California is one of the strictest states in the US when it comes to DUI laws and penalties; and Los Angeles, L.A. County, and Southern California in general have some of the highest numbers of DUI arrests and highest DUI arrest rates in the state.
With loss of your driving privileges for months or years on end, jail or prison time, heavy fines, long and expensive DUI classes, and a host of other possible penalties threatening, a California DUI is certainly nothing to take lightly. Yet, many falsely assume that a DUI charge simply can't be successfully defended against - and so, they don't even try.
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we have proven time and time again that DUI cases are very much "winnable." We are highly experienced DUI defense lawyers who have a long track record of success. We understand the intricate details of California's DUI statutes and of local L.A. Area DUI court processes. And we know how to build you a solid defense and win your case.
For a free legal consultation on the details of your DUI case, contact us anytime 24/7 by calling 888-888-8888.
How Is DUI Defined Under California Law?
Every state defines DUI a little bit differently, and the first thing you need to familiarize yourself with is the exact nature of the charge you are facing.
In California, there are several bases for being charged with driving under the influence, stemming from different sections of the California Penal Code. First, if your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or higher while operating a motor vehicle, it’s an automatic DUI. But secondly, if your driving ability is impaired so that you drive worse than a sober person would in the same situation, you can be charged with DUI regardless of your BAC. And third, you can get a DUI based on driving while intoxicated with drugs (even legal drugs) or while intoxicated by both drugs and alcohol simultaneously.
And since 2011, California has followed the Admin Per Se rule which means that your license is confiscated by the arresting officer even before your DUI citation has been proved valid or invalid. Those pulled over and suspected by a law enforcement officer are given a pink temporary license, good for 30 days, in the place of the confiscated license.
But one final note about defining DUI in California: the .08 standards does not apply in all instances. For operators of commercial vehicles, .04% BAC is a DUI; and for those under the legal drinking age of 21, even .01% is a DUI.
Potential DUI Penalties
The importance of doing everything possible to defend yourself effectively against a DUI charge is underscored by the severity of the penalties for even a first-time DUI. Plus, a DUI creates a criminal record and stays on your driving record for a decade. A second, third, or subsequent DUI conviction can bring especially harsh punishments; and if your DUI involves “aggravations” like causing an accident, an injury or death, or if children were in the car your were allegedly driving while under the influence, the consequences become yet more difficult to bear.
Although the totality of potential California DUI penalties, and of county-specific sentencing elements, is very complex; here, we can give you a good idea of what you’re potentially facing by listing the common sentencing elements of first through fourth DUIs.
First Offense DUI
- A four-month or longer license suspension.
- A term of up to six months in county jail.
- Fines totaling over $3,000.
- A three-month DUI Class.
- The possibility of mandatory IID installation at your own expense.
- A three to five year probationary period.
Second Offense DUI
- A two-year driver’s license suspension.
- As much as 12 months in county jail.
- Fines of $4,000 or more.
- From eighteen to thirty months of DUI Class.
- Mandatory installation of an IID.
- DUI probation
Third Offense DUI
- A three-year license suspension.
- Either 12 months in county jail OR 16 months in state prison.
- Fines as high as $18,000.
- Thirty months of DUI Class.
- IID installation and probation.
Fourth and Subsequent Offense DUI
- A four-year loss of your California driving privileges. Permanent loss of your license is a possibility.
- As long as 16 months of prison time.
- Fines of $18,000.
- A 30-month DUI School.
- IID installation if/when you are allowed to drive again at all.
- DUI probation and a felony on your criminal record.
Special Additional Penalties
And besides the “usual” penalties, there are added penalties that can apply for various reasons. If you refused the chemical test, you can get an extra year’s license suspension, or double the suspension period for a repeat offense. There are very few exceptions to the requirement to submit to the chemical BAC test (be it a blood, breath, or urine test), based on the idea of “implied consent” for all who share the roads in California and who accept a California driver’s license. But, it is possible to challenge the allegation that you refused the test and to fight to get that aspect of the charge against you dropped, if necessary, in a favorable plea agreement.
A second way that added penalties can apply is if you were arrested for DUI and were under the legal drinking age of 21. California’s “Zero Tolerance” underage DUI policy means a 12-month license suspension where a 4-month might have applied otherwise. And there could also be a fine and extra suspension time if any open containers of alcohol were found in your vehicle. It is especially needful to have excellent legal representation when facing a DUI charge and under 21 in California.
A third area where a DUI sentence can be especially severe is with commercial drivers. A first DUI gets a 12 month suspension, and a second offense a permanent loss of your CDL. And the BAC involved need only be .04. Given that a commercial DUI threatens your job on top of everything else, a good DUI defense lawyer is a must.
