Driving under the influence, or DUI, can result in severe penalties upon conviction. A convicted DUI offender may receive monetary fines, probation, and even jail time, depending upon their circumstances and the sentencing judge handling their case. In addition, they may have to attend an alcohol or drug rehabilitation course, install an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicle, or incur administrative penalties from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
If you have a criminal DUI charge, you should contact experienced legal counsel immediately. Waiting too long to seek the legal representation you need can have disastrous consequences for your case.
The right DUI defense attorney in your area will understand the fear and uncertainty that often accompanies a DUI arrest and subsequent criminal charge and can handle every aspect of your criminal case for you. For example, your DUI defense attorney can negotiate with state prosecutors on your behalf or represent you during your criminal trial.
Your defense lawyer can also help you make informed and intelligent decisions throughout your case and will work hard to help you obtain the best possible result, including reduced legal penalties and collateral consequences.
What are the Potential Penalties for a DUI Conviction?
Someone with a conviction for DUI may be subject to various criminal penalties. The sentencing judge will then determine what, if any, penalties to impose against you in your criminal DUI case. However, to face penalties, you must have first sustained a conviction. Consequently, the state prosecutor must have satisfied each and every element of the DUI charge.
The penalties that a convicted DUI offender receives will depend upon various factors, including the sentencing judge who is assigning the penalties to you. DUI penalties may also depend upon the number of prior drunk driving offenses you have on your record, if any, as well as your age and whether or not you caused a traffic accident that led to personal injuries and damages.
Potential penalties upon conviction for DUI may include a driver’s license suspension from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, case-related court costs, monetary fines, jail time, and mandatory attendance at drug and alcohol rehabilitation classes.
A criminal court judge may also sentence a DUI offender to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program. As part of this program, the offending driver must pay to install an ignition interlock device, or IID, on their vehicle. After installing the device, the driver must breathe into it before starting the car. If the device detects any alcohol on the driver’s breath, the car will not start. The offending driver will also have to pay for regular maintenance costs on the IID.
In general, the more prior DUI offenses you have on your record, the higher the penalties you may incur upon conviction. For example, a fourth-time DUI offender can receive a maximum of 16 months in jail, a permanent driver’s license suspension, and 30 months of alcohol education at a DUI school. Moreover, they may receive a convicted felon status.
Obviously, the best way to prevent DUI penalties is to avoid a DUI conviction in the first place. However, if you ultimately sustain a conviction on your criminal DUI charge, you should have skilled legal representation in your corner.
A DUI defense attorney in your area can represent you at your criminal sentencing hearing and work to minimize the legal penalties that you receive from a judge. Your attorney can make convincing arguments on your behalf in an attempt to convince the presiding judge to decrease or eliminate the penalties that you receive upon conviction.
Collateral Consequences of a DUI Conviction
In addition to potential legal penalties for a DUI conviction, offenders may also face numerous collateral consequences. When a person sustains a DUI conviction, they will have a permanent criminal record. Consequently, members of the general public who perform an online criminal records or background search can see that the individual incurred a DUI conviction at some point in time.
Convicted DUI offenders may have difficulty with the following and more:
- Finding or keeping a job, especially as a professional driver
- Obtaining admission to a college, university, or other educational programs of their choice
- Obtaining or keeping scholarship funds or financial aid from an educational institution
In addition to these potential collateral consequences, convicted DUI offenders will likely face increased insurance premiums from their motor vehicle insurance companies. They may also face prolonged driver’s license suspensions.
Even if you have a conviction, hire a lawyer for DUI Defense in your area who can represent you at your criminal sentencing hearing and throughout your case to help you minimize or eliminate the collateral consequences of your conviction.
Why is DUI a Criminal Offense?
The law criminalizes drinking and driving because of the adverse effects that alcohol may have on a person’s driving abilities. Alcohol is a depressant, and as such, it significantly slows down the central nervous system’s ability to function. As a result, an intoxicated driver may experience various physical symptoms, including:
- Blurred vision in one or both eyes
- Extreme nervousness
In addition, a driver who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs may experience limited concentration, impaired reflexes, and delayed reaction time. As a result, the driver might be unable to stop their vehicle in time to avoid hitting a pedestrian or another car.
In addition to alcohol, various drugs may affect a driver’s central nervous system and prevent them from operating their vehicle safely. Those drugs include cannabis and other hallucinogenic drugs.
If a police officer arrests you for DUI, you should understand your legal rights and obligations. Before answering any substantive questions from an officer, you should contact an experienced DUI defense attorney right away. Your lawyer can represent you during any custodial police interrogation, ensuring that your legal rights remain protected at all times.
