DUI FAQ’S

Is there a difference between a DMV case and a court case?

Yes, there is. In Orange County, a DUI arrest involves two different proceedings: a criminal court case and what is known as a DMV hearing, or a Driver Safety Administrative Per Se (APS) Hearing. This administrative hearing is held at a DMV office, not in a courtroom, and only addresses the issue of whether your driver’s license will be suspended as a result of your DUI arrest, separate from any criminal charges you may face for drunk driving. The criminal court case is independent of the DMV hearing and focuses specifically on determining whether you committed the criminal act.

Why are there two violations on my ticket or notice to appear in court?

DUI crimes in Orange County typically involve two separate offenses: Vehicle Code § 23152(a) and Vehicle Code § 23152(b). Under the former law, which sets forth the “subjective” standard for drunk driving, it is a crime to operate a motor vehicle under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs, meaning your physical or mental abilities are impaired enough that you are no longer able to drive as cautiously as a sober person. Under the latter law, which sets forth the “per se” definition of DUI, it is a crime to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.

What happens if I injure somebody?

Most Orange County drunk driving offenses are misdemeanors. However, DUI with injury is a “wobbler” offense, which means it can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Any time you are involved in a drunk driving accident that causes bodily injury or death to another person, you are facing harsh penalties, and you should hire an experienced DUI defense attorney to help you avoid a guilty verdict.

What if I have a commercial driver’s license?

The legal limit for most drivers operating a regular passenger vehicle is 0.08% but Orange County has more stringent laws in place for drivers operating commercial vehicles. Under Vehicle Code § 23152(d), you can be charged with an Orange County DUI if you have a commercial driver’s license and you are caught driving a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% or higher. If you are convicted of a commercial DUI, you could face a suspension of your commercial driver’s license for at least one year, among other penalties. Your commercial driver’s license can also be affected if you are caught driving a non-commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.

What if I was under the age of 21 at the time of my DUI?

The state of California has a “zero tolerance” law in place for underage, which means if you are under 21 years of age and you are caught operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher, you could be charged with an Orange County DUI and have your license suspended. Minors caught operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, even as a first offense, can face jail time and other severe legal consequences.

What if I had a passenger under the age of 14 in my car?

Under Vehicle Code § 23572, if you are convicted of misdemeanor DUI in Orange County, and you had a child under 14 years of age in your car at the time of your arrest, you will face a mandatory DUI sentencing enhancement of as many as 90 days in jail, on top of your drunk driving penalties. You could also face additional charges under Penal Code § 273a, California’s criminal child endangerment law, which carries a possible sentence of up to one year in county jail or up to six years in state prison.

What if I refused a chemical test?

California’s DUI “implied consent” law requires all Orange County drivers legally arrested for drunk driving to submit to chemical testing to determine their BAC. Although you are permitted to refuse a pre-arrest roadside breathalyzer test, once you are arrested for DUI, you are required to submit to a chemical breath, blood or urine test, or else face penalties for refusing the test.

My blood alcohol content tested over 0.08 percent. Should I bother fighting the charges?

Hiring a DUI defense attorney and fighting drunk driving charges in Orange County is worth your while, even if your BAC tested over 0.08%. There are a number of defenses your attorney can raise in court to fight the charges, especially if he or she can present evidence that your arrest was illegal, that the BAC test results were inaccurate, or that the police mishandled evidence relating to your chemical blood or breath test.

What if I have a really high blood alcohol level?

Having a BAC equal to or greater than 0.15% at the time of your DUI arrest is considered “excessive,” and this can result in enhanced penalties being added to your Orange County DUI sentence. Drunk driving cases with especially high blood alcohol levels requires the expertise of a knowledgeable Orange County DUI defense attorney, who may be able to minimize the consequences of your high BAC arrest.

What if I have prior DUI or alcohol-related reckless driving convictions within a 10-year period of my recent arrest?

Each DUI conviction in Orange County will remain on your driving record for 10 years, and any new misdemeanor or felony DUI conviction occurring within 10 years of a prior conviction, known as a “priorable” offense, will carry additional penalties as a subsequent offense. First, second and third DUI crimes are typically considered misdemeanor offenses in Orange County, but an arrest for a fourth or subsequent DUI within a 10-year period will result in felony charges. Even a previous DUI charge that was expunged still counts as a prior DUI if the dismissed conviction falls within the 10-year period.

What if I was told that DUI convictions only count as priors if they occur within seven years of each other?

Even if you were advised that your previous DUI conviction would only count as a prior offense if it occurred within seven years of a new DUI, rather than 10 years, you are still subject to the new California DUI law, which went into effect in 2007. When facing DUI charges in Orange County, it is imperative that you enlist the help of a knowledgeable DUI defense attorney, so you can ensure that the advice you receive is accurate and reliable.

