The 10 Stages of a California DUI

Ross Law Center can easily explain the 10 stages of the California DUI process and assist you through the difficult experience.

Stage 1: A Typical California DUI Investigation

There are three ways your investigation may begin:

1. An officer stops you for a traffic violation,

2. An officer pulls you over because something is wrong with your vehicle (possibly a headlight out or expired tags), or

3. Law enforcement is called to the scene of an accident you are involved in.

The officers will then report that you displayed “objective signs of intoxication” and they observed the “odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from your breath”. Roadside field sobriety tests (FSTs) may be performed and the officer’s observations will conclude that you are being arrested for DUI (driving under the influence) under California’s Vehicle Code 23152a VC.

Stage 2: Your California DUI Arrest

After your arrest, you are transported to jail, a police station, or a hospital and your blood alcohol level is measured with a blood or breath test.

Your breath test will determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and if it is higher than 0.08%, you will also be charged with driving with an excessive blood alcohol concentration (California Vehicle Code 23152b VC). If your breath test is lower than 0.08%, the officer may give you a blood or urine test to determine if you were driving under the influence of drugs.

You can refuse to give a blood or urine sample, but you will still be arrested for drunk driving and you will add a “refusal” charge to your case. The penalty for a “refusal” is a mandatory two days in county jail and a one-year drivers license suspension.

Blood samples may take several days for results to be returned from the laboratory with analysis, while breath tests provide immediate blood alcohol concentration (BAC) results.

Based on your specific case and criminal history, you will be booked and possibly released after the DUI tests, although officers frequently hold you in the jail cell for several hours and even overnight. They will inform you that your driver’s license will be suspended in 30 days. You will be issued a pink form that is your temporary license and is valid until the suspension goes into effect. Your state issued drivers license will be confiscated. You may also be released on a written promise to appear in court on a specific date or on bail.

Once your DUI report is submitted to the local prosecutor by the arresting officer, the prosecutor can decide to formally charge you with a DUI or decline to file DUI charges.

Stage 3: Hiring your California DUI Lawyer

Many find this next stage to be very overwhelming and confusing, which is why Ross Law Center takes the time to speak directly with you and specializes in defending each case with unique strategies custom to your case.

You will be given the option to hire a private DUI defense attorney, be represented by a public defender or represent yourself.

Unless you are a specialized California DUI attorney, it is not recommended that you represent yourself. You may find yourself overwhelmed by the technicalities and intimidated by the judge and prosecutors.

If you are financially eligible to have a public defender (PD) assigned to you, you run the risk of several obstacles. Although public defenders know the DUI process, they have a very limited amount of time to devote to your case and even less resources to investigate your specific case. They are also randomly assigned to your case, so you are stuck with them although you may not like or trust them. Public defenders may also have relationships with prosecutors and judges.

When choosing a private DUI attorney, you will quickly find that not all are worth your resources or equipped to handle your specific case. If you choose the wrong private attorney, you may have been better off saving your money and chancing it with a public defender. The wrong private attorney could plead you guilty or take a deal from the prosecution instead of negotiating something better just to get a quick payday from you.

At Ross Law Center, we understand that when you pay for the best, you deserve the best. Your private attorney will spend your hard earned recourses on thoroughly investigating your case, negotiating on your behalf and creating the best defense strategy for your specific case.

Hiring a private attorney that specialized in California DUI cases through Ross Law Center is your best option to avoid or lessen jail time and minimize DUI fines.

Stage 4: The California DMV and your DUI

After your driver’s license is confiscated, it will be sent to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and will automatically be suspended unless you request a DMV hearing within 10 days of your arrest. The suspension begins after the pink forms 30 day temporary license expires.

If you request a DMV hearing within 10 days of your arrest, you can delay your suspension until your hearing is complete. You will avoid suspension if you win your hearing, but may receive a different suspension if you are convicted in court of a DUI.

The DMV asks three 3 questions before they decided to suspend your license or delay your suspension.

Were you lawfully arrested?
Was your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) 0.08% or higher?
Did the arresting officer reasonably believe that you were driving under the influence (DUI)?

You have the right to be represented by a DUI attorney at your DMV hearing. The DMV hearing is independent of your court case, but having a private attorney represent you highly increases your odds of saving your drivers license.

