Driving under the influence

Driving under the influence

If you have been accused of driving under the influence (DUI), you will need an attorney to carefully evaluate your case for many of the complicated issues which often arise in DUI cases such as the officer’s proper use of equipment, an individual’s metabolism, consumption, and alcohol absorption rates. You will also need an attorney to carefully evaluate whether you should plead to a lesser charge such as a dry reckless, wet reckless, or speeding offense. We have helped hundreds of clients keep their drivers license despite the DMV’s automatic thirty (30) day suspension.

What are the stages of a DUI case?
The process for a DUI case can seem long and complicated, and it involves a multitude of steps. The process begins when an individual is arrested and can culminate in a dismissal, acquittal, reduction of charges, or a DUI conviction, depending on the circumstances of the specific case. The stages of a DUI case, though slightly different for every defendant, are as follows:

Arrest – Once a police officer arrests an individual for driving under the influence, the DUI case process begins. A police officer has the legal authority to make an arrest based on probable cause. If a police officer can reasonably conclude that the suspect had committed a crime based upon facts and circumstances, then the police officer has probable cause to make an arrest.

Booking – After an arrest is complete, the suspect is brought into custody for “booking.” During this process, the police officers record pertinent information about the suspect, such as his or her name, personal address, age, and physical characteristics. The officers then file a report of the suspect’s alleged crime, cross-check existing records to verify if the suspect has a prior criminal record, take fingerprints and photographs (”mugshots”) of the suspect, search the suspect for contraband, confiscate personal property for return upon the suspect’s release, and place him or her in a holding cell until an arrangement for bail has been made or the person is eventually brought to court.

Bail – The bail process allows the suspect to pay for his or her release, with the understanding that the suspect promises to appear at all future court proceedings or is released on his or her own recognizance. If the suspect is unable to afford the bail, it is usually possible to arrange payment through a bail bond agency.

Arraignment – The arraignment is the first time the suspect (now known as the “defendant”) can appear in court. For misdemeanor DUI cases, we almost never have our client appear on the arraignment date. At the arraignment, the defendant is informed of the charges against him or her. The judge will then ask the defendant to submit a plea to the charges that have been brought: “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest.” The judge may then readdress the issues of bail and issue dates for future court appearances, if any.

Plea Bargain – In a plea bargain, the defense and the prosecution will meet in an attempt to come to a satisfactory resolution of the case. Plea bargains often involve the defendant agreeing to plead guilty or no contest in exchange for less severe punishment. At our firm, serving Los Angeles, Ventura, and Orange County, our DUI lawyers are committed to serving their clients. If a plea bargain agreement is an option in your case, we will provide expert legal counsel on the pros and cons of such a decision.

Preliminary Hearing – This applies to felony cases. At a preliminary hearing, a judge weighs the evidence against the defendant and decides if there is sufficient evidence to support a trial. The issue of guilt is not addressed. In many ways, the preliminary hearing is like a mini-trial, as the prosecution will introduce evidence implicating the defendant, and the defense attorney will attempt to convince the judge that the prosecution lacks the evidence needed to convince a jury of his or her guilt.

Pre-Trial Motions – Before the trial begins, the defense and the prosecution address the judge and introduce motions. Typical motions include requests for evidence to be submitted or excluded, as well as arguments for or against a witness’s testimony. In essence, the pre-trial motion phase introduces “rules” by which both parties have to abide by during the trial.

Trial – If a defendant pleads “not guilty” and no plea bargain is reached, then the case goes to trial. During the trial, the prosecution argues its case in an attempt to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty of the charges that have been brought against him or her. The defense counters the prosecution by presenting its own evidence to convince the jury to return a verdict or verdicts of not guilty. The trial process consists of several steps: jury selection, opening statements, the state’s case-in-chief, the defense case, closing arguments, jury instruction and deliberation, and verdict reading.