Will I have to go through a jury trial?

Many drunk driving cases never make it to the jury trial stage, often because the defense attorney negotiates a settlement with the prosecution to secure a reduced charge or a more lenient sentence. However, if your DUI case does go to trial, our DUI defense lawyers will use every resource at their disposal to present a strong defense in court and help you get the best possible outcome in your case.

Is it possible for me to win my case outright?

It is possible for you to win your DUI case at trial, get the charges against you dismissed and avoid jail time, significant fines and other criminal penalties, but it is more common for drunk driving charges to be reduced to a lesser offense with fewer consequences, such as a wet reckless or dry reckless offense.

Will I win my case if the officer did not read me my Miranda rights?

If the police did not recite your Miranda rights during your DUI arrest, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will win your case and get your charges dropped. In Orange County, the police are only required to Mirandize you if you are in police custody and being interrogated. Before you are in police custody, the police can generally ask questions to establish probable cause to carry out the arrest without having to read you your Miranda rights.

What are Field Sobriety Tests?

Field Sobriety Tests are a series of balance and coordination tests used by police officers to determine whether a DUI suspect is intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. Field Sobriety Tests are subjective in nature and do not produce scientific results, which makes them less accurate than chemical blood or breath tests. If you were arrested for Orange County drunk driving based on the results of Field Sobriety Tests, your attorney may be able to argue that the tests produced false information.

What is a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test?

A Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test is a pre-arrest breath test typically administered to establish probable cause to make an arrest. Only drivers under the age of 21 or currently on DUI probation are required to take a pre-arrest PAS test. For everyone else, this test is optional, and you have the right to refuse the test without consequence.

What if the officer did not have probable cause to stop me?

Just because you have been arrested for drunk driving does not mean the prosecution’s case is airtight. If your DUI defense attorney can show that the arresting officer did not have probable cause to initiate the traffic stop that resulted in your arrest, he or she may be able to get your drunk driving charges dismissed.

What if I was stopped at a DUI checkpoint?

In Orange County, law enforcement officers must meet eight strict guidelines in order to conduct a lawful DUI checkpoint. If one or more of these guidelines are not met, the DUI checkpoint that resulted in your arrest may be considered unlawful and the evidence collected at the stop may be excluded from your trial.

What if the officer didn’t see me driving?

In order to conduct a lawful DUI arrest in Orange County, the arresting officer must observe you driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There are certain exceptions to this rule, including if a DUI accident occurs. However, if nobody, including the police, actually saw you drive while intoxicated, you cannot be convicted of the crime.

Will my driver’s license be suspended?

A driver’s license suspension is a common DUI penalty but getting arrested for a first DUI offense in Orange County doesn’t always mean your license will be suspended. To avoid a suspension of your driving privileges, you must avoid a DUI conviction in your criminal case and avoid losing, or failing to request within the 10-day time period, your DMV hearing.

Am I allowed to drive after my arrest?

Any time you are arrested for drunk driving in Orange County, the arresting officer will confiscate your driver’s license and issue you a “Notice of Suspension,” which acts as your temporary license for 30 days. If you request a DMV hearing during the 10-day time period, your driving privileges will remain intact until the hearing takes place, even if it takes place more than 30 days after the date of your arrest.

Do I have to appear at the DMV hearing?

If you do not intend to testify at your DMV hearing, your DUI defense attorney can appear on your behalf, which means you do not need to attend the hearing.

How long will my driving privilege be suspended?

Depending on the specific circumstances of your DUI case, your driving privileges can be suspended for a period of six months to four years. In severe cases, your license may even be revoked permanently.

Can I get a restricted license that would allow me to continue driving?

A restricted license is a license that allows you to drive to and from work, school and/or DUI school, and your ability to obtain a restricted license depends on the circumstances of your license suspension. With a court-triggered license suspension, you can request for a restricted license right away, but with an administrative DMV hearing suspension, you must wait 30 days from the start of the suspension to request a restricted license. If you were arrested for a first DUI offense and you refused to submit to a chemical test, you will face a one-year license suspension with no option of obtaining a restricted license.

Will I have to serve jail time?

Depending on your criminal history and the details of your case, you may or may not have to serve jail time for a DUI conviction. In order to better understand the penalties you may face for a DUI conviction, contact our skilled Orange County DUI defense attorneys today.

How much can I expect my DUI conviction to cost?

For residents of Orange County and the surrounding counties, the monetary cost of a DUI conviction can be devastating. In addition to DUI fines and assessments directly associated with a conviction, there are various indirect economic consequences as well. For instance, individuals convicted of drunk driving may have to pay to attend a mandatory alcohol education class (DUI school) and may also experience increased insurance premiums, and those who cause the injury or death of another person may be required to pay restitution to the victims as well.

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