DUI Defense in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County
Unfortunately, DUI arrests are very common in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, and all of the North Bay. A conviction for any type of DUI charges will result in hefty fines, the loss of your driver’s license, and possibly jail time. If you’ve been charged with drunk driving, you need an experienced DUI criminal defense attorney to investigate your case, advocate for you in court, and possibly argue your case to a jury. The district attorney is not going to take your case lightly, and neither should you. For all that we have heard about the dangers of drinking and driving, people still make mistakes.
- Perhaps alcohol impaired your judgment and you drove when you should not have.
- Maybe you did not realize how a relatively small amount of alcohol can actually make you register above the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) on a breathalyzer.
- Do the police think that your legally prescribed prescription medication caused bad driving?
- Did a police officer get it wrong and arrest you without probable cause?
Sonoma County DUI Laws
If you are arrested or cited for a DUI, the district attorney will charge you with violating either one or both of Sections 23152(a) and 23152(b) of the California Vehicle Code. Section 23152(a) of the California Vehicle Code makes it a crime to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol or any combination of the two. Section 23152(b) of the California Vehicle Code says it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of more than .08%.
What are the Penalties For A DUI Conviction In California?
There are several different factors that can contribute to the sentence someone will receive for being convicted of DUI in the state of California. The law enforcement community generally refers to them as “aggravating and mitigating factors”. Among them, the biggest influence will be whether or not it is the first time you have been convicted of DUI.
The minimum and maximum sentences a judge can impose for driving under the influence are set by statutes. The limits within those statutes are determined by how many prior convictions for DUI a person has at the time of sentencing. Under California law, a prior DUI conviction will be used to influence these limits for up to 10 years. Any prior conviction older than 10 years will not be considered (but will remain on your criminal record).
First, second, and third time DUI offenses are usually charged as misdemeanors in California.
What are the Penalties For A First DUI Conviction In California?
- Fines – Fines can be imposed ranging from $390 to $1,000. “Penalty assessments” will also be added on that can push the actual total up to several thousand dollars.
- Jail – Possible jail time can range from 48 hours to six months. It is also possible that the judge will order probation, which negates any mandatory jail time.
- Driver’s License Suspension – Six months suspension plus a four-month administrative suspension from the DMV. Suspensions can be concurrent or consecutive. First offenders may be allowed to apply for a restricted license to travel to work or school but will have to use an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicle. Those who do not apply for a restricted license often must use an IID for six months following the license suspension.
- Probation – First-time offenders generally receive three years of probation but can get up to five. They will normally also have to attend DUI classes for 30 hours but will be required to attend for 60 hours over nine months if their BAC registered .20% or more.
What are the Penalties For A Second DUI Conviction In California?
- Fines – $390 to $1,000 plus assessment fees.
- Jail – 96 hours to one year. A jail sentence may sometimes be served through house arrest or a jail-alternative work program.
- Driver’s License Suspension – Two-year court suspension plus one year DMV administrative suspension. Suspensions may run concurrently or consecutively. The defendant may apply for a restricted license unless the offense involved drugs, then one year of suspension must be served first. All second-time offenders are required to submit to an ignition interlock device for 12 months.
- Probation – Three to five years of probation. The defendant must also complete an 18-month or 30-month DUI school as determined by the judge.
What are the Penalties For A Third DUI Conviction In California?
- Fines – $390 to $1,000 plus assessments.
- Jail – 120 days to one year. The judge may also elect to reduce jail time to 30 days and impose probation plus a 30-month DUI school.
- Driver’s License Suspension – Three-year court suspension plus a one-year DMV administrative suspension. The suspensions can run concurrently or consecutively. The defendant may apply for a restricted license unless the offense involved drugs, then one year of suspension must be served first. All third-time offenders are required to submit to an ignition interlock device for at least two years.
- Probation – Most third-time offenders will receive from three to five years on probation and the judge may also order the attendance of a 30-month DUI school.
What are the Penalties For DUI Involving Injury Or Death In California?
Charges for a DUI involving injuries can be filed as either misdemeanors or felonies depending on the circumstances. If charged as a felony, penalties will be more severe and can include a prison (not jail) sentence ranging from 16 months up to four years. Fines will also be elevated, ranging from $390 up to $5,000.
DUI offenders who cause the death of another person are usually charged under California’s vehicular manslaughter or murder laws. The charge could be negligent vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or second-degree murder.
