Even a first-offense driving under the influence (DUI) charge in California can take a considerable toll on a person’s life. A conviction can result in 3-5 years’ probation, jail, significant fines, DUI programs, public work and license suspension. A conviction can also affect other aspects of your life like vocational licenses, employment, security clearances and immigration. Multiple convictions within a 10-year period have significantly greater penalties and become a felony if it is a fourth DUI within 10 years or a DUI causing an injury or death.
While California has some of the most stringent DUI laws in the country, the officer who initially contacts you starts the process and follows set procedures in the investigation and arrest.
Common DUI defense considerations
Contacting an experienced DUI defense attorney is important to understand the criminal and DMV aspects of your DUI case, including the court appearances, license suspensions and possible defenses. The attorney will review the case from the initial contact through detention, field sobriety tests, arrest, investigation, advisals and chemical testing looking for possible issues and evaluating the case for a best possible resolution. Not only are the facts of the case important, your personal background and the possible effect on your future can make a difference as well as any other mitigating factors.
- Probable cause: An officer must have a legitimate reason for contacting you, such as traffic violations, equipment malfunctions, tip from a witness, welfare check or accident. Officers can’t stop drivers based on a “hunch,” there must be articulable facts justifying the contact and probable cause for the arrest.
- Failed sobriety tests: Field sobriety tests help the officer determine whether you are impaired by evaluating whether you can mentally follow instructions and physically perform the test. Performance can vary based on issues other than alcohol or drugs like age, physical and mental fitness, etc. Some studies show that even unimpaired people fail the “one-leg stand” and “walk and turn” tests. It is just one part of the evaluation.
- Chemical tests: Breathalyzers, which measure blood alcohol content, can have issues depending on how it is administered and the type of machine. Blood tests require a proper draw, chain of custody and evaluation. Your blood alcohol level is constantly changing and may be rising since the driving if you just drank shortly before the stop, then you would test higher at the station than when you were driving. Alternatively, if you drank over an hour or so before the stop, you may test lower at the station than you were behind the wheel.
The value of experienced and effective counsel
In addition to the stop, detention, field sobriety tests, prior record, and blood alcohol level, your attitude with the officer and personal background may also be considered during negotiations.
A DUI conviction can significantly affect your life and each case is unique. That’s why experience matters by working with an attorney who can fully assess your case and evaluate possible defenses, mitigating factors and other considerations which will lead to the best possible outcome.