California has some of the most stringent DUI laws nationwide, with a conviction carrying severe consequences. Because of this, many people tend to think that these cases are entirely hopeless and there is no way of effectively fighting the charges. However, in reality, many defense strategies can be employed by an experienced DUI attorney to fight the charges and possibly get an acquittal or dismissal.
DUI cases consist of two separate proceedings; the DMV hearing and the jury trial. Winning one of these hearings doesn’t affect the outcome of the other case, which makes it critical to hire an attorney for this complex process. At Koenig Law Office, we understand that drunk driving charges carry harsh and sometimes life-changing consequences, which is why we are here for you.
Our local Bakersfield DUI attorneys will obtain an extension for your temporary driver’s license beyond the thirty-day mark, poke holes in the police report and arresting officer’s testimony and question the validity of FSTs and chemical tests. We will employ various defense strategies to possibly ensure you obtain a favorable result.
California’s DUI set of laws are the Vehicle Code 23152 and are subdivided into two parts, which are part a and b. The first part is VC 23152(a), which prohibits any form of drunk driving, regardless of the blood alcohol weight. The second part, VC 23152(b), prohibits individuals from being in control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or with a BAC of .08% or more. It means that if you are arrested for drinking and driving, you will be subject to two separate misdemeanors, which are:
- A violation of VC 23152(a) operating a car while drunk or drugged
- A violation of VC 23152(b) having a blood alcohol content of .08% or greater
After a DUI arrest, you can avoid VC 23152(b) misdemeanor charges by refusing to submit a sample for chemical testing. In that case, you will face charges for a violation of VC 23152(a) only, but there will be unique enhancements on your case. The prosecution will allege that you failed to submit to chemical testing during your plea. This could subject you to the following penalties:
- Ineligibility to a restricted license if you lose your DMV hearing,
- Driver’s license suspension for no more than one year
- Adverse effects on your driver’s license
The DUI Arrest Process
Your DUI case begins after an arrest, making it crucial to understand the arrest process and the action you should take to protect your rights. Most charges commence with a traffic stop, but this shouldn’t mean that an officer cannot approach you when the car is not in motion. An arresting officer has a duty to pull you over or conduct a roadside investigation if they have a reasonable belief that a crime has been or is about to be committed. However, in sobriety or DUI checkpoints, an officer doesn’t need probable cause to make an arrest.
For purposes of this case, a probable cause could mean having a broken taillight or disregard of traffic lights. An officer doesn’t need to observe signs of intoxication like swerving to pull you over. Furthermore, you could be arrested for drinking and driving if you cause an accident in the process and officers are called to the scene.
Remember, if an officer makes an arrest devoid of probable cause, you can have the case quickly dismissed on these grounds.
Once you are stopped, the officer will ask you to produce your license and vehicle registration. They might ask you to provide proof of insurance, although, at this point, they might not tell you why you have been pulled over. If you feel like you want to know why you have been stopped, you can go ahead and ask but just know if the officer realizes the alcohol odor coming from your breath, they will proceed to the next step right away.
The officer will ask if you have been drinking and the number of drinks you have had. Some people will try talking themselves out of this by arguing that they just had a few drinks, thus self-incriminating. If you find yourself in this situation where an officer suspects you are drunk or drugged, you should understand that you have a right to remain silent.
If the officer observes any signs that you have been drinking, they will request you to step out of the car to conduct field sobriety tests (FSTs). These tests are not always accurate, so you can deny the officers evidence they are looking for by not performing the tests.
Alternatively, the officer can observe you for fifteen minutes to conduct breathalyzer tests. The test involves blowing deep lung air into a hand-held device that records your BAC. They might also move to the nearest hospital, police, station, or jail where you submit a blood or urine sample for chemical testing.
Irrespective of the outcome of the tests, the officer can choose to arrest you if they believe you are intoxicated. If the officer is conducting any interrogation, they will read you the Miranda warning. However, if they don’t intend to perform an interrogation, they might skip the Miranda rights. Note that while being moved to a police station, jail or hospital, you should cooperate and avoid any physical resistance because doing so will increase your charges.
