Affordable and Reliable DUI Defense Attorneys in Los Angeles
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) investigations start in many ways. A driver may be stopped for a traffic infraction unrelated to DUI, such as speeding, and a DUI investigation follows. As DUI defense attorneys in Los Angeles, we help any and all drivers fight their DUI cases. We understand California drivers sometimes are pulled over for suspicion of DUI because of driving patterns such as weaving, driving too slowly, or rapid braking or acceleration. Some of the most common reasons police stop drivers, such as speeding, are not recognized as drunk driving patterns by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Sometimes DUI investigations begin even though police had no valid legal reason to stop the driver.
To trigger a driving under the influence (DUI) investigation one of three things must happen: there must be an observed violation of the law, a driving pattern so suggestive of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs so as to provide a reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place, or a lawful roadblock. If none of these conditions are present, any evidence gathered during the traffic stop likely will be suppressed.
Driving Under the Influence prosecutions are typically driven by four different types of evidence: driving patterns, physical signs and symptoms, field sobriety test performance and chemical test results. The prosecutor's case is in trouble if there is an investigative failing in any of these four categories.
Why Fight Your Case?
There are many reasons to fight your DUI case. Most of them are technical. Maybe the officer didn't have a good reason for stopping you. That can make the evidence collected, inadmissible. Perhaps the breath machine was miscalibrated or the person administering the test wasn't qualified, and your .09 is really a .07. Medically speaking, if the blood sample is fermented or clotted, it produces a falsely high reading.
When the BAC may be arguably supported, and reads .08 or higher at the police station, what does that prove about the level at the time of driving? It is not illegal to be at or above a .08 at the police station. They have to prove the level was above the legal limit at the time of driving. It is often the case that someone with a BAC above the legal limit at the time of testing was below the legal limit at the time of driving. This is due to inherent delay in the absorption, distribution, and elimination of alcohol in the human body. These issues can only be explored if you fight your case.
Why fight your case? There's your driver's license, professional license, car, job, family... If you are facing DUI arrest, DUI charges or a felony DUI, call (213-626-3100) or e-mail Mr. Richland directly at email@example.com.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony
The crime of Driving Under the Influence of alcohol and/or drugs (DUI) can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Driving Under the Influence is usually a misdemeanor. If there are aggravating circumstances, a DUI charge can become a felony. Aggravating circumstances can result from accidents and/or injuries, if minor children were present, a breath or blood sample refusal, extremely high alcohol levels, speeding or evading, if you are on probation, if it is your 4th DUI arrest, or if you had a prior felony DUI in the last 10 years. If proven true, aggravating circumstances will increase the punishment such as jail time, increased fines and/or loss of driving privileges. The law allows The Law Offices of Bruce Richland, PC to appear for our clients charged with misdemeanor DUI; you will not have to appear in court. This bonus is not available in a felony DUI.
The difference between misdemeanor and felony DUI rests primarily with the punishment that can be imposed upon conviction. Misdemeanors allow for a maximum of one year in county, or local, jail. Felonies expose a person to state prison. Most first-time DUI cases result in zero jail. If there are aggravating circumstances (see above), even if you are not charged with a felony, the prosecutor and/or the judge may want to send you to jail. If this is your 2nd DUI within 10 years, the law allows the prosecutor to insist upon at least 96 hours in jail. If this is your 3rd DUI within 10 years, the law allows the prosecutor ask for a minimum of 120 days in jail. A fourth DUI within 10 years can become a felony with a potential state prison sentence.
No Jail Time
There are alternatives to having to go to jail. California is famous for its sentencing alternatives, for example:
- Electronic Monitoring (House arrest): An ankle bracelet, with or without a sensor that detects alcohol, to monitor a person’s whereabouts. Electronic monitoring programs offer flexibility by sometimes allowing a person to leave the home for reasons including, work, alcohol education programs, shopping, religious services, etc.
- Community Service: Community service is generally not physical labor, and is available, especially for people with physical limitations (and as an alternative to fines).
