Preparation is a key component of success in all endeavors, and this rings true for driving under the influence (DUI) cases as well. In order to help your future self out, it is beneficial to understand the DUI process in more detail now, rather than when you are already in the middle of it.
The DUI process in California can be broken down into six distinct stages:
- Stop and arrest: It would be an odd circumstance to get penalized for a DUI without being stopped by a patrol officer and arrested first. Peace officers only need probably cause, or a reasonable hunch, to make a suspicion of DUI arrest. This is achieved after a suspect fails a field sobriety test or a chemical test for blood alcohol content (BAC) level.
- Booked at the station: When you are put into custody, you are not guilty of anything yet. Try not to panic and remember that you are still innocent of any wrongdoing as far as the law is concerned. You will be taken to the station for booking, which is the procedure of creating or updating your arrest record. As it is shown in the media, booking includes taking your “mugshot,” imprinting your fingerprints, and conducting initial questioning; since everything you say and do can be used against you in a court of law, it is usually the wrong choice to agree to questioning of any kind without your lawyer present.
- Bailing out: If spending days or more in a jail cell seems unpleasant to you, ask your booking officer about posting bail. There could be a standardized bail amount set for DUI offenses, or one created specifically for your case. Pay it and you will be permitted to go home until your court date. If you show up to your court date and comply with any regulations set at the time of your bail out, you will be given back your bail money at the end of your day in court.
- Setting a hearing: You only have 10 days to set a DMV administrative hearing after being arrested for a DUI. If you do not do set this hearing up yourself, the DMV will automatically take away your driver’s license, guilty or not. The hearing is somewhat like a lesser trial, where you can use a lawyer’s help and present evidence on your behalf, but there will not be a prosecution there to try to shut you down. Instead, you just need to convince a DMV administrator that your license should not be suspended at this time.
- Arraignment: The first time you enter the courtroom is known as your arraignment; this is not your full trial. You will be asked if you want to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest to whatever charges are listed against you, probably just a DUI but it could also include similar charges like reckless driving. If you aren’t comfortable with standing before the court for your arraignment, you can have your lawyer act on your behalf.
- Considering bargains: You may want to open and close your case as quickly as possible, especially if it seems that overwhelming evidence exists to prove your intoxication. Talk to your DUI defense attorney about using plea bargains to measurably reduce your potential penalties. A judge may consider a plea bargain because it saves everyone time and money, and the prosecution could consider it because it guarantees them a win, which looks good on their record all the same.
- Conclusion: If you use a plea bargain or no contest and you only committed a misdemeanor DUI offense, you will move to sentencing with no trial. You can expect your sentencing to include a probationary period, some sort of substance abuse program schedule, fines paid to the state, and the suspension of your driver’s license, which you can get back at the end of the suspension by paying reinstatement fees. If you plead not guilty or are charged with a felony DUI offense, you are going to trial, complete with jury selection, statements, rebuttals, and so on. It all leads up to a verdict that could be in or out of your favor.
Professional Guidance Through Thick and Thin
Arguably the most important part of the DUI process in California is acknowledging that you do not have to go through it alone. At the Law Office of Peacock & Le Beau, both of our Long Beach DUI attorneys are Board Certified Criminal Law Specialists, so you know you can trust them to handle your DUI case with the utmost care and professionalism. Contact our firm today or request a free case analysis online.