The Typical San Diego DUI Process
Part 1: Detention, Arrest, and the Chemical Tests
In most cases that DUI begins with an encounter with law enforcement. Typically, this encounter is the result of a traffic stop.
- A police officer observes a driver violating a traffic law, such as, speeding improper lane change, or failure to use a turn signal.
- There are other ways, however, that a DUI investigation can be initiated. The officer may stop the vehicle due to a defect or mechanical problem. This can include a broken taillight, expired registration, or missing license plate.
- DUI investigations may also begin if you’re involved in an accident and police respond to the scene.
These are the most common examples of circumstances that can lead to a DY investigation. Upon making contact with the driver, the officer may report the objective signs of intoxication and a distinct odor of alcohol emanating from your breath. At this point the officer will instruct you to exit the vehicle so that he can investigate further. This investigation is carried out through a series of field sobriety tests (FS T’s) and the administration of a preliminary alcohol screening test (PAS).
Additionally, the officer will ask a series of questions designed to establish whether or not you are intoxicated. The same question may often be repeated a few times in order to determine if there are any inconsistencies in your explanations. More importantly though, the officer is also investigating for any physical symptoms of intoxication, including, slurred speech, glassy or bloodshot eyes, and to smell the strength of alcohol odor from your breath.
What Are Field sobriety tests?
The field sobriety tests are designed to allow police officers to make a determination as to whether or not the person may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These tests examine a person’s balance, coordination, and memory. Typically, the first test administered is known as the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, or commonly known as the “pen follow” test. This test is very crucial for the officer. While the officer is observing your ability to follow his pen, he is also observing your pupils. If you’ve consumed alcohol, and are above the legal limit, your pupils will begin reacting in a way that will indicate intoxication.
Other field sobriety tests are less scientific in nature and are designed to test your balance and coordination in order to determine your level of intoxication. These include the classic “walk and turn,” standing on one foot and counting aloud, and finger dexterity tests. With each test performance, the officer will be taking diligent notes and writing down even the tiniest of errors. These errors will be later added to his report in order to support his suspicions that you drove under the influence.
Finally, the roadside investigation will conclude with the officer requesting that you submit to a preliminary alcohol screening test via a portable breathalyzer. The results of this test will help support the officer’s decision of whether or not to arrest you for DUI.
What Happens During a DUI Arrest?
The officer’s next step in the DUI investigation is a crucial one; he must make a decision whether or not to arrest you for DUI. This decision will be based upon all of the evidence the officer has collected through his observations of physical motor skills, your driving pattern (or whether you were involved in an accident), and the results of the PAS test. If the officer believes that he has probable cause that you were driving under the influence of alcohol, he place you under arrest for a violation of Vehicle Code section 23152(a) and 23152(b).
You will be transported to the police station where you will then be given a choice of chemical test to submit to in order to determine your actual blood alcohol level. The officer will give you the option of giving a breath or blood sample. If you refuse to elect either test, you will be informed that your license will be suspended for at least one (1) year as a result. If you elect a breath test, your blood alcohol results will be immediately available, whereas a blood test will be administered by a trained nurse or phlebotomist and the sample will be booked into evidence and sent to the crime lab for testing.
At that time, typically, you will be booked into jail for violation of DUI and will be eligible to post bail in order to be released early. Depending on the circumstances of your case and whether you have a prior criminal history, the officer may book you and immediately release you after the completion of the chemical test. Your driver’s license will be confiscated by the arresting officer and you will be provided with a temporary license on pink carbon paper. You will be informed of the consequences you face with the DMV and that your driving privilege will be suspended within 30 days of the arrest unless you request a hearing with the DMV.
If you bailed out of jail, your bail bondsman will set a new court date for your arraignment and provide you with a receipt indicating that date, time, and the Superior Court your case will be heard in. It is very important that you keep—and make copies—of both your pink DMV form and your bail paperwork with your court date.
Do I Need to Hire a DUI Attorney?
This is quite possibly the most difficult stage in the entire DUI process. For many people accused of DUI, this is not only their first DUI offense, this is their first offense ever. The process can be very confusing and intimidating.
The first question almost every person asks is, “do I even need to hire an attorney?” It’s an important question that requires a lot of thought, additional questions, and careful consideration. It for this reason why the Law Office of Brandon S. Naidu takes the extra time to speak with you face-to-face about all of the aspects of your case, provide you with options, and work to develop a strong defense strategy that is unique to you and your circumstances.