The ultimate penalties for a DUI involving a fatality can vary greatly. For example, negligent vehicular manslaughter can be charged as a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. On the other end of the spectrum, however, a conviction for second-degree murder can involve a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.
You Only Have 10 Days To Request A Hearing That Could Save Your License
If you are arrested or cited for driving under the influence, the officer is required by law to confiscate your license, issue a notice of suspension and notify the DMV. The officer will provide you with a temporary license which will allow you to drive 30 days from the date the order of suspension or revocation was issued, provided you have been issued a California driver license and your driver license is not expired, or your driving privilege is not suspended or revoked for some other reason.
It is extremely important that you contact an attorney immediately after your arrest or citation for a DUI. You only have the right to request an admin per se hearing within 10 days of receipt of the suspension or revocation order. Time is of the essence. If you want to fight to keep your license and begin the investigation and defense of your DUI case, you need to start now.
Speak With A Qualified Sonoma County DUI Attorney
However you came to be arrested for a DUI, you need the help of an experienced DUI lawyer right away. Make no mistake, DUI charges are criminal charges and nothing to be taken lightly. Don’t risk taking legal advice from just any law firm that you find on Google offering fast results or low costs.
The Law Office of Amy Chapman has been representing people accused of DUI in Sonoma County, CA for over a decade. From the first appearance to consulting expert witnesses, all the way up to jury trial, I will be on your side advocating for your best interests. I have the resources, skills, and experience with California criminal law that you need to protect your rights and build the best defense possible. Call me today at (707) 636-3207 or contact me online anytime to schedule a free consultation and begin planning your defense right away.
Is Hiring A DUI Attorney in Sonoma County Worth It?
Yes, it would be a very big mistake for someone with a DUI not to hire an attorney. A lot of people think their case is hopeless and nothing could be done just because they were arrested or cited for a DUI. They might go into court and plead guilty at the first court date and accept whatever sentence they are handed, without realizing that they have missed so many possible defenses and so many different ranges of what could possibly happen on a DUI because they have just thrown away any of those chances.
Although hiring a qualified DUI attorney can be expensive, they can often end up saving their client money in the end if they were able to save them from a fine, an increase in their insurance, or from the loss of their license which could result in the loss of employment. A DUI attorney would be able to make all of the court appearances for their client, thus saving them the hassle and embarrassment of going to court, and they would also be able to schedule, prepare for and attend the DMV hearing to try to save their client’s license.
Why Do Judges Think That Defending Yourself Is Ill-Advised?
Judges know that it is almost always a bad idea for someone to represent themselves. Even judges hire attorneys to represent them when they get into trouble and they would not attempt to represent themselves. Judges know that someone who represents themselves might be missing a lot of issues and they might not be able to fully exercise their rights.
Additionally, judges are usually annoyed by people who attempt to represent themselves in court because they tend to slow down the process and judges have no patience for explaining the laws or the procedures to people who represent themselves. Although people are legally allowed to represent themselves, judges usually frown upon it.
Why Can Public Defenders Not Spend A Lot Of Time On A DUI Case?
Public defenders who have been assigned to the misdemeanor courtrooms where the vast majority of DUIs are prosecuted tend to have extremely high caseloads, and they may have to represent a few dozen people per day, many of which are DUIs and a whole variety of other misdemeanors. They might have several hundred clients on their plate at any given time so it would be extremely hard to get a public defender to spend a lot of time with the person’s particular case because their time is so limited.
The client might get a very short office appointment to meet with them, or they might get a brief period of time to talk with them in court but that would probably be all the time they would get. Public defenders are simply too overwhelmed with the number of cases to be able to spend any amount of quality time with one client, so the client might be left in the dark if they had a lot of questions or were confused.
Should Someone Blow Or Not Blow When They Are Being Charged With A DUI?
California has an implied consent law, meaning that anybody who has a driver’s license has already agreed that in the situation where they were stopped because an officer suspected they were driving under the influence, they would have to submit to a chemical test, which could be a breath test or a blood test.
The DMV will automatically suspend the person’s license for one year for a first offence, two for a second, and three for a third if they did not submit to that test. There would be no opportunity for the person to get a restricted license if their license was suspended due to a refusal, so they would have to be suspended that entire period of time.
The prosecution would not have that particular piece of evidence to hold against the person if they did not give a breath test or a blood test, so they would not be able to say that the person was a 0.08 or a 0.15. The only evidence of impairment would be what the officer observed and the person’s performance on the field sobriety tests, if any. There would be a huge downside for the person if they lost their license, but there also might be occasions when it could be an advantage for the person if the DA did not have that evidence.
