A drunk driving arrest may be your first serious run-in with the law. Dealing with the arrest, arraignment, and criminal charges is stressful and you may not know what to expect. There are two ways you can approach a criminal case. You can take a plea deal and face the consequences or you can contact an experienced DUI defense attorney to help you through the process. Here is what you need to know to decide whether it is worth it to fight a DUI in the East Bay.
Options After a DUI Arrest in the East Bay
After a drunk driving arrest, the suspect is booked into jail, including taking fingerprints, mugshots, and submitting a chemical breath test. After booking, you may face arraignment, where the judge will read the charges and ask how you respond. What are your options when you respond to criminal charges? You can answer with guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced. If you say not guilty, your case will be put off to a later date. This will give you some time to decide what to do next. However, don't wait until the day before your court hearing to make up your mind. You only have 10 days after the arrest to challenge the license suspension.
If you don't challenge the license suspension by requesting a DMV administrative per se (APS) hearing, your license will be automatically suspended after 30 days. This should be the first deadline you are thinking about after a DUI, so contact an Oakland DUI defense lawyer as soon as you can to make sure they have time to request a hearing so you can keep your license.
Generally, you have 2 options after a California DUI arrest. Do you want to:
- Plead guilty and take a plea deal; or
- Challenge the charges in a trial?
Costs of a DUI Conviction in California
Most people focus on the penalties of a drunk driving conviction, like possible jail time, fines, a suspended license, and having a criminal record. However, a drunk driving conviction carries a lot of collateral expenses and hidden costs. When you are weighing the costs of hiring an attorney or pleading guilty, take all the costs of a DUI into account, including:
- Impound fees
- Higher car insurance for years
- DUI school
- Ignition interlock device (IID)
- DMV license reinstatement fees
- Transportation costs (without a license)
- Time off of work
- Probation fees
In the end, pleading guilty to a drunk driving charge can cost you $5,000 to $10,000. The costs of a DUI may continue to follow you for months or years. It takes 10 years before your DUI conviction will no longer be considered as a priorable offense for multiple DUIs.
Alternatively, the cost of hiring an attorney can give you the chance to avoid those penalties. The cost of a DUI defense lawyer will depend on a lot of factors, including:
- Degree of difficulty in the case
- DUI lawyer's experience and reputation
- Individual courthouse
- Main lawyer or associate
- Whether the case goes to trial
The best way to find out how much a lawyer can save you after a California DUI arrest is to contact the lawyer for a consultation.
Should I Take a Plea Deal?
A plea deal or plea bargain is an agreement with the prosecutor. In exchange for pleading guilty to the drunk driving charges, the prosecutor will recommend lesser penalties. The agreement still needs to be approved by the judge but if it is accepted, you will be immediately sentenced under the terms of the agreement.
There are some benefits of a plea deal. If there is a strong case against you, a plea agreement can mean you will face lighter penalties, including avoiding jail time. However, without a lawyer, you may not know whether you are getting a "good deal" or the standard plea offer as anyone else. An attorney can help by negotiating with the prosecutor to reduce the charges to a wet reckless or plead down a possible felony to a misdemeanor.
It is to the benefit of the prosecutor to have you plead guilty. They get a "win" for their case and they don't have to do the work and put in the time and effort to prosecute the case at trial. In exchange, the defendant can benefit through:
- Reduced charges
- Minimized sentencing
- Avoid the stress of a trial
- Get the case over with
- Predictable outcome
- Saves time and money
Can I Fight the Criminal DUI Charges in Court
Just because you were arrested for a DUI does not mean that you have to be convicted. You have constitutional rights to challenge the charges in court. After a DUI arrest, you have the right to an attorney to help you through the process. Your attorney can investigate your case and find the best legal defenses available to get the charges dropped or win your case at trial.
Some of the possible ways to beat a DUI in California include:
- Challenge the field sobriety test results
- Challenge the chemical testing process or results
- Lack of probable cause
- Unlawful search and seizure
Field sobriety tests or roadside tests can be highly inaccurate. You may know these tests from television shows where drunk people can't follow the tests but there are other reasons a driver could "fail" the tests, even if they are sober. Your DUI defense lawyer can demonstrate the problems with relying on these questionable tests to show their results do not necessarily show signs of impairment.
Chemical tests can also be inaccurate. There can be problems with the way the officer failed to properly observe the test, contamination, improper calibration, or lack of testing equipment maintenance. If the chemical test is not accurate, it should not be used as evidence against you in court. If you have questions about the best defenses available in your case, talk to your Oakland DUI defense attorney.
Many people just assume that the police officer's traffic stop and arrest were legal. However, if there were problems with the police officer's reason for making a traffic stop or the officer arrested the defendant without probable cause, that can influence the entire case. What the police officer observed that they considered signs of impairment could be due to:
- Medical condition
- Cold or flu
- Allergic reaction
An experienced DUI defense lawyer understands how to take the arrest record and police report and challenge the officer in court about the problems with the case. This can also show the jury that the claims of the prosecutor may not be as strong as they appear.
Talk to an East Bay DUI Defense Lawyer About Winning Your Case
Lynn Gorelick has more than 39 years of East Bay DUI defense experience and understands how much is at stake after a drunk driving arrest. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success to keep her clients out of jail. If you are facing DUI charges anywhere in Oakland, Alameda County, or Contra Costa County, contact Lynn Gorelick.