Police officers arrest thousands of drivers each year for driving under the influence of alcohol—or DUI. When the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) subsequently takes discretionary action to limit an individual’s driving privileges, the driver may request a prompt hearing. During a DMV hearing, the driver can review the DMV’s evidence against them and challenge the DMV’s restrictive action.
If you are currently facing criminal DUI charges, you must retain a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney to represent you during your entire case. First, your lawyer can protect your legal rights while your criminal case is pending in the court system. Moreover, your lawyer can explain your legal rights to you clearly and help you decide on the best course of action for your case. Finally, your attorney can represent you at all DMV hearings, criminal court proceedings, trials, and sentencing hearings and help you obtain the best possible.
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DUI Arrests in California
DUI arrests and convictions can have serious consequences. Not only may a driver incur high monetary fines—and even jail time—upon conviction, they may incur numerous administrative penalties, including a driver’s license suspension. Moreover, an offending driver may experience numerous collateral consequences, including the inability to get a job, find a place to live, or go to school.
A police officer can arrest a driver for DUI under various circumstances. First, the police officer may subject the driver to chemical or Breathalyzer testing to determine their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If a passenger vehicle driver has a BAC of at least 0.08 percent, they are legally intoxicated.
Commercial vehicle drivers with at least 0.04 percent BAC are legally intoxicated. This includes tractor-trailer and big rig operators. Finally, a 0.01 percent BAC cut-off applies to minors under 21. If a police officer subjects a driver to a Breathalyzer or chemical testing at the police station, and they exceed the legal limit, the officer can arrest them for DUI.
In addition to chemical testing, police officers often use field sobriety tests to determine if a driver is intoxicated. For example, they may use a heel-to-toe test, asking the driver to take several steps along a straight line in each direction. If the driver waivers or falls over, that may indicate that they are intoxicated and may then be subject to arrest.
If a police officer arrested you for DUI in California, you must speak to an experienced DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer can safeguard your legal rights from the beginning of your case to the end and help you pursue a case dismissal or favorable plea deal from the state prosecutor. Never try to handle your DUI Case yourself hire an experienced DUI defense lawyer today.
How a DMV Hearing Proceeds
If a police officer arrests you for DUI, the California DMV may suspend your driving privileges for some time. When that happens, you can request a DMV hearing.
Individuals facing DUI charges must make their DMV hearing request promptly. In California, a driver must request an administrative hearing within ten days after they receive a DMV notice restricting their driving privileges.
You can schedule an administrative hearing by contacting a DMV Driver Safety Office. When you call, you will need to verify your mailing address, full name, date of birth, and driver’s license number.
Some DMV hearings go forward in person, while other hearings proceed telephonically. All hearings are recorded, and a DMV Driver Safety Hearing Officer will preside over the hearing. If you fail to appear for your administrative hearing, the hearing officer will proceed forward regardless.
During an administrative hearing, the hearing officer will inform the driver of the legal reasons why the DMV wishes to restrict their driving privileges. The driver can then review all of this evidence, including copies of their chemical test results and Breathalyzer readings, showing they were under the influence of alcohol while driving. However, at the hearing, the driver can challenge the DMV’s evidence by submitting evidence of their own. Moreover, the driver may testify themselves or call witnesses to testify on their behalf.
The ultimate goal of presenting evidence at a DMV hearing is to convince the hearing officer to change the decision they’re contemplating—and reinstate the driver’s privileges. During an administrative hearing, the California Vehicle Code (CVC)—as well as the Government Code (part of the Administrative Procedures Act)—controls the process. The DMW may also refer to various rulings from the California Supreme Court, along with various appellate courts, when making decisions.
Once the DMV hearing is complete, the officer will decide whether to uphold the DMV’s original proposed action, restrict the driver’s privileges, or modify/rescind the proposed restrictions.
Your Legal Rights at a DMV Administrative Hearing
An experienced DUI defense attorney can represent you during your DMV administrative hearing. After you review the evidence that the DMV presents, your lawyer has a right to cross-examine any DMV witnesses. Your lawyer may also call you to the witness stand to testify—or present their own evidence, which the hearing officer may review.
Once you receive a decision from the DMV in writing, you have a right to request an administrative review. You also have a right of appeal to the California Superior Court.
A knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer can represent you at your administrative hearing, present evidence on your behalf, and zealously advocate for your legal rights. Your attorney will do everything they can to convince the DMV to reinstate your driving privileges.
In some instances, the DMV might be willing to allow you restricted privileges, such as the ability to drive to and from work on a daily basis. Your lawyer can safeguard your legal rights during the DMV hearing and help you attain the best possible result.
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Challenging a DUI in Court
In every DUI case, the state prosecutor has the legal burden of proof. The offending driver, who is the defendant in the case, does not need to prove anything. The state prosecutor must establish every legal element of the claim to obtain a conviction against the defendant.
