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This Is My First DUI. What Should I Expect?

DUI Law Firm of Jon Woolsey April 18, 2022

A Law Book with A Gavel - DUI LawFacing your first DUI charge can be emotionally overwhelming. In an ideal world, you should know exactly what you’re facing, from the process to the possible penalties. However, you probably don’t know what to expect. You are no doubt going to be stressed by a DUI charge, but you should take concrete steps to understand what comes next.

At the DUI Law Firm of Jon Woolsey, I help my clients anticipate what comes after their first DUI or subsequent ones. I represent individuals charged with drunk driving in Santa Rosa, California and throughout the North Bay Area, including Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Marin counties. Set up a consultation today.

What Happens When Stopped for DUI?

A blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher is the threshold for DUI in California. You can be under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both to be arrested. Moreover, there does not need to be any evidence of impairment if your BAC meets the threshold. Here are some important steps in the process of a DUI stop:

  • If you see the flashing lights of a law enforcement vehicle behind you, pull your vehicle safely off the roadway and wait for the officer to approach rather than reach for anything, including your driver’s license.

  • The officer will ask you several questions such as where you have been and whether you’ve been drinking. You should know that you are only obligated to answer basic questions such as your name, address, and requests for your driver’s license and proof of insurance. Be polite but decline to answer questions about drinking or smoking or ingesting medications. Just tell the officer that your attorney advised you not to talk about those subjects.

  • There may be two types of tests conducted during the stop. Field sobriety tests are performance measurements intended to see if your motor functions are impaired. These include an eye-tracking test, walking a straight line by taking 9 steps up and back while touching heel to toe, and standing on one leg while counting to 30. You may refuse to participate in field sobriety tests. In fact, it may be in your best interest to refuse, because these tests are designed for failure. On the other hand, you must comply with the second type of test which is the chemical test. Refusal of a breath, blood, or urine test very often results in a one-to-two-year suspension of your driving privilege.

What Is the Process If I’m Arrested for DUI?

The law enforcement officer will confiscate your driver’s license and issue an Order of Suspension (Form DS367) on grounds of driving under the influence. The officer will also issue a temporary driver’s license which allows you to continue driving for 30 days.

The Order of Suspension advises you that you have ten days to request a hearing. Ten days pass quickly, which is why you should call a DUI attorney right away. If you don’t make a timely request, you will lose your driving privileges 30 days after your arrest. If contacted within 10-days, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will issue a temporary license granting you full driving privileges until your case is decided at court or at the DMV hearing.

There are two processes involved in a DUI arrest. One is the criminal prosecution. The other is the DMV’s administrative process. The DMV’s review of your license to drive is separate from the court's verdict and orders in the criminal procedure. A good DUI lawyer will know how to balance these two processes.

The DMV’s Administrative Process

If you request an administrative hearing, the DMV seeks to determine if you were legally arrested (and legally detained), and if you were driving while over 0.08% alcohol in your blood within 3-hours of driving. If you refused the chemical test, the DMV would determine if you were properly admonished of California's Implied Consent law. Only lawyers who specialize in DUI legal practice know how to guide you through this process and control the DMV hearing.

Criminal Procedure

Your lawyer will also address the criminal charges with the prosecuting district attorney. Your attorney will put forward certain defenses and negotiate with the DA in an effort to have the criminal charges reduced or even dismissed. The most common defenses include challenging the reason for the stop, submitting evidence that your BAC test results were inaccurate and didn't reflect what they really were when you actually were driving, asserting that the BAC test was administered incorrectly, and more. Even if the criminal charge is dismissed, you may still face the DMV’s administrative process.

Your criminal defense lawyer will also help you take steps to obtain a restricted or hardship license if your license is suspended. That will enable you to get to and from your job, school, court and DMV hearings, medical appointments, and other limited driving privileges. In many instances, the license can be reissued with full driving allowance to go anywhere at any time as long as an IID, ignition interlock is installed in your vehicle.

What Are the Possible Penalties for a First DUI?

DUI penalties for a first offense include a fine that varies by the county in which you are convicted. This can be as low as $1,600 and as high as $ 2,600. In Sonoma County, the fine is $2,427. You may also be ordered to participate in education programs, do community work, or even serve actual jail time in some instances.

The DMV may suspend your license for 4, 6, or 12 months. A criminal conviction will also result in a six-month suspension. Those may run concurrently or consecutively. If you apply for a restricted license, you may be ordered to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle and you will incur all the costs associated with it. Let your DUI attorney guide you with satisfying these orders. Attorneys who only practice DUI law will know the best suppliers of services and will be available to you if you have complications with outside services.

Jail time could be ordered in the range of 48 hours to six months. You could be placed on probation for three to five years. You may also be required to complete a DUI education program.

How an Experienced DUI Attorney Can Help

A first-time DUI is no longer treated with a slap on the wrist. You need an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has built strong relationships with the DMV and prosecuting attorneys in Santa Rosa, California and throughout the North Bay Area.

The DUI Law Firm of Jon Woolsey’s sole focus is helping clients with their DUIs. The more knowledge you have about the DUI process, the better. Reach out to my office today.