What If Someone Failed The Roadside Sobriety Tests?
People generally fail roadside sobriety tests because the tests are designed to be extremely difficult to pass. After the officer determines you’ve failed these very challenging tests, they are able to place the person under arrest for driving under the influence. They might ask the person to submit to a preliminary breath test. The person does not have to submit to this test because it would be one more tool they would use to be able to say that the person “failed” the field sobriety test, before placing them under arrest. They would be given the option of taking a breath or blood test after they had been placed under arrest.
When Do Police ask you to recite the Alphabet backwards?
You are able to politely decline if the police ask you to say the alphabet backwards. Anyone would definitely fail this test in any condition because none of us have learned the alphabet backwards, and very few people can say the alphabet without singing it. Almost everyone would have problems. There is no requirement for anyone to submit to any of the pre-arrest tests, so if an officer asked someone to recite that alphabet, then my advice would be to politely decline.
How Can You Fight A DUI If You Said You Only Had Two Beers?
First of all, the officer would not believe the person, and this would probably be a case where it was recorded where even the person admitted that they had alcohol. Most people who truly only had two beers would probably not be above a 0.08 over the course of some time and if they had food in their system.
People often forget about other drinks they might have had or they might not have realized that the beer they had was much larger than a standard size or it was much higher in alcohol than a standard beer, because those factors can significantly increase a person’s blood alcohol level. The person’s blood alcohol level could be higher than expected if they weighed less, and it could be higher than expected if it was a female. The blood alcohol level would also be higher than expected if the person had been drinking on an empty stomach.
Someone who really only had two beers would probably not be above a 0.08 anyway.
How Common Is It For People To Tell The Police They Only Had Two Beers If They Get Pulled Over?
All officers have heard this argument. People who get stopped for any traffic violation who then realize they had been drinking instinctively know that the officer would be able to smell the alcohol on their breath, so they try to not completely deny drinking but then they also do not want to admit how much they had drank, so almost everyone ends up saying that they only had two beers. Officers have heard this hundreds of times so they tend to not believe someone who says this, and they will put the person though the tests anyway.
How Can Someone Hear “Not Guilty” Or “Case Dismissed” On Their DUI Case in Sonoma County?
This is more of a subtlety thing because a person would not just hear that and it would not be really common although it might be possible if someone hired a good attorney and did as their attorney instructed them to do. It can be very challenging to hear “not guilty” or to get the case dismissed for a DUI case. The evidence and the odds would often be stacked against the person, although a skilled attorney would be able to achieve those results in the right situations.
A qualified attorney would be able to find out if the officer did not conduct the investigation properly, so he could attack the results of the field sobriety tests as being not valid. An attorney could say that the results of the chemical tests were not valid if they knew what to look for. Ultimately, if the attorney could establish that their client was not under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident, then they could be found not guilty at trial or they could end up having their case dismissed by the DA.
What Are The Top Mistakes That Will Jeopardize A DUI Case?
Saying too much to an officer could jeopardize a DUI case, because the person would oftentimes be locked into whatever they had told the officer on the scene. They should say as little as possible during the arrest to preserve possible defenses in the future once the case came to court. They would not be required to submit to any field sobriety tests during an investigation for DUI, although they would be required to submit to a breath test or a blood test unless they wanted their license suspended for at least one year.
Many people think they would either pass the field sobriety tests or they think they are required to do the field sobriety tests, so they believe there would be one less piece of evidence that the prosecutor could use against them once the case went to court, if they did not do the field sobriety tests. A chemical test should not be refused unless the person was prepared to lose their license for at least one year.
What Makes A DUI Case Different From A Standard Criminal Case Or A Traffic Case?
A DUI case would be a combination of the administrative side dealing with the DMV and trying to keep the person’s license along with the scientific aspect of the breath test or the blood test and how that alcohol was metabolized in the person’s body and how it showed up on the test, as well as the aspects of any other criminal defense case where the person would be looking at how the evidence was collected, how the investigation was done and then attacking any holes in the prosecution’s case.
What Are Some Things That People Do Not Know That Might Help Their DUI Case?
Many people do not know that more and more arresting agencies now record the stops, the field sobriety tests and the questions. Someone who felt they performed well on the field sobriety tests and acted appropriately during the arrest would often be able to show that to their attorney, because they would be able to order the audio and video recording of the arrest.
