In 2017, there were 123,548 DUI arrests in California. There are serious consequences to a DUI arrest anywhere in the country, but exact penalties vary by state. California has some of the strictest DUI laws in the United States. These penalties can include disqualification from jobs, loss of license, higher insurance rates, jail time, fines, and many others.
A DUI charge can be embarrassing and difficult to navigate. It's critical to face it head-on in order to make the best of a bad situation; hiring a criminal defense lawyer is the first step.
Thanks to the 6th Amendment, you are entitled to legal representation. It's imperative that you take advantage of this right when confronted with a DUI case.
The steps you take prior to trial can have major effects on your verdict and sentencing. Keep reading to find out how hiring a criminal defense lawyer can help you secure the best possible outcome for your case.
How the Circumstances of Your Crime Affect Your Punishment
It is essential that you are prepared for your case prior to entering the courtroom. This includes the facts, circumstances, and potential proceedings of your case.
When it comes to DUI charges, the more impaired you were typically means the more punishment you will receive.
Plus, other aggravating factors can influence how serious of punishment is handed down. These factors include:
A young passenger in the car
Driving on a suspended license
Destruction of property
However, there are also mitigating factors that can supplement your case that can potentially help secure more lenient sentencing. These factors include:
Clean driving record
Presence of prescribed medications (rather than recreational drugs or alcohol)
The necessity of driving (in an emergency, etc.)
Varying Degrees of DUI Charges
There are various types of DUI charges, and punishments vary in accordance with state law as well as the factors outlined above. In California, there are six categories of DUI charges. For First Offense Misdemeanor DUI, the maximum sentence is six months in jail. This follows with a $1,000 fine and nine months of DUI school.
Second Offense Misdemeanor DUI carries maximum jail time of one year. Also possible is a $1,000 fine, a two-year license suspension, and 18-30 months of DUI school.
For Third Offense Misdemeanor DUI, the maximum fine is $1,000, along with jail time of 120 days up to 1 year. This charge also includes a three-year license suspension, probation, and 30 months of DUI school.
DUI with injury can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. If deemed a felony, it can carry a prison sentence of 16 months to four years, with fines up to $5,000.
Felony DUI is the most severe DUI-related charge. If convicted, the sentence is a maximum of three years in state prison with a five-year suspended license, and 30 months of DUI school.
If death was caused, the defendant is likely to be charged under vehicular manslaughter charges. On the low end, these penalties include a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. In the second degree, the defendant can face 15 years or more in state prison.
There is also a new ignition interlock device program in California for repeat offenders or those injury-involved offenders. The court will now mandate an ignition interlock device that requires operators to successfully pass a breathalyzer test prior to starting their vehicle.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a DUI Case?
DUI charges and their subsequent court cases are unique. It seems straightforward—the officer got me on a breathalyzer or with a blood test. How can I defend myself from that?
Even for a first-time offender, a DUI case can cost $10,000 or more in legal fines and fees. Hiring an experienced DUI attorney is critical to make or break your case.
Courtrooms can often be overwhelming. Attorneys can help with every facet of your case, from preparation and delivery to appeals (if applicable). They will help you speak, dress, and behave properly in the courtroom. They will teach you how to answer questions—and what questions not to answer.
Attorneys also have experience in applying prior cases, laws, and rulings to your case to determine applicable precedent. They can help defend you with their years of experience in a way a layperson could not.
There are various factors to consider when building the defense for your case, including:
Did the police follow proper testing protocols?
Do you have any medical conditions or prescriptions the came into play?
Was the proper testing protocols and chain of command followed for evidence?
Did the police stop you for a valid reason in the first place?
Did the police read you your rights?
Did the police use proper questioning practices?
As you can see, the process is not as straightforward as it seems. Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer is the key to a best-case outcome.
Which Criminal Defense Lawyer Should I Hire?
The sooner you hire an attorney, the better shape your case is in. It’s important to choose the right attorney—one who is well-seasoned in defendants' rights.
When choosing a criminal defense lawyer to represent you in a DUI case, be sure to choose one that is well-experienced in the field with a stellar reputation. Prentiss law has a proven track record of helping DUI clients achieve favorable outcomes in court.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Sacramento or anywhere in Northern California, contact an experienced attorney now to discuss your options and protect yourself before it's too late.