When you are accused of DUI, you have only three options regarding your legal representation:
- You may represent yourself without an attorney;
- You may accept representation from the public defender’s office (if you are financially eligible to do so);
- Or, you can hire a DUI defense attorney.
Self-representation is strongly advised against due to the complexities of a DUI criminal case. The process is overwhelming and without experience and training in the criminal justice system, you will be extremely vulnerable to tactics and strategies used by the prosecution.
The public defender is also an option for representation of the case, especially for people with very low-income. The attorneys with the public defender’s office are experienced with the DUI process, however, due to severe budget constraints, they are severely understaffed and overworked. This has unfortunately led to them having very limited time and resources to dedicate the appropriate amount of work to your DUI defense.
The most important thing to keep in mind when selecting a private DUI attorney is that every case is unique. There are numerous factors that must be taken into consideration when preparing to defend a DUI case. Unfortunately, a lot of attorneys lack the necessary training and experience in DUI defense and view each case as simply that: another case.
The Law Office of Brandon S. Naidu takes the time and care to understand your needs, personal and professional circumstances that may be affected by the outcome of the case, and work with you throughout all phases of the process in order to ensure the best possible results.
What Happens to My Driver’s License After a DUI Arrest?
When a person is arrested for DUI, there are two cases opened against them: one with the criminal courts and another with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Upon arrest, the DMV will be notified of the pending charges against you and they will automatically suspend your licenses 30 days after the incident. That is, unless, you request an “administrative per se” (APS) hearing within 10 days of your arrest in order to stop the automatic suspension and force the DMV to present affirmative evidence that does or does not support a suspension of your driving privileges.
The APS hearing is limited to only three issues:
- Were you driving a motor vehicle?
- Were you driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration at 0.08 percent or greater? AND
- Did the arresting officer have sufficient probable cause to lawfully arrest you for driving under the influence?
A common misconception about the APS hearing is that you have to testify. This is false. In fact, your due process rights and right to an attorney are preserved even in a DMV hearing. A qualified DUI defense attorney may present all legal arguments on your behalf, challenge the DMV on the sufficiency of their evidence against you, present affirmative evidence in support of your case, and even cross-examine the arresting officer on their police-work and the validity of the arrest.
If you choose to represent yourself at the APS hearing, it is important to understand that you do so at your own risk. The hearing is audio-recorded and an official record is created. Any testimony that you provide to the DMV is admissible in court and may be used in evidence against you in your criminal proceedings. This is why it is very important that a qualified, experienced DUI defense attorney represents you at this critical stage, in order to further protect your driving privileges and your legal defenses in your criminal case.
What is the Court Process For a DUI?
Upon your arrest and/or release from jail, you will be given a first court date, known as an arraignment. An arraignment is the State of California’s opportunity to formally charge you with the alleged offense of driving under the influence. It is also your first opportunity to plead to charges alleged against you: Guilty, Not Guilty, or No Contest. A plea of guilty or no contest are effectively the same thing and carry the same punishments respectively. It also means that the State will convict you immediately, without having presented any evidence or having an opportunity to negotiate with the prosecution.
A plea of not guilty tells the court that you do not accept the charges against you and that you want to exercise your right for the State to meet its burden of proof in proving you guilty. Why is this important? A plea of not guilty allows you and your DUI defense attorney the necessary time to gather and review all of the evidence, police reports, supplemental reports, toxicology, and any audio/video evidence relevant to the defense of your case.
Following the arraignment, a future court date will be scheduled; typically, 30-45 days out depending on the court’s availability. This court date is commonly known as a “readiness conference” and is your defense attorney’s first opportunity to present the merits of your defense and initiate negotiations with the prosecutor.
How Can a DUI Lawyer Defend My Case?
The number one defense to a DUI case is that you were not, in fact, under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs while operating a motor vehicle. This is an important first step in developing your defense strategy, which includes careful review of the police reports, breath test results, and/or toxicology reports. It is important that a qualified, experience DUI defense attorney investigates whether or not any faulty testing equipment was used resulting in inaccurate test results and possibly the use of illegal police investigation tactics.
The Law Office of Brandon S. Naidu has the knowledge and experience to take on your San Diego DUI case. Call today for your FREE consultation. (619) 363-4811.