I’ve Been Arrested For a DUI: What Happens Now?
If you’ve been arrested for a DUI, you’re probably wondering what’s going to happen to you now. Going through a DUI is an extremely stressful process that comes with many consequences, but it’s not something you have to deal with alone. Many people are arrested for a DUI every year, and not all of them end up being convicted of the crime. To have the best chance at fighting your DUI, you will want to retain a lawyer as soon as possible. There are very strict timeframes you must comply with and you should retain a DUI law very soon after your arrest.
Criminal Case & DMV Hearing
You should also remember that most DUI cases will result in two separate cases. One of these cases is criminal in nature and will be handled in the California Superior Court located in the jurisdiction where you offense occurred. The other of these cases is administrative in nature and will be handled by the California DMV’s Traffic Safety Office located in the jurisdiction where your offense occurred. While the criminal case carries the possibility of jail time, the DMV case focuses on your driving privileges and is not punishable by jail. Both of these cases are very important and should be approached very early and with diligence.
The DUI Criminal Case
Once you have received a DUI you will have to go to court to begin your defense. Your first court date is called an arraignment. It is the first step in the criminal process of your DUI case and this is when you will enter a plea. The vast majority of individuals charged with a DUI enter a plea of not guilty at the arraignment, pending further preparation of their cases. The police officer involved in your case will not be present in court during your arraignment. After the arraignment, a future court date may be set so that your attorney can begin to do all that is necessary to prepare your case. Preparation of your DUI cases may include some of the following items and perhaps more:
Requesting addition items of evidence from the prosecution;
- Interviewing witnesses;
- Verifying proper functionality of the instrument that were used to measure your blood alcohol concentration;
- Performing pre-trial motions to get your case dismissed(for example, a suppression motion or other motions that challenge the state’s evidence against you) etc…
Pretrial court dates can be reset several times in most courts. During this process, your attorney may attempt to negotiate a favorable settlement of your case with the prosecutor or get your case dismissed entirely. If a plea agreement cannot be reached, you may instruct your attorney to set your case for a jury trial. The officers involved in your arrest will typically not come to court at all unless you set your case for trial. The officers would most certainly be present to testify during the trial. Unlike traffic cases, officers do not have the discretion to not show up for the trial.
Misdemeanor & Felony DUI
If this is your first DUI and no one is injured, your case will be filed as a misdemeanor. Although a first-time DUI charge carries a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail, jail sentences are not often given in the absence of injuries. A second or third DUI occurring within 10 years will result in much more serious penalties including significant jail time up to 1 year. A third DUI within 10 years requires a minimum of 120 days in jail, and prosecutors typically request a much longer jail sentence. If this is your forth DUI within 10 years or someone was seriously injured or even killed as a result of the DUI, it will be automatically charged as a felony. Felony DUIs have much harsher penalties than traditional DUIs, and you should always consult an attorney immediately after the offense. A Felony DUI often involves prison time, and can even include a lifetime prison sentence if someone is killed.
Dealing With the License Suspension
Following your DUI, a suspension of your driving privileges may or may not be imposed, depending on the outcome of your case. The California DMV (and not the criminal court) typically handles suspension of your driving privileges. However, the judge in your criminal case does have the authority to prohibit or restrict your driving. A DUI Los Angeles license suspension is handled by the DMV and it requires an entirely separate hearing called an administrative per se hearing. Most importantly, you only have 10 days from the date of your hearing to contact the DMV and request a hearing. If you are arrested for a DUI in Los Angeles, you will need to contest the DUI during a hearing with the DMV to retain your driving privileges. Failure to do so will result in a suspension of your driving privileges, even if you are not convicted of the DUI in court.