When you arrive in a jail or prison, the officer will take fingerprints, photos, and inventory, then place you in custody. If the booking occurs during weekends, you will be forced to wait until the next business day before being presented before a judge. For most misdemeanors, you will be released within a few hours, but for felony offenses, you must wait to appear before a judge during arraignment to set bail.
If you are released on bail or immediately after booking, you will be issued with a citation, a document that you sign promising to appear in court at a future date. Further, the officer handling your case will confiscate your driver’s license and issue a pink temporary license that you will be using before your case is determined. A copy of the physical license that is confiscated is then mailed to the DMV, awaiting your administrative hearing where a DMV officer determines whether to suspend your driving privileges or not.
Keep in mind that out-of-state drivers don’t need to worry about their licenses because the law requires them to keep their physical licenses when arrested for DUI.
As of 2019, DUI arrestees can apply for an ignition interlock device (IID) restricted license right away. An IID is a breathalyzer that locks the engine and prevents it from igniting if it detects alcohol in your mouth. Having this license is an advantage because it allows you to drive freely without restrictions. The duration of the IID restricted license depends on your criminal record.
The DMV Hearing
As stated above, the officer handling your case must notify the DMV of your driver’s license revocation or suspension and send a copy of your license. You have up to ten days after the DMV has received a notice of your driver’s license revocation to request an administrative hearing. If you had submitted a sample for testing, your case would focus on establishing if your BAC at the time of driving was within the designated limit of .08% or more. On the other hand, if you refused to take a chemical test, the DMV per se hearing will be geared towards establishing whether or not you did submit to the tests.
It’s worth noting that failure to request for an administrative per se hearing within the timeline provided by the law, you will forfeit your constitutional right to request one, and your driver’s license will be automatically suspended within 30 days. Once you have been arrested, you should call an experienced DUI attorney right away to request the DMV hearing right away. Your attorney plays a critical role in this stage because they can schedule the hearing further, obtaining more time to prepare for the proceeding. A profound attorney can also have a say on the DMV office to be assigned your case, increasing the possibility of a favorable outcome.
Your attorney’s role at the proceeding is to convince the officer in charge of the case not to revoke or suspend your license. Additionally, the officer might use the hearing as an opportunity to gather evidence to be used in your criminal proceeding in court. With this in mind, you shouldn’t consider representing yourself in the administrative proceeding because the right attorney can handle all the issues, including attending the hearing on your behalf.
At the proceeding, your attorney presents evidence to prove that the test results being relied upon by the DMV are inaccurate because the arresting officer didn’t conduct proper investigations or the breathalyzer results are incorrect.
At the end of the hearing, the officer handling the case will consider all the issues presented by your attorney and provide written findings. They will notify you of the results within 30 days after the proceeding. If the decision by the DMV is to suspend your license, the suspension will be effected a few days after receiving the notice.
Note that the DMV doesn’t handle DUI cases involving drugs. For cases like these, your license can only go into suspension if the court finds you guilty.
When the DMV suspends your license, you have up to 30 days to apply for a restricted license. This driver’s license allows you to drive to limited places like work, court, or any alcohol program imposed by the DMV.
DUI Court Process
As mentioned earlier, when you are arrested for drinking and driving, you’re likely to face two separate charges; one for drunk or drugged driving and the other for driving with a BAC of .08% or greater. Although both offenses are misdemeanors, you need to work closely with an attorney to avoid a conviction by all means. Remember, these cases take months before determination, so you will need an attorney to collect evidence and appear in court on your behalf.
Before the case proceeds to trial, there is an option for settlement. Here, you plead guilty to the DUI or lesser charge, and this can happen in court where you plead in person before the judge or outside the court where your attorney brings the Thal waiver to sign. The documents are later returned to court, and the attorney executes the plea on your behalf.
If a settlement isn’t arrived at, the case proceeds to a jury trial where the opposing sides present their evidence, and the jury finds you guilty or innocent of the DUI charges.
