Jail time is a real possibility. Here is an overview of DUI penalties broken down by offense and probation.

First DUI Offense

  • Sentences Including 3 To 5 Years’ Probation – A jail term of 48 hours to six months may be imposed. There will be a fine imposed which can range from $390 to $1,000. The amount you are fined may be increased significantly if the court adds a penalty assessment. First-time DUI defendants may be ordered to complete an alcohol/drug treatment program. At this level, such programs last from three to nine months. Drivers with a standard class A license will have that license suspended by the DMV for a period of six months to one year.
  • Sentences Without Probation – The minimum jail sentence increases to 96 hours; the maximum remains at six months. The basic range for a fine remains the same as above. The DMV will suspend your driver’s license for six months.

Second DUI Offense (Within 10 years)

  • Sentences Including 3 To 5 Years’ Probation – The fine for a second DUI conviction remains in the range of $390 to $1,000. The defendant’s driver’s license will be suspended by the DMV for two years. The court will impose a jail sentence. If the jail time is imposed by itself, the term can range from 10 days to one year. The jail sentence may alternatively range from 96 hours to one year if the defendant is also ordered into a rehabilitation program. Second-time rehab programs last for either 18 or 30 months.
  • Sentences Without ProbationA second DUI conviction results in a jail sentence that can be fixed anywhere from 90 days to one year. The defendant will be ordered to pay a fine that may be anywhere from $390 to $1,000. Your driver’s license will be suspended by the DMV for six months.
DUI suspect in San Diego.

If you have been charged with DUI, call San Diego Criminal.

Third DUI Offense (Within 10 years)

  • Sentences Including 3 To 5 Years’ Probation – Jail sentencing can range between 120 days and one year for your third DUI conviction. The range for a fine remains $390 to $1,000. The DMV will revoke your driver’s license for three years. If you have not already completed an alcohol/drug rehabilitation program, you will be ordered into one lasting 18 months.
  • Sentences Without Probation-  The potential time for a jail sentence goes from 120 days to one year. Fines can be imposed between $390 and $1,000. The DMV will impose a driver’s license revocation for three years.

Fourth Or Subsequent DUI Offense (Within 10 years)

  • Sentences Including 3 To 5 Years’ Probation – You can be sentenced to jail for a period of 180 days to one year. A fine between $390 and $1,000 can be imposed. The DMV will revoke your driver’s license for four years. Once again, you will be ordered to complete an 18-month rehabilitation program if you have not already completed an alcohol/drug program.
  • Sentences Without Probation – You may be sentenced to serve time in either county jail (180 days to one year) or state prison (16 months to 3 years) for your fourth or subsequent DUI conviction. The range for fines remains $390 to $1,000. Your driver’s license will be revoked for four years.

When Does A San Diego DUI Become A Felony?

Three specific circumstances allow California authorities to charge and prosecute driving under the influence as a felony. First, if the driver caused an injury or death, his or her charge will likely be a felony. Second, if the driver has accumulated more than three previous convictions for DUI or lesser charges where intoxication was a factor (i.e. “wet reckless” convictions), his or her next DUI charge will probably be a felony. Third, any driver who has previously been convicted of a DUI-felony will be charged with another felony if he or she is arrested for DUI again.

The most serious felony charges (and the harshest penalties) are always imposed on DUI cases that involve a fatality. If the circumstances warrant it, an intoxicated driver may instead be charged with vehicular manslaughter or even second-degree murder. This is a special situation under California law, commonly called a “Watson murder.” If you are convicted of a Watson murder, you can expect to receive a sentence of 15 years to life in state prison.

California traffic laws impose stiff penalties on all forms of DUI. These penalties are structured to increase in severity for defendants that accrue multiple DUI convictions. DUI charges are typically filed as misdemeanors for first offenses, and even second and third DUIs are done similarly. A fourth offense is almost always filed as a felony, though. Note that California includes equivalent convictions in other states when tallying a defendant’s total number of DUI offenses.

Statistics on DUIs in California

According to the California DMV, there were 141,372 DUI arrests in 2015 in the state of California however, only 4,899 of those DUI arrests resulted in felony charges. In 2015 there was a decrease in DUIs by 8.6 percent in comparison to a decrease of only 3,5 percent in 2014. It was also reported in 2014 that 72.7 percent of DUI arrests resulted in convictions.

