What Happens When You Get a DUI?
We’re often warned about the perils of drinking and driving, but we rarely get a comprehensive answer to the question, “What happens when you get a DUI?” Let’s take a moment to set the stage, and then answer the question of what happens when you get a DUI in Oakland, along with the importance of retaining an experienced Oakland DUI attorney.
Triggering Events for a DUI Citation
Almost always, the triggering event for a DUI citation is a sobriety checkpoint, a traffic stop, or an accident. Temporary sobriety checkpoints are set up in order to weed out those who are driving under the influence. Drivers are selected to be detained based on predetermined criteria, such as stopping every eighth driver.
If you are flagged down, the police officer requests your driver’s license and your vehicle registration. They also have a conversation with you in order to ascertain whether or not you may be driving under the influence. If you are suspected of driving under the influence, you may be asked to take a preliminary breathalyzer test, a field sobriety test, or a cheek swab to check for marijuana, prescription drugs, or illicit drugs.
It’s important to note that the police must notify the public that they are setting up a sobriety checkpoint, and that it is legal to avoid a sobriety checkpoint. Of course, you do not want to make an illegal turn or other maneuver that results in being pulled over for a traffic stop, but you are entitled to avoid traveling on streets where a sobriety checkpoint is stationed.
Similar to when you’re at a sobriety checkpoint, if you’re pulled over for a traffic violation or a fix-it ticket, the police officer may suspect you of driving under the influence and ask you to blow into a portable breathalyzer, consent to a cheek swab, or take a field sobriety test. While the police officer may pressure you to do so, if you’re 21 years old or older and are not on probation for driving under the influence, then you are within your rights to refuse to comply. According to the law, you are not required to participate in DUI testing until you are arrested for driving under the influence. Once you are arrested, refusing to submit to DUI testing can mean losing your driver’s license and – if you’re subsequently convicted of driving under the influence – increased DUI penalties.
If you are under 21 years old or if you’re on probation for driving under the influence, then the sobriety tests at a checkpoint or at a traffic stop are not optional. If you’re underage, you cannot refuse the tests because California has a zero tolerance law for minors. If you’re on probation for driving under the influence, one of the conditions of your probation is to submit to DUI testing by law enforcement.
Getting Arrested for Driving Under the Influence
If you’re suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs – whether or not you participated in the sobriety tests when you were pulled over – you will be arrested. Once you are arrested for an Oakland DUI, you will likely be taken to the Glenn E. Dyer Detention Facility for booking. There, you’ll be asked to submit to a breathalyzer or a blood test. California law requires you to comply.
If you are arrested for a misdemeanor DUI, you are typically held for a few hours and then released on your own recognizance. When you’re released, you receive a citation to appear in court. The arresting officer will have confiscated your driver’s license, so upon your release you receive a 30-day temporary driver’s license.
If you are arrested for a felony DUI, then you are held in jail until you post bail or until your preliminary hearing. But whether you are arrested on misdemeanor or felony DUI charges, your first call should be to an experienced Oakland DUI attorney. There are a number of ways your Oakland DUI lawyer can assist you – and boost your legal prospects – early in the process.
There are several logistical issues that your Oakland DUI attorney can help navigate. For example, your driver’s license is automatically suspended once your temporary license expires unless you request a DMV hearing within ten days of your arrest or request an ignition interlock device (IID) restricted driver’s license. Your Oakland DUI lawyer can arrange for the DMV hearing and represent you at the hearing, thus increasing your chances of retaining your driver’s license. During your DMV hearing, your Oakland DUI attorney can question the arresting officer in your case, teasing out information that will assist in your defense against the DUI charges.
Events Following Your Arrest and Release
Once you’ve been released from jail – either on your own recognizance or as the result of posting bail – your interactions with the court system begin. Your case is likely assigned to Alameda County Superior Court at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse on Washington Street in Oakland. The process begins with your arraignment. At this first court appearance, the prosecutor – someone from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office – states the charges against you. You have the opportunity to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
While your Oakland DUI lawyer will advise you to plead not guilty, if you were to plead guilty, then you would be sentenced and your case would be closed. When you plead not guilty, then the prosecutor provides your Oakland DUI attorney with the evidence against you. The evidence can include your breathalyzer or blood test results, the report written by the arresting officer, and the results of any other investigative efforts.