The person should also make sure the officer did not make up anything to put in the police report because anything that was said would have been recorded. Many officers are actually not trained to properly conduct the field sobriety tests so if the field sobriety tests were not conducted the way they were designed to be tested, then those tests should not be validated and they should not be used against the person, which is what would be attacked.
Similarly, the results of the chemical tests can also be attacked. The person’s breath test or blood test results would show what they blew or what their blood alcohol level was at that time, although it would not necessarily mean that that was what their blood alcohol level was when they were driving, which is what the critical issue would be, not 30 minutes or 60 minutes after the fact. Just because someone blew over a 0.08 would not mean they were driving while their blood alcohol level was above a 0.08, which is a fact that can be attacked and it could save the person’s case.
What Are Three Of The Biggest Myths In DUI Cases in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County CA?
A lot of people think that they will automatically be found guilty if they blow above a 0.08, and the case would be over because the law is the law, however, their blood test result at the time of the test might be considerably different than what their blood alcohol level was at the time they were driving. This information would be critical in finding ways to attack the results of the breath or blood test and to show that the person’s blood alcohol level was actually below a 0.08 while they were driving and as a result the person could be found not guilty.
The second myth is that the person’s license would be suspended automatically. The DMV will issue a notice if they are going to suspend the person’s license because there is a process through which the license suspension could be challenged, as long as the hearing was requested within 10 days of the arrest.
An attorney could schedule and attend that hearing and fight the administrative suspension to try to save their client’s license, and even if the DMV did ultimately suspend the person’s license, an attorney would be able to help guide the person through the steps to get a restricted license to allow them to drive to and from work sooner than they expected. Just because someone got a DUI would not mean that their license would be gone for as long as they thought it would be.
The third common myth about getting a first-time DUI is that it would not be a big deal, which could not be further from the case.
Someone who just went in and pleaded guilty to a DUI would not just have to pay a huge fine. They will end up with two points on their DMV record, their insurance rates would be substantially increased for up to 10 years, they would have to pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars to attend a DUI school, their license would be suspended for up to nine months, they would have to either go to jail or perform a substantial amount of community service, and they could have limited job opportunities in the future because of the DUI conviction.
Are The Penalties The Same For DUIs And Prescription Medication?
Yes, the penalties would be the same. Just because someone was prescribed a drug and had a valid prescription would not mean it was okay to drive while they were taking it. The person would be penalized in the exact same way as somebody who had too much to drink if the prescription medication impaired their ability to drive a car. The person would be facing the same fines, the same DUI schools, the same license suspensions and the same vast increases in their insurance, simply for driving on their prescription medication if that medication impaired them.
How Many DUI Cases Do You Typically See Per Year?
I probably handle about 20 or 25 a year, but I would like to do more. When I was with the public defender’s office, I handled a couple of hundred a year.
Have People’s Habits Or Behaviors Changed As The DUIs Laws Have Changed?
The younger generation, the millennials, are actually a lot more careful about driving under the influence and are more likely to designate a driver, call a cab, call Uber or stay the night. There seems to be a heightened awareness in that age group not to drink and drive, which is actually a great thing. People who have been drinking longer and who might have habits that are more entrenched tend to get caught up in it a little more.
What Percentage Of Clients Receive Another DUI After The First One?
The vast majority of people who get DUI’s are adversely affected by it – they know they’ve made a mistake and tend not to drink and drive again because they did not enjoy the experience of going to jail or going through the court process. Also, the DUI school the court ordered them to attend would have covered a lot of information about the dangers of drinking and driving, so most people do not come back again for a subsequent DUI.
How Do People Usually Get Caught For A DUI?
Typically some sort of traffic violation: speeding, weaving within a lane, weaving over a fog line or double yellow line, rolling through a stop sign are the most common reasons for a DUI investigation to start.
A common misconception is that you will automatically go to jail. After the initial booking, it is highly unlikely for anyone to actually spend time in a jail or in a custodial setting for a first time DUI offense when there are no injuries. People also think their license will be suspended for much longer than it actually will be. Anybody facing a DUI will face possible suspension of their license, although it might not be for as long as people fear.
Some people also think there is no hope if they are arrested or accused of a DUI because they think there is no defense and no way out. DUIs are highly nuanced and complicated. A skilled, experienced attorney can comb through the police reports, test results and other facts surrounding the case that may not be in the police report. The attorney can try to poke holes in the prosecutor’s case and find defenses.
Are DUI Records Public?