Specifically, the prosecutor must show that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol while they operated a vehicle. The prosecutor may also introduce several pieces of evidence in support of their claim, including Breathalyzer readings and chemical test results.
However, in some instances, your defense lawyer can challenge evidence that the prosecutor introduces at trial. By challenging this evidence, your defense attorney may prevent the prosecutor from approving one or more legal elements, preventing the case from going forward and resulting in a complete dismissal of your charge.
Some of the most common defenses that a lawyer may raise in response to a DUI charge include:
- That the police officer initiated an improper traffic stop, in violation of the driver’s Fourth Amendment right against searches and seizures that are unreasonable
- That the police officer violated the driver’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by continuing to question the driver after they requested an attorney’s presence
- That the Breathalyzer equipment was defective in some way
- That the driver had a health condition that prevented them from performing a field sobriety test correctly.
- Various environmental factors, including lighting and the weather, prevented the driver from passing a field sobriety test.
- That a significant length of time passed between the time the driver was behind the wheel and the time the police officer obtained the Breathalyzer evidence at the police station
A knowledgeable DUI defense lawyer in your area can represent you at your criminal trial and argue one or more of these defenses on your behalf. Your lawyer will aggressively fight for your legal rights and help you pursue the best possible result in your case.
What Are Some Potential Penalties for DUI Convictions?
The potential penalties that a DUI offender may incur will vary from case to case. Factors that determine the types of penalties a judge may impose include whether or not the driver has previous DUI convictions on their record, the amount of alcohol in the driver’s system at the time of their arrest, and whether or not the driver caused an accident which led to injuries or fatalities.
Some of the most common penalties in DUI cases include:
- Mandatory jail time
- Court-ordered community service
- High monetary fines
- Court-ordered counseling and alcohol rehabilitation
- Payment of restitution, if the driver caused an accident that led to property damage or physical injuries
- Restricted driving privileges and, in some instances, permanent revocation of the driver’s license
- Required participation in the Ignition Interlock Device (IID) program
In some cases, even if the driver is a first-time offender, a judge may require that they pay to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. To operate their vehicle, the driver must first blow into this portable Breathalyzer device. If the device detects any alcohol on their breath, the vehicle will not start. In addition to paying for initial installation costs, a driver will need to foot the bill for regular IID maintenance. Therefore, owning an IID can be extremely expensive.
In addition to these potential legal and administrative penalties, drivers often face numerous collateral consequences. For instance, they may have trouble finding or keeping a job, getting into school, or finding a place to live. This is because prospective employers, educational institutions, and landlords routinely perform online criminal background checks on applicants. If they find a conviction for DUI or some other criminal offense on the driver’s record, they may be wary about accepting the driver’s application.
If you sustain a conviction for DUI, your lawyer can represent you at your criminal sentencing hearing before a judge and argue for the lowest possible penalty available. Your lawyer will do everything they can to minimize both the legal and collateral consequences you sustain from your DUI conviction.
Alternatives to a DUI Trial
In some instances, DUI offenders are eligible for a plea deal or diversion program. A prosecutor usually puts a plea deal on the table when they are not confident in their ability to obtain a conviction at trial. As part of a plea deal, the offender usually agrees to plead guilty in exchange for some concession by the prosecutor. For example, the prosecutor may reduce the charge from DUI to reckless driving. Alternatively, they may offer the driver a term of probation. If the driver completes all of the probationary terms, they will not have a conviction on their record.
Alternatively, the prosecutor may allow the driver to participate in a DUI diversion program. If they successfully complete the program, they will not sustain a guilty finding or conviction for DUI.
In some instances, it makes sense for a driver to accept a plea deal, while at other times, it makes more sense to go to trial. A trial may be the better option if you have a strong legal defense to your DUI charge—and strong evidence to challenge the prosecution’s case. A knowledgeable DUI defense attorney in your area can help you decide whether to accept a plea deal that the prosecutor puts on the table or take your case to trial.
Speak With a Knowledgeable DUI Defense Attorney in Your Area Today
If a police officer recently arrested you for DUI, hire a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer to represent you at every stage of your case—from initial questioning until sentencing.
If a police officer starts to question you, you should immediately assert your right to the presence of counsel. At that point, the officer must stop their questioning until a lawyer is present with you, either in person or on the phone.
In addition to safeguarding your legal rights during police questioning, your attorney can represent you during an administrative DMV hearing, during plea deal negotiations with the state prosecutor, and in court when raising a legal defense to your DUI charge. Your lawyer will strongly advocate for your legal position and help you attain the best possible result while working to minimize any lasting and life-changing consequences. Learn more about DUI law by contacting an experienced legal team today, you can also review some of our other resources like “Questions You Should Ask A DUI Lawyer”
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