When your Oakland DUI lawyer reviews the evidence against you, they can identify the flaws in the prosecutor’s case. For example, they may find ways to challenge the legality of pulling you over or the accuracy or relevance of the breath or blood test. They may find holes in the prosecution’s case and convince the district attorney’s office to drop the charges.
If dropping the charges isn’t an option, there are also opportunities to challenge the prosecution’s case in the pre-trial phase of your court proceedings. For example, your Oakland DUI attorney can file motions with the court to argue that there wasn’t just cause to stop you, to exclude ill-gotten evidence against you, or to discredit the arresting officer’s report. These strategies may result in having your case thrown out and the charges dropped.
Plea Negotiations and Plea Bargaining
If the prosecutor decides to move forward with your case, your Oakland DUI lawyer’s experience works in your favor. They understand your case – both its strengths and its weaknesses – and can leverage that knowledge to achieve the best possible outcome for you.
The truth is that the district attorney’s office is overburdened and doesn’t have the resources to see most cases through to trial. The prosecutor is looking for a guilty plea and wants to close your case as quickly as possible. Your attorney knows that there is a considerable amount of wiggle room and can likely negotiate for lesser charges or a lighter sentence in exchange for your guilty plea.
For example, if this is your first misdemeanor DUI and you were barely over the legal limit, your Oakland DUI lawyer may be able to have the charges reduced to a wet reckless. A wet reckless plea consists of pleading guilty to reckless driving, with a note added to your record that alcohol or drugs were involved. A wet reckless conviction has several advantages over a DUI conviction, such as shorter probation, a shorter alcohol education program, lowered fines, and no court-ordered license suspension. If your attorney is able to plead the charges down to reckless driving with no notation about alcohol or drugs, then the conviction won’t count as a prior DUI should you be convicted of a DUI within the following ten years.
If this isn’t your first DUI conviction, it is in your best interest to have an Oakland DUI attorney who can negotiate lesser charges, fewer penalties, or probation in lieu of jail time. For example, the minimum jail time for a second DUI conviction is 90 days, whereas the minimum jail time for a wet reckless is five days.
Going to Trial for a DUI
It’s rare that a DUI case goes to trial. Your Oakland DUI lawyer can explain the risks and advantages of going to trial so that you can make an informed decision about how to proceed. If you do go to trial, then the process mirrors that of other criminal cases. Your attorney and the prosecutor select a jury. Once the jury is empaneled, each side presents an opening statement. After that, the prosecutor sets forth their case and your attorney presents your defense to the charges. Each side calls witnesses and enters reports, photos, and other items into evidence. Following closing arguments, the judge in your case explains the rules to the jury, which then deliberates. The burden of proof is on the prosecution and, in order for you to be convicted, the jurors have to believe that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Your Oakland DUI attorney will do their best to plant seeds of doubt in the jurors’ minds so that they return a verdict of “not guilty.”
Consequences of a DUI Conviction
A DUI conviction has serious consequences, which is why it’s in your best interest to secure the services of a seasoned Oakland DUI attorney as soon as you’re charged. The penalties for a DUI conviction depend on whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony, whether people were injured, and whether or not you have prior offenses.
For a first DUI misdemeanor conviction, you face the possibility of up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines, though your Oakland DUI lawyer may be able to negotiate probation rather than jail time. You can likely keep driving if you install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your car; otherwise, your driver’s license will be suspended for up to 10 months. You are also required to attend up to nine months of alcohol education programs.
For a second or third misdemeanor conviction within 10 years, you face up to a year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. If you opt not to install an IID, you face a license suspension of two or three years, respectively. In addition, you may be ordered to spend up to 30 months in an alcohol education program.
If you have had more than three DUI or wet reckless convictions in the previous ten years, then your fourth conviction is a felony punishable by 16 months, two years, or three years in prison.
If someone was injured while you were driving under the influence, then the penalties depend on whether you’re convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony. For either, you are required to pay restitution to those who were injured and up to $5,000 in fines. For a misdemeanor, you can be sentenced to up to a year in jail, while a felony can mean up to 16 years in prison.
What happens when you get a DUI? Without the proper legal representation, life as you know it could end. You face severe financial repercussions, the loss of your driver’s license, and maybe even the loss of your freedom. If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence, your first call should be to Silver Law Firm. You can rest assured that Silver Law Firm has the experience and wisdom to steer your case to its best possible conclusion.