In all likelihood, a person’s work will not find out unless they have the type of job that requires them to disclose a DUI charge to their employer, e.g., a professional or commercial driver. The person’s family would typically not find out unless the person charged told them. But, the facts of the arrest are public record, and family members might receive letters from attorneys offering their services, so they could find out accidentally.
In Sonoma County, there is very little on line information about arrests. The clerk’s office only posts cases that will be heard the next day, so someone would have to know exactly where to look. The local newspaper, The Press Democrat, occasionally publishes arrest logs, although most of those tend to be for drug possession or domestic violence and not for DUIs. It is public record, but someone has to dig to find that information.
Consequences of DUI in Santa Rosa
Most people know there will be a big fine, a negative effect on their insurance, possible jail time, volunteer time or community service. They may not know about the different possible DUI sentences. For example, depending on the facts of the case for a first DUI, the length of time required to be spent in DUI school could be six weeks, three months or nine months, and the cost for each would be different. The less time spent in school, the less expensive it is. If an attorney can get someone three months instead of nine months, the client will have saved six months out of their lives and six months’ worth of payments. People may not be fully aware of the differences between DUI cases.
Easy Way Out
No, most people expect there will be some sort of punishment. Everybody knows somebody who has gotten a DUI and very few people know anybody who has been able to get out of a DUI.
Important Items to Remember
People who have been charged with a DUI should definitely remember to request, or have their attorney request, their admin per se hearing within 10 days in order to save their driver’s license. The person should also write down everything they remember about the traffic stop and their encounter with the police officer while it is fresh in their minds. That information can be relevant for a defense.
Another important thing is not to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system while their case is pending. And, of course, they should never drive if they are not properly licensed and insured.
Blow Below .08
The DA would still be able to file a DUI if the person blew below a 0.08 because in California there is a per se 0.08. It doesn’t matter how perfect someone’s driving is, if they blow above 0.08, they’re driving illegally. If they blew below a 0.08, but their driving was impaired and they could not safely operate a motor vehicle, it is still a crime in California – even if their blood alcohol level was 0.05, they can still be charged with a DUI. It would be the same as driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher.
How Does Bail Work
A person arrested for a crime by a law enforcement officer is taken to jail, and while they are at the jail, a bail is set. The amount of bail is taken from the schedule the court publishes and is based on the charge that the person had been booked in for.
Once bail is set, the person has the opportunity to either contact a bail bond agent to post bail for them, or they can post the full amount in cash if they have it. A bail bondsman typically charges a premium of 10%, which is their fee. The person does not get that amount back at the end of the case.
In Lieu of Jail For DUI
There is no diversion or first-time offender program offered in California that will get someone out of a DUI, even if on a first offense with no injuries and even if the defendant has never been in trouble before.
It is not the same as with someone who has committed a petty theft and has never been in trouble before. In that case, the person would be able to get a diversion program to avoid a criminal conviction, but that does not happen in DUI cases.
All DUI cases are prosecuted regardless of the person’s record and regardless of their driving history. At least two days of jail is mandatory in DUI cases. But, in almost all first offense DUI cases, the judge or the DA will allow the person to participate in a jail alternative program. Typically these are work release programs in Sonoma County where the person works an eight-hour day for the county in exchange for each day they were sentenced to in jail.
Miranda rights are hardly ever read in a DUI case. They are only required to be read if somebody is in custody and the officer is asking questions designed to elicit an incriminating response that can be used against the person in court. Almost all of the questions asked in a DUI investigation are asked while the person is not in custody. Pre-arrest questions are asked during the field sobriety tests, so the officer would not be required to read the person their Miranda rights.
A person is only read their rights when they are placed in custody, meaning in handcuffs or in jail. Any questions designed to elicit an incriminating response that is asked and answered after that time are a violation of the person’s Miranda rights if the statements they made are used against them in court. This hardly ever comes up in DUIs.
Can My Case be Dismissed?
People often tell me the officer did not read them their Miranda rights. I have to explain that in a DUI case, Miranda rights are not typically read. In the movies and on TV you always hear “You have a right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” Usually, when I ask people what incriminating statements they made, they say that they didn’t say anything. The officer does not need to read the person their Miranda rights if he did not ask any questions when the person was in custody, so there would be nothing to get thrown out or dismissed.
Even if an officer does ask incriminating questions after the person is in custody, but does not read the Miranda rights, it doesn’t mean the whole case will be thrown out. It just means that the person may have grounds to file a motion to suppress those particular statements from being used against them.