If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI, you are far from alone. Every year in California, anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 people are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. With the rise in the legal use of cannabis, the California Highway Patrol expects these numbers to continue to rise. The state has no tolerance for those who get behind the wheel of a vehicle when it is unsafe for them to do so.
A first-time offense for a DUI in California is considered a misdemeanor, however, that doesn’t mean you should choose to represent yourself, plead guilty, and try to put it behind you. You will find that a conviction can negatively impact a number of different things in your life for years to come, including your employment status (either losing your job or being denied employment), professional certifications, personal relationships, and even the cost of auto insurance. With an experienced DUI defense attorney on your side, you can fight the charges against you and reduce the punishment or have your charges dropped altogether.
Attorney John Goalwin has represented individuals facing DUI charges for more than 45 years. Serving clients in Los Angeles, Van Nuys, Compton, and the surrounding areas, our firm offers extensive criminal defense knowledge and experience. When you choose to work with The Law Office of John Goalwin, you can rest assured that your case will be in good hands.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in California is a violation of the rules of the road under two sections of state law. First, driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level of .08% or higher is illegal. So is simply driving under the influence of alcohol. Most people arrested for a DUI are charged under both statutes.
In fact, you do not even need to be driving to be charged with a DUI. You can be arrested even if you are found sleeping in your car if you:
Were involved in a traffic accident
Are in or near a vehicle obstructing a roadway
Will be able to avoid apprehension unless immediately arrested
May cause damage to yourself, others, or property unless immediately arrested
May destroy or conceal evidence of a crime unless immediately arrested
In California, moving a vehicle only inches, in or out of gear, constitutes driving. The burden of proof of driving is on the prosecution, and a judge or jury will decide whether you were or not driving.
When a law enforcement officer pulls you over, they will ask you questions about how you are, where you have been, and whether you have consumed any alcohol or drugs. Although you should be respectful, you are required only to provide the officer with your name, license, and registration upon request. Otherwise, it is smart to advise the officer that you will not answer questions without an attorney present.
There are typically only two tests that law enforcement officers will administer following a DUI stop:
Field Sobriety Tests - A field sobriety test involves a number of different aptitude tests to discern if someone is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Such activities include saying the alphabet backward, walking a straight line, or tracking the officer’s finger with your eyes.
You are under no legal obligation to submit to a field sobriety test. If the officer asks you to submit to one, simply tell them that your attorney has advised against it. Field sobriety tests are unscientific and often unreliable as evidence of impaired driving. If you take the field sobriety test and do not perform well, the officer will note it in the report, and that will be used against you.
Breathalyzer & Blood Tests - Testing for BAC levels may be performed by breathalyzer, blood, or urine tests. Under California law, every licensed driver gives “implied consent” to these tests — therefore, you must comply with them. Refusal to do so results in an immediate suspension of your license for one year and can often be used against you down the road.
A first-time DUI conviction can result in:
Fines - You can be fined anywhere from $390 to $1,000, plus penalty assessments that could increase the fine by $1,500. Additionally, if you're required to install an interlock ignition device (IID), you will be required to cover all associated costs.
License Suspension - Your license can be suspended for six months for the criminal conviction plus a four-month suspension order by the DMV in administration action, which may run concurrently. You do have the right to challenge the DMV suspension, but you only have a short timeframe to initiate a request to challenge the suspension. Challenging this suspension will create a separate proceeding where the DMV will hold its own hearing independent of the Court. You may not win any challenge with an attorney, but you will almost certainly lose without one. If your suspension is upheld, you can apply for limited driving privileges such as getting to and from school or work with the installation of an IID.
Jail Time - First-time offenders can receive anywhere from 48 hours to six months in jail depending on BAC levels. You may also receive probation for three to five years, contingent upon completion of a three-month DUI education program. If your BAC was in excess of .20%, the education program is nine months.
Penalties increase for second-time offenders and again for a third conviction — the latter of which can result in 120 days in jail, a three-year license revocation, and a two-year IID requirement.
There are steeper penalties for felony DUI convictions. Drivers may be charged with felonies if this is their fourth DUI in a 10-year span, or if they were involved in an accident that caused injuries or death. Penalties can range anywhere from one year in jail to 30 years in prison, depending on the circumstances of the offense.
An ignition interlock device (IID) is a small handheld breathalyzer that a driver must blow into before attempting to start their vehicle. If the device registers a BAC higher than allowed, the vehicle will not start. The results of all attempts will be monitored by authorities. You will also be required to have the device calibrated periodically to ensure it is working properly. Again, you are required to pay all costs associated with the IID.
You can lose a lot if convicted of a DUI in California. Even with a first misdemeanor offense, your conviction will remain on your record for 10 years. If you have a commercial driver’s license, you will lose it. If you are a licensed professional, such as a doctor, accountant, lawyer, or teacher, you risk losing your professional license. You may be disqualified from working in law enforcement, government, healthcare, education, and other industries. With so much at stake, you can’t afford to risk facing your DUI charges alone
With an experienced DUI defense attorney on your side, you can challenge field sobriety and BAC test methods and results, as well as the prosecution’s assertions that you were driving the vehicle while intoxicated. You may even be able to challenge the legality of the stop.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI in California, you’re not alone. Call or reach out to our firm, The Law Office of John Goalwin, today for reliable legal counsel and strong representation. With over 45 years of criminal defense experience, attorney John Goalwin is well prepared to help you fight your charges and pursue a positive outcome. Call or reach out today to schedule a free case consultation.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI, attorney John Goalwin is here to protect your rights. If you are facing DUI charges in Los Angeles, Van Nuys, or Compton, California call or reach out to The Law Office of John Goalwin today. Put our experience, knowledge, energy, and compassion to work for you. Do not accept your DUI charge without a fight. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation and see how we have helped countless other individuals just like you!