Los Angeles DUI Defense Lawyers
When you’re facing a charge for driving under the influence (DUI), it can feel like your world is caving in. That’s understandable given the potential sanctions, but the good news is this–there are more DUI defense strategies available in California than most people realize.
A Los Angeles area DWI lawyer from Shevin Law Group will fight for your freedom and your reputation. Call us today at (818) 918-5838 or contact us online.
California DUI Laws & Penalties
The California Vehicle code identifies a .08 blood alcohol content (BAC) as the legal demarcation point for when a driver is intoxicated. The penalties typically depend on whether the driver has previous DUI convictions on their record and, if so, how many. Other sentencing factors include whether someone else was injured as a result of someone operating under the influence. Taking all of this into account will determine whether a DUI will be misdemeanor or felony charge.
California judges have a number of sentencing tools at their disposal. A first-time offender is going to get a minimum of a $390 fine and three months in a Driving Under the Influence program called “DUI school”. Jail time is possible, even on a first offense where no one was injured. So is having a driver’s license suspended.
The state of California can also employ an Ignition Interlock requirement. This is essentially a breathalyzer that’s built into your car. The technology requires the driver to pass the breathalyzer test before being able to start their vehicle. Ignition Interlock can be used as an alternative to a license suspension.
Assuming no one was injured as a result of driving under the influence, the first three offenses will likely be charged as misdemeanors. But even allowing this, the first DUI conviction in California can still result in up to six months in a county jail. To avoid having a driver’s license suspension, the individual would have to agree to four months of driving with Ignition Interlock. That means the added expense of having this technology installed in your car and the monthly fee that comes with it. DUI school could be mandated for up to nine months.
Sentences for second and third offenses can gradually escalate across the board. The person convicted of a second DUI faces a minimum of four days in jail with the maximum now up to a year. Their driver’s license will be suspended at least six months and only agreeing to install Ignition Interlock will prevent the suspension from lasting a year. A DUI school term can now last up to 30 months.
The third offense can include, among other penalties, two years in jail and a license suspended for two years with Ignition Interlock required for the third year. If any of these first three offenses resulted in an injury, there will be at least a few days jail time, along with restitution to the injured party. Sentencing is also more likely to be on the high end of the discretionary window judges are given.
By the time we get to the fourth offense, we’re into a felony territory. Now, the convicted person is looking at a minimum of 16 months in prison and potentially 16 years.
All of which is to say that if there’s any way out of a DUI charge, your attorney needs to help you find it. And there are a number of angles from which to undermine the prosecution’s case.
Let a Los Angeles DWI lawyer from Shevin Law Group show you how to fight the charges. Call us today at (818) 918-5838 or contact us online.
DUI Defenses in California
The legal authorities are obligated to respect everyone’s constitutional rights and to follow a procedure that’s very reasonable. It’s your lawyer’s job to make sure they do. That starts from the moment you were pulled over by the police officer.
There must at least be a reasonable suspicion in the officer’s mind before they can put on the flashing red lights and come up behind you. Let’s say you’re driving home from a summer barbeque. It’s late afternoon. You’re driving safely. It’s on a lonely road and a police officer with little else to do decides to pull you over. They smell some beer on your breath and make you go through the tests. Your BAC is .10. They’ve got you now, right?
Maybe not. What was the basis for pulling you over in the first place? It would be one thing if you had just left a bar parking lot at 2 AM. A reasonable person would be suspicious of intoxication. The same goes for sobriety checkpoints–the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that these types of random stops are legal. For that matter, even if you committed a traffic violation–even a minor one, like rolling through the stop sign at a four-way stop–then reasonable suspicion can be invoked.
But our hypothetical scenario here presumes none of that. You’re driving at a normal time of the day. The road you’re on is not a designated checkpoint and you’ve obeyed all traffic laws. If reasonable suspicion does not exist, no stop can be made–and any evidence gathered at that stop is inadmissible in court.
Probable cause is associated with reasonable suspicion, but it is legally different and refers to a separate part of the process. Probable cause is what happens after the stop is made. Let’s go back to our scenario, only this time let’s presume that you did scoot through that four-way stop near your home a little too quickly. The officer is on solid ground in pulling you over.
Let’s presume you had a breath mint before leaving the barbeque. You can’t smell alcohol on your breath. You’re not acting drunk. There’s no containers in the vehicle. There is absolutely nothing that suggests you’ve even had a single drink. Probable cause–an essential precondition to making you go through the sobriety field tests–is not yet established.
Now, probable cause could be established by the officer simply asking if you’ve been drinking and getting an affirmative response. It’s not a hard hurdle for a police officer to clear. But until that happens, any evidence gathered from the sobriety tests is inadmissible in court–which basically means the prosecution has no case .
Let’s assume that reasonable suspicion and probable cause were in effect, and you did indeed blow a .10 BAC. Now, your goose is cooked, legally speaking, right? Again, not so fast.
We’ll start with the breathalyzer device itself. There are protocols that have to be followed for how this equipment is to be maintained and managed. This is no mere technicality–a breathalyzer not properly calibrated will not be accurate. And in our scenario, you’re barely over the legal limit as it is. This is a legitimate way to raise reasonable doubt in the mind of the court.
Furthermore, breathalyzers are far from perfect. There are several medical and dietary factors that can influence the BAC level that is recorded. For example, a breathalyzer may not accurately record the BAC level of someone with diabetes, liver problems or acid reflux. Eating bread is something else that can influence the breathalyzer in a way that hurts the defendant.
So, let’s say that you were at the barbeque. You normally watch your reflux pretty carefully, but it’s a nice day, you’re with friends and you want to relax. You drink a couple bottles of Corona and eat two sandwiches–the kind that use really big buns.
Does this seem unusual? It isn’t. And yet this could create the perfect storm for someone to blow a BAC level that shows them legally intoxicated when, in fact, they are not.
Even a blood test has its own set of challenges for the authorities. There are very specific chain of custody requirements in a blood sample. When these are violated, the evidence can be thrown out. Again ,this is no mere technicality. The requirements in place because violating them might cause the blood to ferment in such a way that the BAC reading will be inaccurate.
A DUI is a serious charge and that means everyone charged with it deserves a serious defense–the kind of defense that digs into the details of the case and asks the defendant questions they wouldn’t think to ask themselves. Shevin Law Group has been doing just that on behalf of our clients for nearly thirty years.
Call us at (818) 918-5838 or contact us online to set up an initial consultation.
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