Sentencing – If a defendant is convicted by either a plea bargain, or been found guilty by a judge or jury, then the punishment is determined during the sentencing phase. In a DUI case, the most common sentences include probation, attendance at alcohol treatment programs, payment of large fines, submit to future chemical testing, not driving without insurance, and in some jurisdictions jail.

If you, a friend, or a loved one has been arrested and charged with a DUI, our attorneys – serving Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura, and beyond – can help. Call us today for a free consultation.

What is a DMV hearing?
If you are arrested for driving under the influence, the police will confiscate your California driver’s license and give you a temporary permit. It is your obligation to contact the DMV within 10 days of your arrest to request a stay of the suspension and arrange a DMV hearing. At the DMV hearing, a representative of the department will determine whether or not your license should be suspended. It is important to note that the DMV hearing is an administrative hearing and not a criminal proceeding. If you are over 21 and the DMV hearing officer finds that the police officer had probable cause to stop you for driving under the influence, your arrest was lawful, you either had a BAC of .08 or greater at the time of driving or refused a post-arrest chemical test, they have the right to suspend or revoke your driving privileges. However, in non-refusal cases, if your driving privileges have been suspended or revoked but you are formally acquitted in a court of law of driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, the suspension or revocation may be reversed.

Do I need a DUI lawyer?
DUI charges are very hard to defend against unless you have an intimate familiarity of the law and are experienced with DUI cases. At the Law Offices of ZOLONZ & ASSOCIATES – located in Los Angeles, and serving all of Southern CA we provide quality legal counsel and aggressive representation if you have been charged with a DUI. It is in your best interest to contact an experienced attorney who will fight to protect your legal rights.

How much time do I have to contact the D.M.V. if I am arrested for D.U.I.?
You or your attorney on your behalf must contact the DMV within Ten (10) days of your arrest to request a hearing and/or an stay on the suspension of your driving privileges.

My Breath Test showed I was over the limit. Should I go ahead and plead guilty to D.U.I.?
No. Your attorney may obtain the breath machine calibration records and results. Your blood alcohol content may turn out to be below the legal limit or on the border line considering the margin of error and the calibration errors, because the machine used may not have been properly functioning at the time your test was given or analyzed. You may need the services of a forensic toxicologist to show contradict the breath tests.

What happens at the D.M.V hearing?
A D.M.V. hearing is conducted to determine whether your license should be suspended because you were driving a vehicle with blood alcohol beyond the legal limit. The hearing my be done in person at the Driver’s Safety Office with you present, or your attorney may conduct it over the telephone. The DMV hearing officers are not attorneys and will only review limited documents and often are not sympathetic to you. To have an attorney at a DMV hearing is a definite plus.

If stopped on suspicion of D.U.I., is it Mandatory to take Field Sobriety Tests?
No. field sobriety tests often exaggerate the performance of an individual on these tests. Officers often subjectively determine whether one passed or did not pass a test. It is better not to subject yourself to swayed judgment of the officer. So, you may respectfully decline to take the field sobriety test.

What is going to happen to my driver’s license if I just got arrested for a first D.U.I.?
If you enroll in a D.U.I. program, after a 30-day initial suspension you may obtain a restricted license that allows you to drive to and from work, during the course work, and to and from the Drinking/Driving program during the remaining course of the suspension.

What is going to happen to my driver’s license if I’m arrested for a 2nd D.U.I.?
If this is a second DUI you may not drive at all for a full year. If you are enrolled in an 18-month second offender Drinking/Driving program, the DMV will issue you a restricted license like the one described above only after you have completed one full year of the 18-month program.

If I am under arrest, do I have to answer all of the officer’s questions?
No. Other than your identifying information, you don’t have to answer any questions and you don’t have to cooperate with the investigating officer. In fact, you have the right to remain silent, and you may say so in a respectful manner to the officer arresting you. Also ask that you would like to have a lawyer present if there is going to be any questioning.