- Cal Trans/Graffiti Removal: Physically demanding work, such as picking up trash on the freeway, or, removing graffiti. Some jurisdictions allow beach clean-up or neighborhood beautification.
- Work Furlough: Work at your job during the day, and return to housing at night. Keep your job.
- Sober Living Programs/Drug Rehabilitation: Alternative to jail for those dealing with alcohol or drug addiction. Time spent in program can count as time spent in jail.
Court fines can add up to more than $1,500, for your first DUI. A court ordered alcohol program will cost at least $500. The driver’s license reissuance fee is $125. Insurance companies use this as an excuse to increase their rates. There can be restitution payments ordered where property damage and/or physical injury has occurred. Many jurisdictions charge for policeman, fireman and paramedics who respond to the scene of a DUI and provide services. You need to challenge the charges to avoid this financial hardship.
Ages Under 21
Those under 21 have additional issues upon an arrest and conviction of DUI, and the consequences can be very tough. California has a zero tolerance for those under 21 years of age who drink and drive. Drivers under the age of 21 can suffer the same DUI charges as those over 21. An underage drinker who then drives faces an automatic license suspension. The DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) will want to take away your license for 1 year. However, there are exceptions to this suspension based upon establishing a critical need to drive for school and/or work. These exceptions are very limited, but you need to present this to the judge in order to avoid losing your license.
Your Driving Record
The DMV looks back 10 years to determine if you have any prior driving under the influence, or related, charges. If so, there are increased, or enhanced, penalties. If you received a DUI in another state it can be used against you, as well. A DUI will put two points on your driving record. A Hit & Run DUI will add 5 points. If you receive 4 points in one year, 6 points in two years or 8 points in three years, the DMV will seek to suspend your license for at least 6 months. You need to fight to save your license.
Save Your License
After being arrested for DUI, in addition to the criminal charges you are facing, an administrative hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles must be scheduled or the DMV will automatically suspend your license to drive 30 days later. This hearing must be requested within 10 days of that arrest. This will put stay, or hold, on any action against your driving privilege and you can drive, legally past the 30-day cut-off (assuming there are no other licensing issues outstanding). The hearing will allow you to fight the DMV and fight to save your license.
If you do nothing, the DMV will automatically suspend (i.e., take away) your license for 4 months on a 1st DUI. At the very least, The Law Offices of Bruce Richland, PC will arrange for a restricted license that will allow you to drive for work. If you prevail over the DMV, you can avoid any action against your license. On a 2nd DUI, the DMV will try to suspend your license for 1 year. On a 3rd DUI, the DMV wants to revoke your license. If you’re a charged with refusing or failing to complete a breath or blood test, the DMV wants to take away your license for a minimum of 1 year. If you don't fight them, you can't win.
If you do not reside in California you must take an approved course in California if you ever want to drive legally while there. The court can be satisfied with a program from another state but the DMV will insist you take the California version in order to drive while in California. You must fight the DMV to save your license. If you don’t try, it won’t happen.
If you reside outside of California, but are charged with misdemeanor DUI while in the Golden State, you do not have to appear in court. The court does not look down upon you because you are not there, and they don’t praise you for being able to hire your own attorney. Be aware, however, that The Interstate Driver's License Compact allows the sharing of information between various states. If there isn't a timely request for a hearing entered with the California DMV, the California DMV action will be reported to your home state and your license will be suspended there, even if you never intend to return to California. The law allows The Law Offices of Bruce Richland, PC to contact the court and DMV and appear for our clients charged with misdemeanor DUI.
Under the Influence of Drugs
Cases involving driving under the influence of drugs are prosecuted like DUI cases involving alcohol. The issue is whether the drug causes enough mental or physical impairment at the time of driving. It does not matter whether the drug is legal and/or lawfully prescribed. It is possible to be convicted of driving under the influence of any substance that causes a person to be unable to safely operate a motor vehicle. Unlike alcohol cases, there is no “automatic” limit involving drugs. The prosecutor will try to introduce evidence related to driving, objective symptoms, field sobriety tests and chemical test results, if not refused.
