A DUI conviction can have serious consequences that can affect nearly every aspect of your life, but the best DUI attorney in Orange County can help protect your rights and your future.
Learn why it’s essential to hire the best Orange County defense attorney if you’ve been charged with a DUI, the penalties you may face if convicted, and how an experienced DUI defense lawyer can help you build a strong defense.
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Laws
DUI, or Driving Under the Influence, is a criminal offense that occurs when a person operates a motor vehicle while their mental and physical abilities are impaired due to the consumption of drugs or alcohol. This impairment must be to the extent that the person cannot safely operate the vehicle in the same manner as a cautious sober individual.
DUI charges are handled by a criminal court and can carry severe legal and administrative penalties, including fines, jail time, and suspension or revocation of one’s driver’s license.
It is illegal in all states in the United States to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, and some states may have lower BAC limits for certain drivers, such as those under the age of 21 or those operating commercial vehicles.
In California, Vehicle Code § 23152 (a) VC makes it a crime to operate a motor vehicle “under the influence” of alcohol, meaning your physical or mental abilities are impaired enough that you can no longer drive as well as a cautious sober individual. This law is the “subjective” standard for DUI in Orange County, whereas Vehicle Code § 23152 (b) VC sets forth the “per se” definition of DUI, which involves driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
What To Expect When You Are Pulled Over for DUI
In most DUI cases, an officer will pull someone over if they are driving dangerously or erratically. But in Los Angeles, Newport Beach, and other areas in Southern California, police officers often set up Sobriety Checkpoints where they can randomly stop and question motorists and observe them for signs of intoxication.
If you are pulled over or stopped at a checkpoint and police officers believe you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may conduct field sobriety tests. This can include a roadside breath test to determine your level of intoxication, if any.
Whether you consent to the test or not, the officer has the right to arrest you if he has probable cause to do so. Once you are brought to the police station or formally arrested, you will be asked to take a chemical test to measure your BAC.
Note that after being arrested, you cannot refuse a blood or breath test. Under California’s Implied Consent law, you have automatically consented to such a test upon being arrested for a DUI. If you refuse to submit to a test, your driver’s license will be suspended or revoked.
Penalties for a DUI Conviction in California
A DUI conviction can have far-reaching long term consequences. Under state DUI laws, DUI offenses can be considered either a misdemeanor or a felony, leading to many potential penalties. Depending on your DUI charge, you could face penalties that include jail time, hefty fines, and a loss of driving privileges.
Misdemeanor DUI Offenses
Under Vehicle Code § 23152 (a) VC, most first, second, and third-time DUI offenses are prosecuted as misdemeanors. A misdemeanor DUI conviction typically results in the following penalties:
- Up to one year in county jail,
- Three to five years of informal probation,
- Participation in a court-approved DUI school,
- Fines ranging between $390 and $5,000, and
- A minimum six-month driver’s license suspension, unless you initiate and win a DMV DUI hearing.
Felony DUI Offenses
Fourth and subsequent DUIs that occur within ten years are generally prosecuted as felony offenses in California. There are also other factors, such as involvement in a DUI accident that causes bodily injury or having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.15% or higher, that may result in a felony DUI charge.
In addition, prior DUIs can amplify potential penalties and court motivation.
Sobriety Test Refusal Penalties
There are also significant legal consequences associated with refusing to submit to a chemical test after being arrested for a DUI. In California, these so-called refusal enhancement penalties can be added to the standard DUI penalties and may include the following:
- First DUI offense: one-year driver’s license suspension, with possible jail time up to 48 hours and nine months of alcohol education courses
- Second DUI offense: two-year driver’s license suspension, with possible jail time up to 96 hours
- Third DUI offense: three-year driver’s license suspension, with possible jail time up to 10 days
It is important to remember that failure to submit to a chemical test following a DUI arrest can result in charges for the DUI and the refusal.
DMV Hearing and Criminal Court
If you are arrested for drunk driving in California, you will face two separate proceedings. The criminal court case is what most are familiar with, but first, you will have a DUI hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
A DMV hearing is an administrative procedure and the sole purpose of the hearing is to determine whether your driver’s license will be suspended due to your arrest.
When you are arrested for a DUI, the arresting official will confiscate your California driver’s license and give you a “Notice of Suspension.” This acts as a temporary for 30 days. It also serves as notice that you have ten days to request a DMV hearing to prevent an official suspended license.
