Here in the Valley, it is difficult to live without a car, but that will likely be what you are in for if you are arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). Even if it is your first offense, you'll lose your driver's license for a period of time. Here's what you need to know about first DUI offenses, the punishment you are likely to face and what you can do to protect yourself in court.
What Is a DUI?
Driving under the influence occurs any time you drive a motor vehicle after taking any substance that interferes with your mental or physical ability to the point where driving is unsafe. In many cases, this refers to driving after drinking alcohol. In the state of California, the legal limit for driving after drinking alcohol is .08 blood alcohol concentration.
The specific amount a person can drink before putting themselves over the limit depends on a number of factors, including their gender, weight, metabolism and tolerance, to name just a few. As a general rule of thumb, it is best to stick to no more than one drink per hour. If you ever doubt your ability to drive, it is better to call a taxi or ride-share just to be safe.
DUI applies to more than just alcohol, namely prescription and recreational drugs. Even though your doctor has recommended and approved all of your prescription medications, many of them have side affects that can impair your ability to drive. Because there are so many prescription drugs on the market, it would be unwieldy to list the specific criteria for DUI, but evidence of medication can be detected in your bloodstream.
Now that marijuana is legal for recreational use among those over the age of 21, this is also a concern for DUI. Yes, it is legal to use the drug, but not to drive while it is still affecting you.
What Happens When You Are Arrested for DUI?
When a police officer pulls you over for DUI, they'll be looking for signs that your driving ability may be impaired. This could include things like:
- Weaving in and out of lanes
- Driving much faster or slower than the speed limit
- Frequently changing speed from fast to slow and back for no apparent reason
Of course, there are other signs, but those are some of the most common.
After pulling you over, the officer will ask you to get out of your vehicle to take a field sobriety test. You'll be asked to perform a series of tasks testing your mental and physical capacity. If after taking the test, the officer believes you are impaired, you'll have to take a breath test for alcohol.
You do have the right to refuse to take the field test and the breath test, but that will lead to your immediate arrest. Once you are taken to the police station, you'll have to submit to a breath or blood test to confirm your condition.
You'll have to stay in a holding cell at the police station at least overnight so that the alcohol or drugs can leave your system. You car will be impounded for the duration, and you'll have to pay to have it released. If you are arrested on the weekend or if you have other open court cases, you may have to stay longer.
For a first DUI offense, you'll typically be released on the next business day under what is known as "own recognizance." Basically, this means that you promise to appear in court on your scheduled date.
How Does the Court Procedure Work?
When you show up in court, whether with a private DUI attorney or a public defender, the judge will notify you of the specific charges against you and ask you how you plead. Your options are guilty, not guilty and no contest. A guilty plea means that you admit your guilt and accept your punishment.
A plea of not guilty means that you deny that you were under the influence and wish to plead your side of the case in a trial. The judge will make note of your plea and schedule a trial date to hear your case.
In most cases, your attorney will advise you to plead no contest. Basically, what this means is that you do not want to admit to being guilty, but you are willing to accept the punishment to resolve your case. A no contest plea ends in the same result as a guilty plea.
After you enter your plea, the judge will notify you of the next actions you'll need to take, which will be discussed in the next section. You'll also be scheduled for a future court date to review your progress on meeting the requirements.
When you come back to court to give your progress report, bring as much documentation as you have so that the judge can verify what you have completed so far. If you still have any requirements unfinished, you'll be scheduled to come back again. Once all of your requirements have been completed, the judge will close your case.
What Is the Punishment for a First DUI?
If you plead guilty, no contest or are declared guilty in trial, you'll have to meet a series of requirements to resolve your case. For starters, your driver's license will be suspended, meaning that you are not legally allowed to drive. If you are caught driving without a valid driver's license, you'll face even steeper penalties.
For a first DUI, your license will be suspended for four months. However, if you refused to take the breath test when asked by the arresting officer, your license will be suspended for a full year. At the end of the suspension, you'll have to pay a fee to have your license reinstated, and you may also need to take the written test or driving test again.
In addition to the suspension of your driving privileges, you'll also be put on probation for three to five years, though it is usually on the shorter end. Essentially, this means that you must not get into any more trouble with the law during that time period, or you'll likely face stiffer penalties.
You'll also have to attend DUI school. The goal of the program is to discourage you to avoid risky behaviors like driving under the influence in the future. In most cases, you'll have to attend the school for a period of three months, but you could be sentenced to up to nine months. You'll be responsible for the cost of attending DUI school.
You'll also be required to pay a fine to the court. In general, this amount is in the vicinity of $2,000. If you have difficulty paying, you can likely substitute community services hours in lieu of money. The court can provide you with a list of approved volunteer opportunities.
Finally, though not a legal punishment, your insurance company will likely raise your rates. Typically, you'll pay these higher rates for seven years after your DUI, costing you a lot of extra money in the long run. You may also get dropped from your insurance company, forcing you to find new insurance at a much higher cost.
Call the Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel
If you have been arrested for a DUI, you want to give yourself the best chance of a favorable resolution in court. This will help to minimize the risk to your career, relationships and personal life. While you can just use the services of the court-provided public defender, but wouldn't you rather get the care and personalized service you need and deserve?
Here at the Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel, we have over 30 years of experience in defending DUI cases and have represented more than 6,800 individuals. We have the skills and expertise to help negotiate the most favorable terms possible for you after your DUI arrest.
We are happy to offer you a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our associates to learn more about our practice and the options you have available to you. Our team can answer any questions you have about our practice, our attorneys, DUI offenses and the legal process in general. We want you to have everything you need to make an informed decision about working with us for your DUI case.
If you have been arrested for DUI, call us right away at 818-582-2350 to schedule your consultation. We'll review the specific details of your case and go over how best to proceed. Our goal is to make you feel as comfortable as possible throughout the entire experience. Getting a DUI is definitely an experience you'll want to repeat, but you will get through it.
Our attorneys will work hard to make the process as easy and painless for you as we can. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our DUI services and to schedule your free consultation with one of our expert DUI attorneys.