California is one of the strictest states in the U.S. when it comes to sentencing DUI offenders. And Los Angeles and Southern California rank high among regions where DUI arrests are unusually common. Thus, anyone living in the L.A. Area has a relatively high chance of facing a DUI charge sometime in his/her life or of seeing a close friend or relative do the same.
Loss of driving privileges for 6 months to over 4 years, depending on the nature of the case and whether or not you have any previous DUIs, is the number one DUI penalty that comes to most people's mind. Yet, jail time, heavy fines, months or years long DUI or substance abuse classes, and a host of other severe sentencing elements can also apply if you are convicted.
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we understand the gravity of a DUI charge and the fear and anxiety over one's future that it creates. Our team of experienced DUI attorneys know how to navigate the California penal and vehicle codes as well as local L.A. court systems, to win you the best possible outcome to your DUI case.
If you or someone you love have recently been arrested on a DUI charge, don not hesitate to contact us anytime 24/7 by calling 424-281-3020 for a free legal consultation.
DUI Defense Is Not "Hopeless"
Many people seem to have the sentiment that fighting a DUI charge is useless, that such cases are impossible to win. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we win DUI cases on a routine basis, both during the DMV hearing and during the trial (if there is one). We understand that there are numerous viable defense strategies you can use to defeat a DUI charge, though the defense used must be appropriate in light of the specific facts of the case.
While it would be impractical to give a "complete" list, here are 10 of the most common DUI defenses we use on a routine basis:
- Erroneous Breathalyzer Result
The PAS breath test or a subsequent breath test given at the police station are viewed by some as virtually incontrovertible evidence. But the fact is that there are many reasons a breath test BAC reading could be off, including incorrect calibration, device malfunction, radio-frequency interference, certain medical conditions like GERD and diabetes, being on a low-carb diet, the presence of mouth alcohol, use of alcohol-containing mouth wash or and cough syrup, and more. And unless you breath properly to ensure only deep-lung air is sent through the breathalyzer, it can give a falsely high reading.
- A Still-rising BAC Level
Some things can throw off only the breath but not the blood test, but if your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) was still rising at the time of the test and there was a significant delay between being pulled over and the test being administered (and often there is), then your BAC was lower when you were actually behind the wheel. That means that, if your BAC was read at, say, .08 or .09, it might have been only .07 or .06 when you actually drove the vehicle. Thus, the fact that alcohol takes 1 to 3 hours to reach peak level in your system means that a BAC test can give a false impression of your condition while you drove.
- Blood Test Error
There are a number of reasons why a blood test reason can be off or inadmissible in court, besides the still-rising BAC scenario mentioned just above. For example, the blood sample can ferment, get contaminated, or be improperly stored. And if police did not follow all the proper protocols as outline in Title 17, in regard to gathering, examining, and storing blood samples (including keeping a record of storage for the sample), you can likely get the blood test result excluded as evidence. Plus, a "close" BAC reading might be overturned if we make a blood-split motion and do an independent re-test that gives a lower result.
- False FST-Based Conclusions
Field sobriety tests, as well as the arresting officer’s various personal observations of your appearance and demeanor, are often used to support the claim you drove under the influence. But there are many innocent reasons why a person might seem as if intoxicated, including: exhaustion, nervousness, an allergy, direct sunlight or glare, physical disability, physical or mental illness, intimidating conduct by the arresting officer, poor weather or lighting, awkward footwear, and uneven walking surfaces. In FSTs are not more than 65% to 75% accurate in detecting intoxication, even when administered 100% accurately.
- Lack of Probable Cause
In order to Constitutionally pull you over and search your vehicle, police must have a probable cause for making the traffic stop. They must also have probable cause for detaining you to carry on an investigation and/or arresting you on a charge of DUI. "Probable cause" means a "reasonable suspicion" that you were committing some form of illegal activity, though it need not have been originally a suspicion of DUI. If we can show no probable cause existed for the stop or the arrest, the evidence gathered after the stop will be suppressed and it will be nearly impossible for you to be convicted.
- Violations of Your Rights
Besides an illegal stop or baseless arrest, there are other ways in which police can violate your rights during a DUI arrest. First, you cannot be arrested without first being informed that, in fact, you are being arrested and then being read your Miranda Rights. Second, note that you cannot legally be made the subject of a "custodial interrogation" until you have been arrested and told you are under arrest. A "custodial interrogation," one during which you are being held in police custody, is distinct in that the questions directed at you are designed to get you to give self-incriminating answers. Third, if there was "police misconduct," your case will be dismissed even if you were guilty. "Misconduct" here refers to things like fabrication or plating of evidence, inaccurate police reports, police lying while giving testimony against you, and Title 17 violations. If your rights were violated in any way, it is likely evidence will be declared inadmissible in court and you will win your case.