How Long Will A DUI Stay On My Record

A DUI will stay on your driving record for ten years in the state of California and will remain on your criminal record forever When it comes to your driving record there is no way to remove it any earlier. However, this is information that is not going to be included on a background check and potential employers will not be made aware of it.

Technically a DUI will remain on your criminal record permanently. However, this is information that may be expunged. There are certain criteria needed to expunge a DUI:

  • All penalties have either been paid or served including probation.
  • There was no state prison time served.
  • There are no other current criminal charges against you.

If you meet these criteria, contact a San Diego attorney at San Diego criminal for assistance in expunging a DUI They will begin the process to expunge the record. Depending upon the circumstances, the prosecutor’s office may fight it, if so, your attorney will fight for your rights. This will entail a hearing and more than likely the expungement will be approved.

When the DUI has been expunged, it will no longer be a part of your criminal record. It will now be possible to apply for jobs with a completely clean record. The DUI will remain as a past charge if you should ever be arrested for drunk driving again.

Can I Get A DUI Charge Dropped?

Getting a DUI charge dropped is always a possibility, though the odds are much better for first-time offenders than those who have faced similar charges in the past. A DUI charge can, with the right circumstances and legal effort, be reduced to reckless driving or even dismissed entirely.

California’s laws on DUI are growing ever more strict, though. Navigating your case to a reduced charge or a dismissal requires significant legal expertise. Reductions and dismissals typically hinge on challenging the arrest details reported by the officers who arrested you or the evidence collected from you in alcohol tests.

Time is an important factor in organizing your defense against a California DUI charge. You need expert legal counsel to assess your case thoroughly and realistically. Only a San Diego DUI lawyer with relevant experience will be able to uncover case-winning defense strategies and potentially parley these into a reduction or dismissal of the charge against you.

Do I Lose My License After A DUI Charge?

California imposes two different kinds of license suspensions for DUI. One is handled by the DMV and the other by the courts. The DMV license suspension is commonly referred to as administrative suspension or “admin per se.” This can be imposed rapidly, starting long before your case is scheduled for trial. A court-ordered suspension will only take effect when and if you are convicted. Court suspensions are almost always significantly longer than administrative suspensions, and that means they have greater adverse consequences on your life.

Court-Ordered Suspension: How It Works

A driver’s license suspension is part of the penalty package that will be leveled against you following any sort of DUI conviction. In casual conversation, this is often called a “court-ordered” suspension, but the technical legal term is “court-triggered.” The distinction reflects the fact that the details of the license suspension will still be handled by the DMV.

Here are the key differences between administrative and court suspension:

  • Administrative suspension can start within 30 days of your arrest, regardless of your conviction status. Court suspension can only be started as part of a conviction.
  • Administrative suspension can be appealed through a DMV hearing. There is no appeal process for court suspension.
  • Court-triggered suspension periods are generally much longer than administrative ones.
  • Court-triggered suspension periods are generally dictated by your record. They will be shorter if this is your first conviction and longer if you have had similar convictions in the past.

How Long Is The License Suspension For A First-Time DUI?

As a general rule of thumb, you can expect the suspension for a first-time DUI conviction to be set at six months. There are potential complications that can change this figure, though.

First, this is where the two forms of suspension interact. If you already served administrative suspension (up to four months), that time will be deducted from your court suspension.

Second, your court-triggered suspension also interacts with how much jail time you serve. You’re often given the option of serving a longer suspension to have your jail time waived. For a first-time DUI, you often face this choice:

  • Six months’ suspension with two days’ jail time
  • Nine months’ suspension with no jail time

You can apply for restricted driving privileges to ease the hardship of your suspension. These allow you to drive yourself to and from work and to any substance abuse programs ordered by the court. DUI license suspensions begin with a 30-day “hard suspension” period in which restricted privileges are not available. If your conviction is for a first-time misdemeanor DUI, it should not be difficult for you to get restricted driving privileges for the remainder of your suspension minus the “hard suspension” period.

Commercial Driver’s DUI

In California, a commercial driver is held to other standards when it comes to a DUI. In the state, the legal limit of intoxication is a blood alcohol content of .08%, anyone operating a vehicle with this level or exceeding it can be arrested for driving under the influence. While this same limit will apply to a commercial driver while off-limit, they are prohibited from driving a commercial vehicle with a BAC that is greater than .04%. If convicted, it is possible to lose your hard-earned CDL for up to one year as well as other fines and penalties.