If you choose to represent yourself in your DUI case, you will also need to represent yourself during the DMV hearing. A public defender will not represent you for a DMV hearing. DMV hearing are conducted over the telephone or in person.

The DMV will suspend your license if you loose your hearing. The suspension can vary from 4 months to 3 years depending on whether you took or refused a blood test and if you have prior DUIs.

There are several benefits to having your private attorney represent you for your DMV hearing, with the main one being saving your driving privileges. This is your private attorneys first opportunity to quickly expose possible mishandling by the police department and weakness in the prosecution’s case. Your attorney can also be cross-examine and subpoena the arresting officer about your case and the officers transcript can be useful in negotiating a lesser charge later in court.

Stage 5: The California DUI Court Process

After your DMV hearing and regardless of the outcome, the California criminal court process begins with you, your California DUI defense attorney (if hired), the prosecutor, the judge and perhaps a jury.

Your case will begin with an arraignment and end with an acquittal or sentencing for the charges against you.

If you are convicted, your case will remain open in California throughout your probationary period and until your court obligations are fulfilled.

Stage 6: What to expect at your DUI Arraignment

Your arraignment is the first time you are able to plead “not guilty”, “guilty”, or “no contest” to your California DUI charges. It is also the prosecutions first opportunity to make you an “offer”, which is a recommended sentence in exchange for a guilty plea from you.

A not guilty plea by you or your private DUI attorney entitles your attorney to thoroughly review and challenge the prosecution’s evidence. This evidence includes, but is not limited to, maintenance records of the chemical testing instruments that were used during your arrest and the complete police report.

The case can be closed immediately if you plead guilty. (The exception to this is if you are fulfilling your probation terms.)

It is uncommon for negotiations to occur during the arraignment. Negotiations more commonly occur during your pre-trial. (Stage 8)

Stage 7: Common California DUI Defenses

A few common California DUI defenses are faulty equipment (blood and breath testers), inaccurate scientific calculations and/or illegal police investigations. These defenses, among others, can be the basis of your private attorney’s negotiation during your pre-trial phase.

The more skilled your private DUI attorney is, the more likely they will be able to build your defense and negotiate on your behalf after obtaining the prosecution’s evidence.

Stage 8: DUI Plea Bargains and Pre-Trial Motions

This is the stage where your private DUI defense attorney uses his wealth of knowledge and time to investigate every detail of your case and prepare it for the judge and/or prosecutor. There is no specific amount of time for this stage, which is why you need a private attorney that can dedicate as many hours as needed to build your winning defense.

Your attorney will gather evidence and address issues that favor you. This evidence will be presented to the judge and/or prosecutor and put your attorney in the best position to negotiate and possibly dismiss or reduce your charges.

Prosecutors will have you believe that their best deal has been offered to you at your arraignment, but a skilled private attorney knows that is false.

Plea bargains can begin once your attorney has gathered all of the evidence, consulted with defense expert witnesses, and conducted his pre-trial motions. A successful private DUI attorney has the ability to break down the prosecutor’s case and confidence, while building your case.

Pre-trial motions may be initiated by your private attorney, depending on the specific facts of your case. These motions may include, but are not limited to:

- A “motion to suppress” hearing asks the court to exclude evidence from the trial that was illegally obtained or will unjustly prejudice you.

- A “pitchness” hearing will allow your private attorney to learn more about the officer’s complaint history and possibly discredit the officers testimony.

- A “probable cause” hearing will contest the validity of the officer’s initial stop of your car.

This may be your last stage or you may need to go to trial (Stage 9).

Stage 9: DUI Jury Trials

Most California DUI cases settle prior to this stage, but should you need to go to trial, here is the breakdown:

Jury selection
Opening statements
The prosecution’s case
The defense case
Closing statements
You can only be convicted of a California DUI if the prosecutor convinces all twelve (12) jurors to find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Stage 10: California DUI Sentencing and Punishment

If you are convicted by a jury or plead guilty to a DUI (or a reduced charge), a judge will sentence you.

Punishment varies from case to case and depends on the facts or your specific case and your criminal history (specifically your DUI history).

Common California DUI penalties are:

- Fines

- Driver’s license revocation or suspension

- Alcohol programs (approved by the court)

- Probation

- County jail or California State Prison time

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