DUI:101 - Beginning to End

Being arrested for DUI in California triggers two separate cases that must be diligently attended to.  The first is an administrative case with the DMV, and the second is a criminal action with the California Superior Court.  Both cases must be fought simultaneously in order to assure that your rights and interests are preserved.  The DMV is solely concerned with your driving privileges, and the suspension of your license.  The Criminal Court concentrates on fines, penalties, and jail time.  It is best to think of these two separate entities as being on separate planets where each planet has nothing in common with the other.

The below information is intended to provide you with a simple road map of the DUI process so that you can start to create a foundation of knowledge.  

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) License Suspension

After being arrested for a DUI in southern California, you have only 10 days to contact the DMV in order to schedule your Administrative Per Se Hearing.  The hearing will not take place within those 10 days, but you are simply required to contact the DMV to request/schedule a hearing. If you fail to request a hearing within this deadline, your temporary license (Pink Sheet) will expire within 30 days of your arrest, and your license will officially be suspended. 

Experienced DUI attorneys will contact the DMV immediately upon being retained, request a hearing, and also request that your temporary license   be extended until after your Admin Per Se hearing.  This keeps you on the road for at least another 30 days, and lifts the worry of immediately loosing your license from your shoulders.  Once the Admin Per Se hearing has been scheduled, it is imperative to the success of your case that your attorney request/subpoena/demand any and all evidence relating to you case from every agency that may have been involved in your case.  With generally less than 45 days to prepare for an Admin per Se hearing, time is not on our side, and we must get to work immediately on collecting evidence that may lead to saving your license.

As the Admin Per Se hearing approaches, our firm will always subpoena what we deem to be necessary documents for every single case.  Theses things include:

  • Police & Arrest Reports
  • Blood/Breathe Test Results
  • Calibration/Accuracy/Usage logs for any Devices used in the Arrest
  • Audio & Video Evidence obtained by Police
  • Booking Information

Our Firm has a SPECIALIZED department dedicated 100% to the defense of your license, and this information is provided to them with ample time to prepare for your hearing.  In our experience, the difference between winning and losing these very difficult hearings, is preparation and perseverance.  Those that are willing to dig to the very bottom of the problem, are the ones that discover how to solve them.  

On the day of your Admin Per Se Hearing, your appearance is not required.  An experienced DUI Attorney will appear on your behalf at the Drivers Safety Office (DSO) in order to fight the allegations against you.  If handled correctly, this hearing provides a unique opportunity within the DMV matter to question the arresting officer, cast doubt on the facts of the case, and ultimately create reasonable doubt of your guilt. This opportunity is not afforded at any other portion of the process, and is therefore a "One Shot" opportunity that must be exploited for your benefit. Once a decision is made by the hearing officer (usually 15-20 days after hearing), a notice is sent to both you and your lawyer informing you of the determination.  If a suspension is found to be required, the notice will provide for a day that your suspension will begin.  If this is your first DUI, you should be eligible for a restricted license after 30 days.  Please contact us with any questions on this process, or how to obtain a restricted license.

Criminal Court - Superior Court of California 

Just as every coins has two sides, every DUI arrest in California has a second side that is equally as important as the first.  Upon your arrest you were likely given a pink/yellow rectangular piece of carbon paper.  This document is your initial citation, and promise to appear incourt.  This document verifies your name, address, the court which you will be appearing in, and the date of your arraignment. The Criminal Process consists of essentially three (3) separate phases within the case. They are:

  • Arraignment Hearing
  • Pre-Trial Hearings
  • Trial/Plea Acceptance

The date of your Arraignment hearing has already likely been set by the police officer that arrested you and filled out the report. On the date listed on the citation, an appearance is required by you OR your attorney in front of the court so  that you can be arraigned of your charges.  During the Arraignment, the court reads aloud the official complaint against you, sets bail (if any), and allows you to enter an initial plea on your case.  Our clients always plead Not Guilty at an arraignment hearing, in order to allow time for additional investigation/discovery that may give us leverage in our continued negotiations with the DA/Prosecutor.  If you plead guilty at the Arraignment hearing, your case will be over that day, but you will have likely accepted a guilty plea with the fullest and harshest punishments available for DUI offenders.  Pleading Not Guilty at the Arraignment allows the case to move into the Pre-Trial phase, and for more meaningful and substantive hearings to take place which may affect the outcome of the case.

Between the Arraignment and Trial is the Pre-Trial phase of a DUI matter.  It is the "Meat & Potatoes" portion of the case, where the vast majority of the lawyering occurs. During the Pre-Trial phase of your case, a hearing will be set every 30-60 days in order to have motion and arguments heard by the court.  The goal of every good attorney during this phase is to cast so much doubt on the prosecutions case that they unilaterally decide to dismiss the charges.  Although this is rare, a prosecutor will not push a case to trial that he fears will lose.  It is our job on behalf of our clients to use all of the evidence in the file, subpoena and request additional evidence, use our experts and investigators, and build a case that shows our clients in the most favorable light available.  During this time our firm files motion to suppress evidence, to obtain records of the officers past, to obtain all information that the prosecution has in its file, and coordinates a defense based on inherent weaknesses within the law enforcement process. At the end of the Pre-Trial hearings, the prosecutor will make an offer for a Plea Agreement based upon what he/she thinks are the strengths of winning at trial.  The stronger the prosecutor feels their case is, the worst the offer will be.  The weaker the prosecutor feels the case is, because of the doubt cast on the facts by a good lawyer, the better the Plea offer will be.  

If the Plea offer is acceptable (perhaps a Wet Reckless or lesser charge), then there will be no need for trial.  However, ifthe information available was not portrayed in a fashion that made the prosecutor feel weak, Trial may be necessary.  Trial is exactly what you have seen on TV.  A jury is chosen, opening arguments are given witnesses are questioned, and ultimately a decision is made by a jury regarding guilt or innocence.  Trial's can be slightly risky because if you do lose at trial, the prosecutor will push to have the full punishment of the law weighed against you. Whether you go to trial or not is a decision that must be considered with a solid understanding of your matter, and the strengths and weaknesses that are inherent in your case. 

As a general statistic, nearly 90% of all criminal cases in California end with the acceptance of a Plea.  Chances are that you will be within that 90%, and that you will at some point within your case accept a guilty plea to some level of a criminal charge.  The goal then becomes to limit your exposure, and posture yourself for the best possible plea that can be negotiated for on your behalf.  DUI's are not guilty or innocent.  There is a large gray area where charges can change, either upward or downward, and the penalties associated with those charges can always be negotiated.  The Pre-Trial phase of your case is where the majority of these negotiations will take place, and it will greatly impact your opportunity for an acceptable plea.    

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