DUI Defense Process in California

DUI Defense Process in California

The consequences of a DUI conviction in California are harsh. They can include incarceration, fines, the loss of driving privileges, higher insurance costs, installation of an ignition interlock device on the driver’s vehicles, and other penalties.

Fortunately, those consequences can often be avoided or minimized. Here is the process you can expect a DUI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Randy Collins to follow if you are arrested for a California DUI.

Client Interview

The first stage in DUI defense is a thorough investigation of all the facts. That begins with a careful interview of the driver who was arrested for DUI. Defense attorneys will need to know everything the driver remembers about the day the ticket was issued, including:

  • the amount and timing of any alcohol that was consumed
  • whether and where the accused drove
  • the events leading to a stop of the driver’s vehicle
  • the driver’s behavior after the stop
  • the driver’s interaction with the arresting officer
  • whether other witnesses observed that interaction
  • if field sobriety tests were requested, the driver’s performance of those tests
  • whether and how a breath analysis was performed at the scene of the arrest
  • the general state of the driver’s health, particularly as it might affect test results
  • where the driver was taken after the arrest
  • the time of the arrest and the time any subsequent breath test was administered
  • how the police station breath test was administered
  • how many times the driver submitted a breath sample
  • whether the driver had difficulty submitting a breath sample
  • whether the driver burped or vomited before taking the breath test
  • whether an officer kept the driver under continuous observation before administering the test
  • what the driver was told about taking the breath test
  • what papers were issued to the driver and in what order

Other questions will also be asked, depending on the facts of the case. The more information the DUI defense lawyer has, the more opportunity there will be to find a mistake that might invalidate the arrest or the tests.

Administrative Suspensions and Refusals

A driver whose test results showed a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher is usually issued an administrative suspension notice. The DMV will suspend the driver’s driving privileges automatically unless a hearing is requested within 10 days after the date on the notice.

Requesting the DMV hearing is essential. The procedure in the notice must be followed exactly to prevent the automatic suspension from taking effect. If you have not done so, your DUI defense attorney can make the request, but only if you contact your attorney before the 10 days goes by.

When drivers refuse to take a breath test after they are arrested, they are given a notice of an automatic driver’s license suspension. Again, drivers have 10 days to request a hearing, which will prevent the suspension from taking effect automatically. Requesting the hearing is vital. A DUI defense lawyer can do that, but only if the accused driver contacts the attorney immediately.

Investigation

Many of the facts that are crucial to the defense will not be known to the driver. Critical facts include observations that the arresting officer made. Obtaining and reviewing the officer’s arrest report is an essential part of preparing a winning DUI defense.

If the officer recorded the driver on a body cam or a squad car camera, reviewing that recording is also vital. For example, an arresting officer might claim that the driver was pulled over for weaving, but the squad car camera might show that the driver was moving in a straight line.

The officer’s report might claim that the driver’s speech was slurred, that the driver fumbled for a license, and that the driver was unsteady when exiting from the car. The recording might show that none of that is true.

Recordings often show that a driver performed field sobriety tests more successfully than the officer claims. They may also show that the officer gave incorrect instructions when explaining how to perform field sobriety tests.

Motions

A common strategy for defeating DUI prosecutions is to file motions challenging the evidence. Suppression motions are among the DUI defense lawyer’s most fruitful tools.

Suppression motions usually challenge the constitutional validity of the decision to stop the driver and/or to arrest the driver. The most common motions allege:

  • The officer had no authority to stop the driver because no objective facts allowed the officer to form a reasonable suspicion that the driver violated any law
  • The officer had no authority to arrest the driver because no objective facts gave the officer probable cause to believe that the driver violated the DUI law
  • The police should have obtained a search warrant before obtaining a sample of the driver’s blood

Motions to dismiss the case, to preclude the court from considering prior offenses, or to require the prosecutor to produce additional evidence are also part of the DUI defense attorney’s arsenal. A strong DUI defense includes pursuit of all motions that might derail the prosecution, create bargaining leverage, or strengthen the defense at trial.

Negotiation

The pressure that prosecutors feel from advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers often makes prosecutors reluctant to reduce a DUI charge. At the same time, prosecutors do not like to take cases to trial unless they are confident of winning. Before the case reaches the point of a trial, the prosecutor might decide it is better to make a plea bargain than to risk a loss.

Drivers need to make the same calculation. Juries have also been influenced by advocacy groups, and are reluctant to acquit drivers when the evidence is strong. On the other hand, many jurors are sympathetic to driver who may have had a blood alcohol level at or near 0.08, but were not driving erratically and exhibited no obvious signs of intoxication. When a driver might win or lose a trial, the driver will need to decide whether to take the risk of a DUI conviction or accept a plea bargain.

Trial

If the case is not resolved through negotiation, the final stage of the DUI defense process is a trial. A number of defenses are possible, including:

  • The officer’s failure to observe the defendant continuously before the test was administered invalidates the test result
  • The testing device failed to return an accurate result
  • The test result did not reflect the driver’s actual blood alcohol content because of the driver’s medical condition
  • The operator of the testing device failed to operate it properly
  • The driver’s blood alcohol content was higher than 0.08 when the driver was tested but not when the driver was driving
  • The police waited too long to administer the test
  • Since the driver was obviously not impaired, the test result must be wrong
  • The arrested person was not the driver of the vehicle

The best defense depends on the facts of the case. A California DUI defense attorney at the Law Offices of Randy Collins can tailor a defense to the unique circumstances of your case. A combination of investigation, motions, negotiation, and (if necessary) a trial can help drivers accused of DUI avoid the harsh consequences of a conviction.