If you fail to request a hearing within ten days of your arrest, your license will automatically be suspended by DMV admin at the end of the 30 days. In most cases, when you hire a private DUI attorney, that attorney will represent you in both the DMV proceedings and in criminal court.
What to Do After a DUI Arrest
Being arrested for DUI can be scary and confusing, and it’s easy to make a grievous mistake if you aren’t familiar with the legal protocol surrounding DUI offenses. A DUI attorney can help, but in the meantime, there are important action you can take after a drunk driving arrest.
You Have the Right to Remain Silent
After being arrested and taken into custody for questioning, your Miranda rights must be read. According to the Miranda warning, you have the right to remain silent, and your choice to remain silent is not reason enough to convict you of the crime. It’s not considered obstructing justice, so long as you do not willfully “resist, delay or obstruct” the officer in the performance of his or her on-the-job duties.
If you aren’t careful, you could accidentally make incriminating statements that could damage your case, and staying silent is an easy way to avoid this mistake. The police can question you without a lawyer present, but you are not obligated to answer.
Contact a Knowledgeable DUI Defense Lawyer
In addition to remaining silent, you also have the right to an attorney. The facts of every DUI case are unique, which is why hiring a good lawyer with DUI charge experience should be your first course of action following your arrest. Experienced California DUI lawyers will have a more comprehensive understanding of DUI law and what defenses are most effective in such cases.
Be sure to bring your police report and any other documents pertaining to your case to your free consultation. This will give your attorneys the clearest picture of the charges you are facing and the path to the best possible outcome. With an experienced DUI attorney on your side, you may be able to secure a more satisfactory result in your drunk driving case.
Should You Represent Yourself?
If you have been arrested for or charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you have the right to represent yourself in court. However, this is rarely a good idea. Unless you are intimately familiar with the intricacies of DUI law, representing yourself in court will put you at a severe disadvantage. Your lack of knowledge concerning court rules will only serve to irritate the judge.
California DUI law is complicated and constantly changing, and the science involved in DUI and criminal law today is quite complex. Hiring just any defense attorney is not in your best interest when facing DUI charges. If you are going to trial for a DUI, you should be represented by an attorney specializing in DUI defense.
Best Defense Strategies in DUI Cases
The best DUI lawyers can use many different strategies to defend you against DUI charges in California. With a strong defense, your attorney may be able to get your charges reduced and your penalties minimized. They may even be able to get the DUI charges dropped altogether, so you and your attorney must work together to build the strongest defense possible.
The following are some common California DUI defenses argued by DUI lawyers:
- Your Constitutional rights were violated
- Police officers engaged in racial profiling or other misconduct
- The BAC results from the breathalyzer test were not accurate
- The arresting officer observed signs of intoxication were due to another cause — illness, medical conditions, fatigue, etc.
- The arresting officer failed to follow proper procedure in your arrest (i.e. did not read you your Miranda rights)
How Hiring a DUI Attorney Can Help
Orange County will prosecute your DUI offense aggressively, so hiring an experienced DUI lawyer is your only reasonable option if you want to avoid a criminal record or jury trial.
A knowledgeable DUI and criminal defense attorney can help your case in a number of ways. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will:
- Use all available resources to build a strong criminal defense (i.e., interviewing witnesses or hiring a private investigator)
- Investigate the circumstances of your DUI offense and offer legal advice on fighting the charges
- Keep track of important legal deadlines
- Attempt to negotiate with the prosecutor
- Work to get your conviction expunged
It is important to remember that you only have ten days from the date of your arrest to request a DMV hearing or risk having your driver’s license suspended, so don’t wait to hire legal representation.
Contact Our Experienced DUI Lawyer Today
Over the years, our DUI defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group have provided our clients with exceptional criminal defense representation. They have established a record of success in handling DUI cases in Orange County and the surrounding counties.
Our primary goal at Seyb Law Group is to protect your rights and help you get the best possible outcome in your Orange County DUI case. We have represented thousands of individuals accused of driving under the influence and have won countless not-guilty verdicts in Southern California, including Orange County, Newport Beach, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Ana, and the surrounding areas.
We are passionate about protecting the rights of individuals unfairly accused of drunk driving and aggressively defending them against DUI charges. Contact our DUI defense attorneys today to get the defense you deserve.