Fighting a DUI case almost always makes more sense than simply pleading guilty. For example, did you know that:

  • More than 100 interfering substances, medical conditions and equipment malfunctions can cause a false positive breathalyzer result?
  • DUI blood testing is susceptible to errors?
  • Police officers, who are required to follow a standardized set of procedures in DUI roadside investigations, have been known to not follow DUI procedures properly?

The DUI Arrest

Most California DUI arrests begin with a traffic stop or at a checkpoint. The officer asks you to perform several field sobriety tests and to blow into a handheld breathalyzer device. After the arrest, the officer will ask you to take a blood or breath test at the police station, jail or hospital. Refusing the chemical test may result in tougher California DUI penalties and a one-year driver’s license suspension.

For most misdemeanor DUI arrests, the police will release you within a few hours of your arrest and booking. For a felony DUI case, however, you may have to post bail. Upon release, you will be given two documents: a citation to appear in court and a temporary license. The arresting officer will usually revoke your California driver’s license and send it to the DMV. If you are an out of state resident and are arrested for a California DUI, California police officers cannot revoke your physical license.

The DMV Process

Upon release from the police station, you must contact the DMV within 10 days of your arrest to request a hearing. Otherwise, you forfeit your right to a hearing and your license is automatically suspended after 30 days. If you hire a DUI lawyer, they can request the hearing for you. Your attorney can often schedule the hearing further out, thus allowing for more time to prepare for the hearing.

Generally, your attorney conducts the hearing on your behalf. You may or may not be required to attend. Your attorney’s primary objective is to convince the DMV to not suspend your license. Your attorney may also use the DMV hearing as an opportunity to gather evidence that may prove useful in impending court proceeding.

For example, attorneys can subpoena the breathalyzer’s maintenance and calibration logs, which can reveal a history of malfunctions and inaccurate readings. Attorneys can also subpoena the arresting officer to testify at the DMV hearing.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the DMV’s hearing officer takes all the factors of the case into consideration and will issue written findings. The decision is typically mailed within 30 days. If the DMV finds in your favor, no license suspension is imposed. However, a DUI conviction in the court proceedings could trigger a separate suspension. If the DMV finds against you, your license goes into suspension within a few days of receiving notice.

Note: DMV hearings only occur for DUI of alcohol arrests, to determine if you drove with a .08 or higher BAC, or any positive BAC level in the case of an underage DUI. If you were arrested for a California DUI drugs charge, including DUI of marijuana, DUI of Vicodin or DUI of Ambien, there is no DMV hearing. If you are convicted of any of these charges in court, the court conviction will trigger a driver’s license suspension.

If Your License Gets Suspended

If the DMV hearing results in your license being suspended, you can usually request a restricted license within 30 days. This allows you to drive for work related activities and any court or DMV imposed alcohol program. Sometimes arrangements can be made to allow for a restricted license immediate. But you must heed the suspension while it is in effect. Driving with a suspended license in California is a crime and can lead to jail time, a probation violation, and an extended license suspension.

DUI Court Proceedings

If you have a BAC that exceeds .08, you are charged with two misdemeanor crimes: DUI under Vehicle Code 23152(a) and Driving with Excessive BAC under Vehicle Code 23152(b). Your objective is to avoid a conviction for either of these offenses.

Your attorney most likely can attend all of the court proceedings on your behalf unless there is a hearing where you are required to testify, or the case goes to trial. Most DUI cases may involve several court dates, and can span over several months. During this time, you attorney collects evidence, runs motions, and negotiates with the judge and prosecutor seeking a dismissal or a reduction in the charges.

If a plea bargain is reached involving you pleading to a DUI or a lesser charge, this can be completed one of two ways: you may go to court and plead in-person before the judge, or, in many cases, your attorney can provide the court with a notarized documents (called a Thal waiver) outside of court. If no plea bargain is reached, the DUI case will go to jury trial.

Read more about DUI Marijuana.