Punishment for a First DUI Offense
If the court finds you guilty of driving under the influence for the first time, they will impose the following consequences:
- Informal probation for no more than five years
- Jail custody not exceeding six months
- Court fines no more than $1,000 and not less than $390
- Three to six months of alcohol or drug education
- IID installation for no more than six months
Punishment for 2nd Misdemeanor DUI
The penalties for a 2nd misdemeanor DUI offense are:
- Ninety-six hours to twelve months in jail
- $390-$1,000 court fines
- License suspension for two years instead of IID installation for twelve months
- Alcohol or drug education for eighteen to thirty months
Consequences for a 3rd DUI Offense
For a third misdemeanor DUI sentence, the penalties are:
- 12o days to 12 months in jail custody
- Fines of between $390 to $1,000
- As much as thirty-six months license suspension in place of IID installation for two years
- DUI school for thirty months
Misdemeanor DUI with Injury
If the courts find you guilty of DUI with injury, the penalties you will face include:
- Five days to twelve months in jail
- Fines of between $390-$5,000 plus victim restitution
- Driver’s license suspension for between twelve to thirty-six months
- Three, eighteen, or thirty months of alcohol or drug education
Penalties for a First Felony DUI with injury
The penalties for a 1st felony DUI with the injury include:
- Sixteen months to sixteen years in prison
- Court fines of $1015 to $5000 plus victim restitution
- Driver’s license suspension for twelve months or instead, an IID installation for twelve months
- Eighteen to thirty months alcohol or drug education program
Punishment for a Felony DUI
If you obtain four or more DUI offenses within a lookback of ten years, the penalties upon sentencing are as follows:
- Sixten, twenty-four or thirty-six months state prison incarceration
- Court fines ranging from $390-$1,000
- Mandatory IID installation for not less than twelve months or license suspension for four years
- Designation as a habitual traffic offender
Note that if a DUI results in the death of a person, you may be subject to life imprisonment or a Strike on your record.
If you look at the penalties highlighted above, you will realize they become severe as the number of prior offenses increases because DUI in Bakersfield is a priorable offense. As such, you should fight the DUI charge at hand with every resource available. The best way to do this is to reach out to the Koenig Law Office for legal guidance.
Aggravating Factors in DUI Sentencing
When present in your case at the time of arrest, particular facts or circumstances will increase the penalties when you’re convicted. These facts raise the sentence regardless of the offense in question. Some of the factors that can increase your sentence include:
- Failure to submit to chemical testing
- Causing an accident
- DUI with a child younger than 14 years
- Being below 21 at the time of drinking and driving
- Having a BAC of .15% or more
Alternative Sentencing Options for DUI
The alternative sentencing available in DUI cases is for jail or prison custody. When imposed together with DUI penalties, these sentencing alternatives include:
- Community labor
- Cal-trans roadside work
- House arrest
- Imprisonment in a private or city jail
Attorneys not familiar with California DUI laws and cases might not even know that these sentencing options exist. However, if they know these alternatives, they might not have the convincing power necessary to make the judge agree to them. It is an excellent reason why you should consider hiring an attorney for your case. An attorney will also help in devising and mounting defenses in your DMV hearing and court proceeding.
Fighting your Drunk Driving Case
In your DMV hearing, your attorney will come in handy because:
- They will point out the flaws in the police report
- Devise strategies to help you retain your license
- Request for accuracy logs and maintenance records of breathalyzer used to conduct the test
In your criminal proceeding in court, the attorney will be beneficial in the following ways:
- Identify possible defense by poking holes in the police report
- Conduct independent tests on the samples used to obtain the test results being used as evidence.
- File various motions like Pitchess motion, pretrial motions, and motions to suppress evidence
- Enacting plea negotiations with the prosecuting team to have the charges reduced
- Have the case thrown out on the basis of insufficient evidence
- Offer effective legal representation
- Have the charge expunged at the end of the probation period
Find a Bakersfield DUI Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you have been pulled over in Bakersfield on suspicion of driving under the influence, it’s critical to understand the statutes that apply in your case and the penalties. The best way to do this is by reaching out to an experienced DUI attorney. At the Koenig Law Offices, we understand DUI laws, the science behind DUI tests, and how to exploit the weaknesses in the state’s evidence to win your case or have the charges reduced. Call us today at 661-793-7222 for a zero-obligation consultation.