Driving Under the Influence is the most common criminal charge brought against individuals in our state, and the courts are tough on DUI offenders. The penalty for a first-time offense ranges from a driver’s license suspension, fines, and alcohol abuse programs, to as much as 6 months in jail. The punishments escalate for a second, third or fourth DUI offense. If you are convicted of drinking and driving, the conviction stays on your record for 10 years and could affect your credit, car insurance, and employment status.
You must take a DUI charge seriously, as it could carry severe ramifications for your future. You need a Tustin DUI lawyer with a track record of successfully representing people in your position, who has extensive familiarity of the legal technicalities of a drunk-driving case, and can employ proven strategies for your defense. Do not assume that if you were tested above the legal blood alcohol limit, your case is already lost. An attorney from The Law Offices of Scott Henry may be able to secure an exoneration or to have the charges reduced or dismissed.
Mr. Henry is a tough negotiator who never takes the easy way out. He knows the details of the law and how to scrutinize the evidence for weaknesses in the case. His aggressive cross-examination of witnesses helps him win cases for his clients. He is familiar with the courts, judges, District Attorneys and police officers in our area. With over 15 years of experience and a perfect score on attorney rating website Avvo, he knows how to get the results you need.
Many people don’t understand the nuances of California’s criminal DUI laws and how a conviction may impact their freedom and future. While state law treats driving under the influence as a misdemeanor, it carries some steep penalties, and even a first-time conviction can be devastating. That’s why it’s always in your best interest to consult with an experienced lawyer in the area before you appear in court or speak with a prosecutor during your DUI case.
Generally speaking, a first-time DUI involves less severe penalties than repeat offenses. That’s why there are separate penalties for first, second, and third offenses. Assuming that no one was injured or killed during the alleged DUI, you may face the following:
Six months in jail, driver’s license suspension for a year or more, mandatory alcohol abuse counseling, a required alcohol interlock system on your vehicle, and thousands of dollars in fines and assessments.
One year in jail, two-year driver’s license suspension, two years with a restricted driver’s license, a mandatory, long-term alcohol abuse program (up to 30 months), an alcohol interlock system on your car, thousands of dollars in fees and assessments.
A felony conviction, more than a year in jail or state prison, total revocation of your driver’s license for three to four years, a mandatory 30-month alcohol treatment program, tens of thousands of dollars in fines and assessments, and potential loss of your vehicle.
You may also be placed on probation for a period of time. Typically, you’ll need to follow a strict set of rules while you’re on probation — and a single violation can result in jail time and other penalties.
If you were highly intoxicated at the time of your arrest, with a blood-alcohol content of 0.15% or 0.20%, the penalties for all of these offenses may be significantly higher. And if anyone was seriously injured or killed, the penalties also escalate, and may include up to five years in state prison.
If your recent arrest for drinking and driving is your first involvement in the criminal justice system, you may be confused and overwhelmed by the situation. A Tustin DUI attorney from the firm could guide you through the entire court process, and you may even be able to avoid making an appearance in court. There are several important stages in any case:
After you’re pulled over and the police officer suspects that you’re driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they will arrest you. You will typically go to the police station, where they will process and book you, and perform a chemical blood-alcohol test. The police will also confiscate your driver’s license and give you a temporary, 30-day license — along with a notification that the DMV will likely revoke your driving privileges.
Before you make any significant statements to the police or prosecutors, you should speak with a DUI lawyer. Without legal representation and guidance, you could easily make harmful admissions that may negatively impact your legal defenses and lead to higher criminal penalties or charges. While you may qualify for a public defender, it’s typically best to retain a criminal defense lawyer who can devote more resources and time to your defense strategies and the investigation of your case.
In addition to criminal charges, it’s highly likely that the DMV will revoke your driver’s license. You’ll need to request a timely hearing to fight for it. An experienced lawyer can also help you with this complicated and sensitive administrative hearing. Since you only have ten days from your arrest to request a DMV hearing, you’ll need to act quickly.
This is your first criminal hearing. You, your driving under the influence defense lawyer, and the prosecutor will attend, and you will make a plea (such as “guilty” or “not guilty”) to the judge.
Your local attorney and the prosecutors will exchange information and assess the strength of your DUI case and defenses. This is where your attorney’s value really comes into play, as they try to poke holes into the prosecutor’s case and negotiates on your behalf. Many drunk driving cases resolve at this stage of the case, and you may consider a reduced sentence as part of a plea bargain.
If you cannot agree on the terms of a deal, you and your lawyer will go to trial. A jury will listen to both your lawyers’ and the prosecutors’ arguments and issue a verdict. It’s your lawyer’s goal to convince the jury that the prosecutor has insufficient evidence to convict you — resulting in an acquittal.
If you enter a plea bargain or receive a conviction, you’ll attend a hearing where the judge enters a sentence. At this stage, your lawyer will try to minimize your sentencing as much as possible.
Many DUI arrests are based on the fact that the suspect failed the battery of standardized field sobriety tests developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, yet these tests are notoriously faulty and are often not admissible as evidence in court. We know how to challenge the validity of the test results — from the administration of the tests, the credibility of the arresting officer, to the circumstances involved in the evaluations.
Even if you’re not convicted of a DUI, you may lose your driver’s license for a period of time. As mentioned above, the police will take your license at the time of your arrest. If you do not file a request for a DMV hearing within 10 days of your arrest, it will revoke your license for a period of time (usually four months).
To reduce this impact, you’ll need to file a timely administrative appeal and convince the DMV that revocation of your driver’s license is inappropriate. Because this is a complicated, evidence-intensive process, you’ll need the help of an experienced DUI lawyer to make sure you avoid costly mistakes. However, if you’re convicted for driving while under the influence of alcohol, it’s likely that you’ll still lose your license for a time — even if you successfully defended yourself before the DMV.
You may also receive a restricted driver’s license that limits your driving to a set number of circumstances, such as to and from your workplace. If you’re caught driving outside of these circumstances, you’ll face additional penalties.
In the event that you are convicted of DUI, you will end up with a criminal record, which may follow you for years to come. It will come up every time you have to pass a background check, and you may be required to disclose the fact on applications for employment. Expungement offers you a chance to clear your record. However, expunging your criminal history is not an easy or guaranteed process. An experienced Tustin DUI lawyer can help you determine whether you are eligible for expungement.
One of the most expensive aspects of the sentencing for driving under the influence is the mandatory SR-22 certificate, a Financial Responsibility Form provided by your insurance carrier. An attorney from our firm may be able to help you avoid this requirement.
Charged with driving under the influence? Contact a Tustin DUI lawyer at our firm today for a consultation and to learn more about your options for fighting the charges. At the Law Offices of Scott Henry, we offer confidential, complimentary consultations. To request a meeting, contact our office today.