You wake up, not remembering much, but do recall a little paper that you received the night before. You pull it out from your pants pocket to look and it’s a notice to appear in court for the DUI that you got last night. What fun! Well, there are a certain number of things that you should keep in mind while you navigate this process and I’ll do my best to help explain that complicated process to you a bit.
Nearly all DUIs begin one of three ways: 1) you are pulled over for a traffic violation like speeding or not using your turn signal, 2) you are pulled over for an equipment violation on your car or 3) you were in an accident and law enforcement responded to that accident.
The officer will make contact with you and, without fail, will note in their report that at that time, you “observed the objective symptoms of intoxication,” such as “red bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and/or a flushed face”, and observed an “odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from your breath.” You will then be asked to perform a number of standard field sobriety tests and, at the end of all of that fun, asked to blow into a preliminary alcohol screening device (PAS), commonly known as the breathalyzer.
Let’s take a quick break here. You must remember, assuming you are in a state of mind to do so, that you are not obligated to perform any of the field sobriety tests and/or the PAS device and frankly, I wouldn’t do so myself. Why you might ask? Well, you will have to submit to another blood alcohol chemical test after you are arrested (more about that in a minute), the field sobriety tests are so difficult to complete without making an error that most people cannot successfully complete them sober, and blowing into the PAS this early into the investigation does not do you any favors. Might as well wait for some time to go by and let that blood alcohol level decrease as much as possible.
Now, you do have to submit to a breath or blood test to determine the level of alcohol or drugs in your system. This is known as the implied consent law in California and when you go to get your driver’s license, you are impliedly consenting to give a blood alcohol test when a law enforcement officer has suspicion that you are driving under the influence. I typically “recommend” choosing the blood draw as this typically takes a little longer for law enforcement to get you somewhere that can draw the blood as opposed to going straight to the station where they have a breath test device set up.
So now you’ve already submitted to your blood alcohol test, have been arrested, booked, released, etc. Now what? Well, you now have 10 days from the date of arrest to contact the DMV to request a hearing before they automatically suspend your license and request a stay on the automatic suspension of your license, pending a hearing. If you don’t plan on driving, you might consider not requesting a stay on that suspension in order to “start the clock” on your restriction earlier. Remember that the DMV and the court have separate proceedings and that the court doesn’t care about the DMV and vice versa. Thus, you criminal matter could be dismissed or never filed, yet you could still have your license suspended from the DMV. Any Los Angeles criminal defense attorney worth their weight typically handles both proceedings for you.
Once we get to court, we are able to see all of the evidence against you. Police reports, narratives of arresting officers, pictures, body cam footage, dashboard cam footage, etc. This is our chance to see if you were properly arrested, if the officers’ narrative of the events are in fact accurate, whether you were properly admonished regarding the need to submit to an blood alcohol test, and a number of other things I look at to see if law enforcement did their job properly. Anything they failed to do, lied about, or did not do as prescribed by law, creates ways I can attack the government’s case and the validity of the arrest.
The prosecutor typically looks at how “bad” your driving was, including the presence of a traffic accident, and looks a lot at the blood alcohol test results. Thus, if the “numbers” are relatively low, lack of criminal history and not very “bad” driving, there is potential to get the charge reduced.
Without getting into more (not so exciting) detail on this post, this is the first steps involved in a DUI in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties. If you want the full version, feel free to call my office and talk to me about your case. This is what I do for a living so I’m always happy to hear your set of facts and let you know what we can expect at court.