Can I Refuse To Take A Breathalyzer Test?

Refusing a breathalyzer test after you’ve been arrested for a suspected DUI can be a serious problem. According to California Vehicle Code §23612, such a refusal can be used against you when your case goes to trial. Refusing the breathalyzer could result in additional penalties over and above those you face for your DUI.

Note that things are different if a police officer is asking you to take a breathalyzer test before an arrest. If the test is being administered in an attempt to establish reasonable suspicion of DUI, you have the right to refuse it — so long as the officer does not have probable cause.

Even this kind of refusal can be risky, though. If the officer has probable cause for a DUI arrest without the breathalyzer test, you could have your driver’s license suspended for up to a year even if your BAC was not above the legal limit. Additionally, if you have been previously convicted for DUI in the last 10 years, the license removal can be escalated to a revocation lasting up to two years.

DUI law in San Diego.

Need a DUI lawyer? Call San Diego Criminal today.

Why Is Hiring A Local San Diego DUI Lawyer Important?

Hopefully, you’re already aware that a DUI charge is a serious matter that you need expert legal help with. You should definitely hire a DUI Lawyer in San Diego. However, you may not know just how important location is when you seek out a lawyer. A local attorney with extensive experience in the San Diego court system can represent you better in DUI. San Diego County is served by four different superior courts: Downtown, South Bay, East County, and North County.

As an example of the subtle differences between these courts, consider the fact that only three of them use the DA for prosecutions. Cases in the Downtown court (including DUIs) are handled by the City Attorney’s office. This matters because the thresholds for sentencing enhancement and the additional punitive measures employed are different in the downtown court. The City Attorney likes to call for an ignition interlock if a DUI defendant had a BAC over 0.15%.

DUIs which might look very similar at first glance can become very different when you take into account where and how it is prosecuted.

How Much Will A San Diego DUI Lawyer Cost?

At Sand Diego Criminal, we have reasonable, flexible payment plans to suit your financial situation. You can stretch out your legal fee payments over weeks or months if you need to. We believe in getting you the legal help you need, fast. Financial constraints shouldn’t prevent you from hiring the most effective San Diego DUI Lawyer you can get.

What Are California’s Rules On Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)?

The influence of alcohol hurts your driving ability in many different ways. Alcohol can impair your vision and hearing as well as reducing your reaction speed. Consuming alcoholic beverages while operating a vehicle is strictly forbidden in California. Alcohol containers in your car must either be sealed or carried in the trunk.

California maintains the following Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limits for legal driving:

  • Less than 08% for drivers over the age of 21
  • Less than 01% for any driver on probation for a past DUI offense
  • Less than 01% for drivers under the age of 21
  • Less than 04% for a driver operating a vehicle that requires a commercial driver’s license (CDL) (Note that it is the vehicle, not the driver’s license, that activates this limit)

What Happens in an Underage DUI Case?

Driving under the influence of alcohol carries more severe penalties for underage drivers compared to other drivers. There is a “zero tolerance” law in California for underage drivers. This means it is a violation to have any detectable trace of alcohol in one’s body.

If an underage driver gets caught driving with alcohol found in their system, not only are they in violation of DUI laws, but they also are most likely to be in violation of state law for consuming alcohol. Although 20-year-old drivers are considered as adults, until they reach 21 years old, they have limited access to alcohol.

For a majority of drivers, a BAC (blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.08% is a per se DUI violation. But a BAC of just 0.01% and higher for young drivers can result in a DUI violation. This means that drinking half of a can of light beer might result in being arrested for driving under the influence even though it might not have a physical impact on the ability of the underage driver to drive.

What Penalties are There for Underage DUI Convictions?

The penalties for underage DUI will depend on a number of different factors, including the driver’s age, blood alcohol level, whether there were any drugs involved and the person’s drunk driving history.

When a minor (an individual under 18 years old) is convicted on a DUI charge, the person will lose their driver’s license for an entire year, or until their 18th birthday, whichever duration is longer. For drivers who are older than 18, but less than 21 years old, violating the zero-tolerance law in California will result in their driver’s license being suspended for one year.

If an underage driver has a higher than 0.05% chemical BAC test, the person will not only have their driver’s license suspended for one year but will also be required to attend DUI School and pay fines.