- Illegal DUI Checkpoint
DUI "sobriety checkpoints" are accepted by the courts as legal in general, but only when they comply very specific stipulations. If these requirements are violated, you can likely get evidence suppressed and your DUI case dismissed. A legal DUI checkpoint in California must be organized and overseen by law enforcement officers, must impose a uniform procedure that is used for every car stopped, and must be publicly advertised. The idea is that police cannot arbitrarily target certain cars more than others without probable cause just because it is a DUI checkpoint. As long as these rules are followed, however, no special cause is needed to stop and check for signs of driving under the influence of alcohol or intoxicating drugs at a designated DUI roadblock.
- You Were Not Driving the Car
If police find you in a car but do not actually witness you driving that car, then the mere fact that you were intoxicated when found does not prove you drove under the influence. And if police received a "hot tip" that a vehicle of a certain description or with a particular license plate number appeared to be driven by some under the influence, then find you at home drunk and your car parked in the driveway, they do not automatically have a good case against you. It is possible, for example, you drank only after pulling over your car to the side of a road or parking in a parking lot. And it is possible you might drive poorly (but not under the influence) on your way home and only afterward drink alcoholic beverages.
- Poor Driving But Not DUI
When police see a car acting in certain ways, such as weaving back and forth, changing speeds frequently, taking wide turns, or running a red light, they might be tempted to assume that the driver must be drunk. But the fact is, there are many other reasons why people drive poorly besides being under the influence of alcohol/drugs. For example, you may have been making a phone call, sending a text, talking to someone in the back seat, adjusting your CD player or radio, trying to read a map while you drive, bending down to pick up an object that fell to the floor, fighting exhaustion, or trying to deal with inclement weather. Bad driving might still get you in trouble, but it will probably be a lot less trouble than if you get convicted of a DUI.
- Lack of "Mental Impairment"
California law distinguishes physical and mental impairment when it comes to DUIs. The focus of police evidence and arguments is normally on signs of physical impairment, but in reality, physical impairment almost never exists apart from mental impairment. And mental impairment always comes first. Therefore, if you can show that no evidence exists that you were mentally impaired or even prove that you were not, the assumption is that you were not physically impaired either. If the prosecution's evidence of physical impairment was already weak and you were under .08, this strategy can be effective.
Possible Penalties for a California DUI
In California, penalties for a DUI conviction are rather severe in many cases, and the penalties climb gradually with each repeat offense until you could be looking at many years without a license and relatively long jail or prison sentences.
Since 2011, an admin per se suspension goes into effect automatically 30 days following your arrest. You must take the initiative and contact the DMV within 10 days (not business days) of your arrest to even be given a chance to defend yourself at a hearing.
Next, if you lose your DMV hearing, an immediate suspension of 6 months for a first DUI and 12 months for a repeat offense goes into effect.
If actually convicted of DUI, here are the possible penalties you could face:
For a first-time DUI violation:
- A four-month minimum driver's license suspension
- Six months or longer in county jail
- Fines/fees totally as high as over $15,000, though a little over $3,000 is more likely
- Up to three months of DUI class
- (Possibly), mandatory installation of an IID (ignition interlock device) at your own expense
- Three to five years of probation
For a second DUI violation:
- A driver's license suspension of up to two years
- As long as 12 months in county jail
- Fines/fees that can easily reach $4,000
- From 18 to 30 months in DUI class
- Mandatory installation of an IID
- from three to five years on DUI probation
For a third DUI violation:
- A driver's license suspension of three years
- Either a maximum of 12 months in county jail or of 16 months in state prison
- Fines/fees totally as much as $18,000
- 30 months in a state-approved DUI class
- Mandatory installation of an IID
- Three to five years of probation
For a fourth or subsequent DUI:
- A license suspension of four years or possibly a permanent suspension
- Up to 16 months in state prison
- Fines/fees as high as $18,000
- A 30-month DUI class
- Mandatory installation of an IID
- Three to five years of DUI probation
- Having a felony conviction on your permanent criminal record
Contact Us Today For Help
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we have deep experience in fighting DUI charges both at the DMV hearing and at the jury trial. We have a long track record of winning dismissals, acquittals, and reduced charges/sentences for those facing a DUI charge, and we can do the same for you.
We stand ready to help you defend yourself against an alleged DUI at a moment's notice. Call us anytime 24/7/365 at 424-281-3020 for a free consultation on the details of your case.