The state of California has decriminalized marijuana to some degree. Typically, decriminalization means no prison time or criminal record for first-time possession of a small amount for personal consumption. The conduct is treated like a minor traffic violation.
Miscellaneous (Paraphernalia, DMV & license suspensions)
Any conviction of a minor under 21 causes driver's license suspension for 1 year. Possession of 28.5 grams or less of marijuana is not an arrestable offense. As long as the offender can provide sufficient identification and promises to appear in court, the officer will not arrest the offender. Upon conviction of the misdemeanor charge, the offender is subject to a fine of $100. Possession of greater than 28.5 grams is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Possession of Marijuana or Open Container While Driving
If you possess Marijuana in a vehicle then consequences are different. Under Vehicle Code Section 23222, any person who is in possession of marijuana while driving a motor vehicle upon a highway is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Investigations by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
The department may conduct an investigation to determine whether the privilege of any person to operate a motor vehicle should be suspended or revoked or whether terms or conditions of probation should be imposed upon receiving information or upon a showing by its records that the person was convicted under VC 23222.
Under Health & Safety Code 11364: It is unlawful to be in possession of an opium pipe or any device, contrivance, instrument, or paraphernalia used for unlawfully injecting or smoking a controlled substance.
Under Health & Safety Code 11364.5: It is unlawful to maintain or operate any place of business in which drug paraphernalia is kept, displayed or offered in any manner, sold, furnished, transferred or given away unless such drug paraphernalia is completely and wholly kept, displayed or offered within a separate room or enclosure to which persons under the age of 18 years not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian are excluded.
California's Local Guidelines
These limits are not legally binding, other than for purposes of immunity from arrest and prosecution; they are floor amounts intended to provide a safe harbor of immunity for any patient with a bona fide recommendation to be presumed in compliance with California Health and Safety Code Section 11362.5 (Prop 215), as long as there is no indicia of sales or commercial production. The affirmative defense remains for patients in possession of larger amounts. Collectives and patients charged with intent to sell should take note of special provisions in Health and Safety Code Section 11362.7. Larger amounts may be authorized by local cities or counties.
SB 420 Statewide Default Patient Guidelines: To be as safe as possible from arrest and prosecution, patients and caregivers should stay below the medical marijuana immunity law passed by the California legislature, Section 11362.77, which sets a minimum statewide guideline of 6 mature plants OR 12 immature plants AND up to 8 ounces of processed cannabis flowers. Physician's note exempts larger amounts. Cities and counties empowered to set guidelines that are greater than those amounts, but not less. This is explained in an open letter from the authors of the bill.
Federal Ruling on Medical Marijuana
The California Attorney General has issued his own set of guidelines. These are not binding law, but they do give an idea of how prosecutors will consider the circumstances of a medical marijuana. Federal law does not recognize medical marijuana and the Gonzales v. Raich court decision affirmed their power to prosecute cases that are legal under state law for the following:
Possession – A qualified patient, or a person holding a valid identification card, or the designated primary caregiver of that qualified patient or person, may possess amounts of marijuana of up to three (3) pounds of dried cannabis or conversion per year.
Cultivation – A qualified patient or a person holding a valid identification card or a designated primary caregiver, or primary caregivers or qualified patients whom associate collectively or cooperatively, may also cultivate cannabis in an amount not to exceed more than one-hundred (100) square feet total garden canopy, per qualified patient, as measured by the combined vegetative growth area.
Plants – A qualified patient or a person holding a valid identification card or a designated primary caregiver, or primary caregivers or qualified patients whom associate collectively or cooperatively, may cultivate cannabis in an amount not to exceed more than thirty (30) plants per qualified patient. The authorized thirty (30) plants must be grown within the one-hundred (100) square foot total garden canopy per qualified patient.