If the underage driver has a greater than 0.08% BAC, the will be treated the same way that any other driver is that is faced with a DUI charge. That means potential jail time, fees, and fines that exceed $1,000, mandatory DUI school, a suspended driver’s license, and probation. In certain counties, which include Los Angeles County, an ignition interlock device will be required to be installed on the driver’s car.

If an underage driver is charged with a subsequent or second DUI, then it increases the penalties. They might face increased fines, up to one year in jail, a suspended driver’s license for a maximum of 2 years, a longer-term for DUI school, and a potential Ignition Interlock Device (IID) restricted driver’s license.

In California, Can a DUI conviction get you Deported?

A DUI by no means will always result in the person being deported, by anyone as a non-citizen in California should seriously make efforts to protect themselves as much as they can, since deportation is possible, especially if it is combined with the DUI defendant being currently undocumented and/or any other crimes.

How Does the DUI Case Process Work?

Once you have been arrested on a DUI charge, the police officer will transport you to a jail, police station, or hospital for a breath or blood test so that your blood alcohol level can be tested.

Readings of breath tests are available immediately. Blood samples are sent to a lab to be analyzed, so usually, the results will take several days at least.

If your breath test reveals a 0.08% or higher BAC (blood alcohol concentration), you will also be charged with DUI (Driving Under the Influence).

If your breath test turns out to be lower than what the police officer expected, and he or he, therefore, suspects you might have been driving under the influence, then you might also be required to take a urine or blood test.

If you refuse to take a chemical test, then you will still be arrested on a drunk driving charge. Your charges will also have a “refusal” allegation added. Additional penalties come with a refusal, including a mandatory two-day county jail sentence and a one-year suspension of your driver’s license.

Once your DUI test(s) are completed (or refused), then you will be booked and finally released. Depending on what your criminal history and your case’s facts are, you might be released on bail or on a promise in writing to appear in court on the court date that is assigned to you. YOu will be held by the police for several hours in a jail cell after your DUI arrest before you are released.     

The arresting officer will then complete her/his report on your DUI arrest and submit it for review to the local prosecuting agency. After your case is reviewed, the prosecutor will either

1. Charge you formally with a California state DUI

2. Or decline to file charges

Ask for a DMV Hearing

You should ask for a DMV administration hearing in order to challenge your driver’s license being automatically suspended, within 10 days of being arrested for a DUI.

What Does a DMV Hearing Process Involve?

Shortly after being arrested for a DUI in California, you will be notified by the officer that your driver’s license is being suspended for 30 (thirty) days. Your driver’s license will be confiscated and you will be issued a temporary license (pink form) that will be valid until your suspension has gone into effect.

Your confiscated driver’s license will be sent by the arresting officer on your DUI case to the California state DMV. Your driver’s license will be automatically suspended by the DMV (after the 30-day pink temporary license has expired) unless you ask for a DMV hearing no later than 10 days following your arrest on a California DUI or until you have requested an IID restricted license (see our previous subsection on IID).

If you ask for a DMV hearing within the 10 days, then your driver’s license being automatically suspended will be delayed until your hearing where the outcome will be determined. You will be asked three questions by a California state DMV hearing offer before decided whether or not your driver’s license should be suspended as part of your DUI charge:

1. Was your BAC 0.08% or higher?

2. Were you lawfully arrested?

3. Did the officer reasonably think you were DUI?

San Diego DUI suspect.

Although your DMV hearing is independent and separate from your DUI court case, you still can be represented by a DUI lawyer. Having an experienced San Diego DUI lawyer at your hearing will greatly increase your chances of winning it and prevent your driver’s license from being suspended.

DMV DUI hearings may be conducted either over the telephone or in person. Although a private lawyer can conduct the hearing for you, a public defender cannot. That means you will need to represent yourself at your hearing if you don’t hire a private attorney.

Along with increasing your chances of retaining your driving privileges, your DMV hearing can also provide you with a forum to prepare your DUI court case.

Your lawyer can subpoena the arresting officer and cross-examine him or her about everything that took place. That will often expose police errors and weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case against you. The transcript of the police officer’s testimony can be very valuable in helping you negotiate a charge reduction with the court, or if negotiations fail, with preparing your DUI case in California for trial.

Winning your DMV DUI hearing will result in your driver’s license not being suspended (although if you are convicted of a California DUI you can still get a suspension).

