This is part one of a step-by-step guide to follow after a DUI arrest in California. Although this may help you to avoid costly mistakes, there are circumstances which may not be included that would require additional information and/or assistance. The information contained is pertaining to alcohol related driving offenses only. All of the steps are available here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
Being charged with a DUI in California is a terrifying experience. Unlike most other criminal activity, drunk driving offenses are regularly committed by every class in American society, yet the general public and the media is quick to demonize those who have been accused or arrested for these types of offenses. Following a DUI arrest, alleged offenders could lose their license, job, valid citizenship status, and many other opportunities regularly afforded to non-criminal offenders. Having represented countless drunk drivers in California, as well as prosecuted when I was the district attorney for the county of Riverside, I have seen an abnormal amount of misinformation distributed targeting those looking to make the best decisions for themselves and their families after a DUI arrest.
James Novak once said “To try to defend your DUI without a qualified attorney to represent you; is like going into battle without weapons, shield and armor”. This may seem extreme, but those who plan on tackling their DUI charges alone can easily make mistakes that become detrimental to their case.
This has prompted me to create an in-depth step-by-step guide for those recently arrested for DUI in California. It is my sincere hope that this will help keep the wrongfully accused from being convicted and help to give all others a fighting chance. Although obtaining counsel is an important part of any alleged offender’s process, information pertaining to hiring an attorney will not be included. I highly recommend taking advantage of a free consultation from an attorney you feel that you can trust regardless of your circumstance.
Write Down Everything that Happened on the Day of your Arrest
Every DUI case is different depending upon the different circumstances of each individual’s experience. People rarely realize how easy it is to forget important details once a few days, or even hours, have passed following their arrest. If you were minorly or heavily intoxicated, it will be difficult to remember everything about your arrest even moments after you have the opportunity to write them down. If you are unable to accurately account for the actions taken by you and everyone involved, you may be unable to identify important facts about your case that could lead to a not-guilty verdict or a case dismissal.
For example, if your arresting officers put in the police report that your arrest took place on a sunny day with clear visibility at 12:00 p.m., but it in fact took place at 1:00pm on a day that it was raining with poor visibility, that officer’s credibility and competence may be called into question in a court of law. You do not want to miss out on these types of opportunities as a result of poor memory. Write down everything that happened since you woke up on the morning of your arrest until you went to sleep that night. Details are key.
Contact the DMV and Request a Hearing
After your DUI arrest, the arresting officer most likely took your driver’s license, issued you a temporary license, and gave you a pink slip with information on it. The pink slip gave you notification that your license will be automatically suspended 30 days after the date of your DUI arrest. There is still an opportunity for you to keep your license, but you have to act within 10 days of your arrest date. The DMV does not care about any excuse or valid reason that you may have for why you were unable to contact them within the 10 day period. I have been able to obtain a hearing after the 10 day period, but these circumstances are extremely rare. It is important to know that you do not call your local DMV office to obtain your hearing. You call the California DMV driver safety office closest to where you were arrested. If you call the local DMV office, they will most likely inadvertently give you misleading information that could lead to a costly mistake.
Attend Your Hearing Dressed Well, On Time, and Prepared
The hearing with the DMV driver safety office is not a criminal proceeding, but you are allowed to bring along legal counsel if you desire to do so. You are allowed to do the hearing over the phone, but in my experience they are not nearly as successful over the phone as when done in person. If you are able to “win” your hearing, your license will not be suspended.
The following are the types of questions for which you will need to be prepared to answer at your DMV hearing:
- Did the officer’s objective observations with respect to your symptoms of intoxication support a finding of probable cause?
- Did the officers present arrest you lawfully?
- Did you have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) greater than 0.08%?
What constitutes being prepared for these types of questions? Having an answer and/or a form of evidence that would lead the hearing administrator to believe that the arresting officers did something that they were not supposed to. The object is not to make the hearing administrator believe that your arresting officers are incompetent, rude, or crazy, but instead to present a believable account of your arrest. If you can focus upon the unfortunate mistakes made by your arresting officers that led them to believe you were driving while under the influence, you are on the right track.
Stay Tuned for More
Once you have fully documented the circumstances of your case and attended your DMV hearing, there are still plenty of steps that you need to take to make sure that you have the best chance for success in a court of law. Check back soon for links to the remaining blogs to the step-by-step guide following a DUI in California.