California DUI Penalties
Whether this is your first arrest for DUI or you have a prior record, the penalties involved can be quite drastic. Penalties for repeat offenders and cases involving fatalities will be much worse.
DUI consequences vary according to the circumstances of the arrest, but they most often include:
- Driver's license suspension
- Points on your driver's license
- Jail time
- Significant fines
- Community service
- Installing an ignition interlock device
When Can an Officer Pull You Over for a DUI in California?
One of the fastest ways for the prosecution to lose a case is for them to be stripped of their evidence by it being rendered inadmissible. One of the surefire ways for a Santa Rosa DUI attorney to render evidence as inadmissible in a driving under the influence (DUI) case is to prove that the stop was unlawful. But this is when matters begin to get complicated. When is a stop unlawful? What reasons must a police officer have when pulling you over on suspicion of a DUI?
Probable Cause in DUI Cases
Everyone has the right in this country to go where they please and when they please, assuming they are not violating any trespassing laws in the process. For this reason, the police are not allowed to stop anyone “at random”. Instead, they need to have “probable cause”, or a reasonable belief that stopping you will either deter you from committing a crime or help them prevent one.
In a DUI case, an officer will be looking for a vehicle that is swerving, braking sporadically, or otherwise showing signs that the driver is not entirely in control. If it is a weekend night when the police know most DUI arrests occur in their county, they will have even more probable cause to pull someone over and try to figure out if they are intoxicated behind the wheel. What about sobriety checkpoints and traffic stops where everyone needs to pull over and talk to the police? So long as there was some public notification announcing the checkpoint’s location ahead of time – usually posted on the local police department’s website and in a local newspaper – it is permitted. Other than those situations, if you are not driving erratically, the police cannot pull you over. Right?
Taillights and Cellphones
In Heien v. North Carolina, a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court due to its controversy, a driver was pulled over because his vehicle had one dysfunctional taillight, and he was subsequently arrested for having cocaine in the car. Vehicle equipment failures – such as missing headlights or taillights – are valid reasons for a police officer to pull someone over. The issue was that in North Carolina, it is legal to drive with just one taillight. So was the stop unconstitutional? Not according to the Supreme Court, which held that the officer had valid reason to believe the law stated both taillights must be functional, and therefore had valid reason to conduct the stop and search of the vehicle. When this case result is extrapolated to other scenarios, it can become quite problematic for motorists everywhere.
Imagine that a police officer pulls you over because he thought he saw you using your cellphone while driving. Once stopped, he smells alcohol on your breath and you are arrested for a DUI, despite breaking no laws and exhibiting no reckless driving behaviors. Even if you weren’t holding a cellphone at any point during your drive, the officer could argue that he “could have sworn” he saw it in your hand, and his probable cause to stop you would be considered valid.
Standing Up for Your Rights is More Important Than Ever
If you are pulled over and arrested for a DUI, you must be willing to stand up for your rights and challenge the charges. If it can be found that the police did not have valid reason to stop you, or that they intentionally looked for an otherwise unnoticeable problem to do so, it may be possible to have the evidence suppressed and your case dismissed. Call our Santa Rosa DUI attorneys today at 707.418.5352 to schedule your free case evaluation with the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C.
Refusing a Breath, Blood, or Urine Test in California
In the state of California, drivers who are lawfully arrested for DUI are required to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test to measure their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) under the state’s “implied consent” law. While many people believe that they can avoid being convicted of DUI by refusing to take these tests, test refusal is a crime in and of itself and can expose you to further penalties.
Refusing a chemical test in California can bring the following consequences:
In addition to a license suspension, refusing a chemical test will carry a $125 fine and will usually be used by the prosecution as evidence of guilt. Likewise, it is important to remember that depriving the prosecution of evidence of your BAC is in no way a guarantee that you will not be convicted of DUI.
The state does not need to be able to prove that you were over the legal limit, only that you had enough alcohol in your system to be unfit to drive. Generally speaking, it is recommended to submit to a test and contact an attorney from our firm as soon as possible.
You Do Not Have to Plead Guilty
One of the most common misconceptions about driving under the influence cases is that a driver is as good as guilty if they register a BAC above the legal limit. While a positive breath, blood, or urine test is indeed powerful evidence, there are still many ways that your defense can protect you against the prosecution’s claims. Our team of attorneys can review the circumstances surrounding your arrest and determine the most appropriate legal strategy to pursue.
Common defenses against drunk driving charges include:
- Illegal stop: You may not be convicted of drunk driving if your arresting police officer did not have sufficient probable cause to pull you over in the first place.
- Improper breathalyzer use: Just as speeding tickets can be contested by challenging the officer’s proper use of a radar gun, the same strategy can be used against DUI charges.
- Improper administration of field sobriety tests: Field sobriety tests (FSTs) that are administered improperly can yield inaccurate results. For example, the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test which measures eye reflexes is often contested.
- Mishandling of blood tests: Your defense may be able to question whether your blood test incorrectly administered, stored, or otherwise tampered with in the chain of custody.
Call an Aggressive Santa Rosa DUI Lawyer Today!
We understand that being arrested for DUI can be overwhelming and stressful. You may think that the field sobriety tests and blood/breath tests you took will lead to an automatic conviction, but there are a number of effective ways we can help you challenge the evidence presented against you.
Our Santa Rosa DUI lawyer and legal team work directly with you to fight these charges, which can include scrutinizing the accuracy of blood alcohol content testing devices, questioning whether the arresting officer violated your rights, and more. Our lead Santa Rosa DUI attorney understands the ins and outs of DUI prosecution and how to capably defend DUI charges. Whether you've been charged with your first DUI offense, have multiple DUI charges, or are even facing a felony DUI charge, we'll be right there with you from the arrest to your DMV hearings and all the way to trial.