Losing your hearing results in your California state DUI license suspension going into effect. It lasts from four months up to three years, depending on (1) the number of prior DUIs you have had, and (2) whether you refused or took a chemical test.

At the Court Level, What is Involved in the California State DUI Process?

Whether your DMV hearing is won or lost, being arrested on a DUI charge will still subject you to the California state criminal court process. The following are the key players n a DUI court proceeding in California:

  • You
  • Your California state DUI defense attorney (if you have hired one)
  • The prosecutor
  • The Judge, and
  • Potentially a Jury

The DUI court process in California starts with your arraignment and then is complete once you have been either sentenced for the charges or you are acquitted. (However, if you are convicted, actually your DUI case will stay open throughout the entire DUI probation period or until you have fulfilled all your court obligations.)

What Takes Place at a California DUI Arraignment?

The DUI arraignment is the initial phase of your DUI criminal court proceedings in California. The prosecutor will give their first “offer” to you. The “offer” refers to the sentence that is recommended by the prosecutor and will agree to it if you plead guilty to the charge that has been proposed.

The arraignment gives you your first chance to plead “no contest,” not guilty, or guilty to your DUI charges. You are sentenced if you plead guilty, and your DUI case is closed (with the exception of having to fulfill the terms of your probation).

If you plead not guilty, then your California DUI attorney or you will be entitled to review all the prosecution’s evidence and challenge. That includes access to the maintenance records for the chemical testing instrument(s) used on your test and a copy of your police report.

Although sometimes the negotiation process occurs during the arraignment phase, they tend to be engaged in more actively through the pre-trial phase of your California DUI process.

DUI Plea Bargains and Pre-Trial Motions

Although DUI case prosecutors like saying that they offer their best deal at arraignment as a type of early incentive for “accepting responsibility,” that is definitely not true.

The pre-trial phase of the DUI court process in California will typically last for the longest period of time – from a few weeks to a few months. During this time your San Diego DUI lawyer will investigate your case meticulously and do everything from checking the BAC testing equipment maintenance records to visiting the scene where you were arrested.

The more issues and evidence that are in your favor, the better the chances are that the prosecutor and/or judge will dismiss or reduce your DUI charges. the most effective methods for doing this will typically include the following:

  • Run DUI pre-trial motions. Your San Diego DUI lawyer might run one of the following, depending on what the facts of your case are:
  • Probable cause hearing (for contesting the validity of a police officer’s initial stopping of your vehicle)
  • A motion to suppress hearing (where the court is asked to exclude any evidence from your trial that was obtained illegally or will prejudice you unjustly), and/or
  • A Pitchess hearing (in order to learn more about the complaint history of the officer to try to discredit his/her testimony and report).
  • Plea bargaining. After all the evidence has been gathered by your attorney, the pre-trial motions have been conducted, and defense expert witnesses have been consulted, your attorney will then sit in the best position to negotiate for you more effectively in your DUI case. When flaws in the case being brought against you are highlighted by your San Diego DUI lawyer, the prosecutor will be less confident and will often be willing to dismiss your charge or reduce the charges to a lesser offense such as “dry reckless” or “wet reckless.”

However, if your DUI defense lawyer is unable to satisfactorily resolve your case through negotiation and plea bargaining, your DUI case might need to go to trial.

DUI Case Jury Trial

Most DUIs in California settle before going to trial. However, for many defendants, the jury trial is still an important part of the DUI process in California.

There are a number of different phases that a DUI trial can be broken down into, including the following:

  • Selection of the jury
  • Opening statements
  • Defense case
  • Prosecutor’s case
  • Closing statements
  • Verdict
  • Sentencing

To convict you of a DUI in California, the prosecutor will be required to convince all twelve of the jurors of your doubt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Going to trial has definite disadvantages and advantages to it that will depend on your individual case’s facts. Your San Diego DUI lawyer will explain these to you so you can weigh all of the pros and cons prior to deciding whether the strategy for your DUI case should include a jury trial.

Contact a San Diego DUI Lawyer Today

If you are faced with a DUI in San Diego it would behoove you to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. With varying circumstances playing a role in fines and penalties one can face, a San Diego Criminal defense lawyer can guide you through the process of fighting your charge.

Contact San Diego Criminal today and schedule a risk-free consultation with one of our expert law professionals. We will help you build a case that protects your rights and freedom.

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