If you do not request legal representation during police questioning and you subsequently answer one or more questions including questions about what you had to drink and how much the state prosecutor can use your responses against you if your case goes to court.
What are the Legal Limits of Alcohol Intoxication for Drivers?
Due to the dangers of drunk driving, the State of California imposes various legal standards for intoxication. First, drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher are legally intoxicated.
Similarly, tractor-trailer operators and other commercial vehicle drivers are legally intoxicated with a BAC of at least 0.04 percent. Moreover, a zero-tolerance policy exists for minors under 21 years old. The legal limit for those individuals is 0.01 percent.
These numbers represent the per se alcohol intoxication limits. However, if a police officer determines that your driving abilities are impaired, such as when a driver fails a field sobriety test, the police officer may initiate an arrest. However, when police officers make mistakes during the process, certain evidence may be subject to suppression, thereby preventing the state prosecutor from establishing the necessary legal elements to prevail.
An officer can also arrest someone due to mere observations of impairment, including:
- Red or watery eyes
- The odor of alcohol
- Open containers in the car
- Slurred speech
- Stumbling or falling
- Excessive drowsiness
An experienced DUI defense lawyer can meet with you to discuss the circumstances of your arrest and determine if you may be eligible to present one or more legal defenses to your pending criminal charge in court.
Who has the Legal Burden of Proof in a Criminal DUI Case?
In a criminal DUI case, as in any criminal matter, the state prosecutor is the only party with a burden of proof. The defendant does not have to satisfy any legal burden in their case or even testify on the witness stand if their case goes to court. However, the defendant may be eligible to raise one or more legal defenses in response to their criminal charge.
By asserting a strong legal defense to a criminal DUI charge, the prosecutor might not satisfy one or more of the necessary legal elements to secure a conviction against the driver.
Not only must the state prosecutor satisfy their legal burden of proof, but they must also do so by a very high standard. Specifically, in a DUI case, the prosecutor must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you operated a motor vehicle while you were under the influence of alcohol. Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest legal standard for a party to satisfy.
A skilled DUI defense attorney can determine if you are eligible to raise one or more specific legal defenses to your pending DUI charge. If you are eligible, your lawyer can help you formulate the appropriate defense and present it during your courtroom trial.
Defending Against a DUI Charge
Although DUI defendants do not have to prove anything in their case or even take the witness stand at their jury trial, they may be eligible to assert several legal defenses to their pending criminal charge. First, a DUI defendant can allege that the police officer made a mistake when conducting one or more field sobriety tests. For example, the officer might have administered the test in a poorly lit area or failed to take into account a driver’s medical condition or non-alcohol-related balance issues.
In addition, a driver can allege that the police officer violated their Fourth Amendment constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures. For example, the officer may not have had sufficient reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pull their vehicle over in the first place.
Similarly, the officer might have violated the driver’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. For example, the police officer may have taken the driver into custody and provided their Miranda warnings, after which the driver asserted their legal right to the presence of counsel during any police questioning. If the officer began questioning the driver, any subsequent incriminating statements that the driver made might be subject to suppression.
In addition, the driver can claim that the breathalyzer machine recording their BAC malfunctioned somehow. Alternatively, the driver can argue that a significant amount of time passed between the time of the breathalyzer reading and the time they were behind the wheel of their car. As a result, the driver may contend that when they were actually operating their vehicle, they were not legally intoxicated.
A DUI defense attorney can determine if you are eligible to raise one or more of these legal defenses at your criminal DUI trial. If you are, your attorney can aggressively assert the appropriate defense on your behalf and work to obtain a favorable bench or jury trial result for you.
Speak with an Experienced DUI Defense Attorney Today
Criminal convictions for DUI offenses can lead to serious legal penalties and collateral consequences. These effects can affect your finances, freedom, and future in general, including your education or job.
If you find yourself facing criminal DUI charges, you should seek experienced legal representation right away. If you wait too long to retain an attorney to represent you, your chances of obtaining a favorable case result go down significantly.
Sometimes, police may make promises about sentence reductions in exchange for your cooperation in their investigation. It is not against the law for the police to lie to you. You should always consult with an attorney.
A lawyer needs to have ample time to prepare legal defenses in your case, talk with state prosecutors, and meet with you to develop a trial strategy. If you fail to show up to your bench or jury trial without a lawyer present, the judge may make you go forward with your case without legal representation. Therefore, it is best to contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest.
A skilled DUI defense lawyer at a criminal defense law firm in Orange County can start to work on your case right away and begin formulating a solid defense on your behalf. Your attorney can also assist during plea deal negotiations with state prosecutors and in the courtroom to help you achieve the best possible case result.