Finally, note that there are increased punishments for a DUI with injury, a DUI that causes a death, a DUI that causes an accident, for excessive BAC levels (.16 and higher), for DUI with excessive speeding or reckless driving, and for a DUI where a child 14 and under was in the car with you.
We at Los Angeles DUI Lawyer know how to assist you regardless of the details of your case. We have won favorable outcomes to many in L.A. and surrounding areas who faced even aggravated and repeat offense DUIs.
DUI Defense Strategies
At L.A. DUI Lawyer, we approach each and every case with intensity and with the best interests of our client in mind. We have many years of experience in defending against all manner of Los Angeles and Southern California DUI charges, and we know how to build a solid defense.
We always build each defense based on the details of the case, never resorting to a one size fits all approach, like some other less motivated law firms. But we do use some of the same basic “kinds” of DUI defenses again and again, as is appropriate to each situation.
Here are some of the most common DUI defense strategies we put to use:
- False breath test readings. It is no secret that the breathalyzer tests utilized by California law enforcement officers are subject to possible falsely high readings due to a variety of reasons. These include: wrong calibration or use of the device, device malfunction, environmental factors, radio-frequency interference, and health conditions of the one tested (as GERD or acid reflux disease.)
- Residual mouth alcohol. Breath tests can also be thrown off by residual mouth alcohol. Breath tests are supposed to test deep-lung air, but mouth rinse, burping, regurgitation, food soaked in alcohol trapped in your interdental spaces, and more can cause a false reading on either the PAS or later breath test.
- Ketosis. Those on low-carb diets or who are diabetic will undergo a process of ketosis whereby excessive “ketones” are produced, which then are naturally transformed into alcohol. Even though it is a different type of alcohol than that found in alcoholic beverages, the BAC breath tests often can’t distinguish them properly.
- Blood test error. Oftentimes, a BAC blood test can be unreliable. It may be that the blood sample was contaminated, improperly taken or stored, or that the blood fermented. Often, police may have violated Title 17, which gives protocols for how blood tests are supposed to be conducted. You can often get the test results discounted if any of these problems exist.
- Narrowly over-the-limit blood test results. If your BAC blood test barely hit .08 or .09, it is possible that an independent retest could yield a .07 or lower result. We can make a blood-split motion for a new test, using the extra blood sample police are required to collect for this purpose, under Title 17.
- A still-rising BAC. To be guilty of DUI based on BAC level, you must have been over the limit while driving. But if there was a significant gap in time between your being pulled over and your taking the BAC blood test, it could be argued that your BAC level might have been still rising and, thus, was under .08 while you were behind the wheel.
- No probable cause. If, for either the traffic stop of the arrest, police lacked probable cause, we can get your whole DUI case summarily dismissed. If you were pulled over without the police having a reasonable basis for suspecting you of a traffic violation or a criminal violation (including DUI itself), then it was “without probable cause.” However, at designated DUI checkpoints, there is an exception to this rule.
- Violations of your rights. Besides a wrongful pull over, a failure to read you your Miranda Rights, an interrogation begun before informing you that you are under arrest, or a falsified or inaccurate police report are other violations of your rights that could get the DUI charge dismissed.
- FSTs and physical signs of DUI misleading. There are many other reasons besides DUI why one might have red eyes or slurred speech or an unsteady gait. Exhaustion, nervousness, bad weather, and physical conditions can all interfere with field sobriety tests and lead to a false conclusion.
- Poor driving is not DUI. Sometimes, police assume someone is under the influence based on driving patterns. But poor driving is not DUI, and it can't prove DUI.
- No mental impairment. It is virtually impossible for one to be mentally alert and unimpaired while being physically impaired by alcohol (or drugs). Thus, if charged with DUI not based on BAC level, this can be a viable defense.
- Not driving the car. If you were found in a car and with a high BAC level, that doesn't prove you drove it while intoxicated. And if you were found at home drunk, that doesn't prove you drove there drunk, even if someone reported you to the police.
Our Commitment to You
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we set ourselves apart from the many other DUI defense firms in the area in a number of important ways.
First, we are not a "law mill," taking on clients only to farm them out to less experienced lawyers. We handle all our cases ourselves and give you the kind of personalized attention you deserve.
Second, we have a depth of experience and legal expertise that comes only from many, many years of service in the local community. Few of our competitors can hold a candle to us in this respect.
Third, and most important of all, we have a track record of success that gives us "clout" and respect in the court room and at the DMV. Prosecutors often drop their case or take on a more conciliatory attitude as soon as they hear we are handling your case.
We give you a top-tier combination of legal expertise and customer-focused service.
Contact Us Today For Assistance
At Los Angeles DUI Lawyer, we stand ready 24/7/365 to give you a free, no obligation legal consultation concerning your upcoming DMV hearing or DUI jury trial.
Call us today at 888-888-8888, and we will help you better understand your legal situation and legal options. And we can get started immediately on building you a solid defense.