Should I Get A Lawyer For My First DUI?
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) and other law enforcement agencies in California make thousands of DUI arrests each year.
The arrest data shows that law enforcement is consistently on the lookout for drivers who are potentially driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in California. DUI arrests can be devastating, causing major challenges in your already busy and hectic life. Apart from deadly and tragic consequences, reactionary prosecutors and hardcore judges do not treat DUI offenders lightly.
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Do I Need a Lawyer For a First Time DUI?
If this is the first time you have been arrested for drunk driving, you may wonder if hiring a DUI lawyer is necessary. The short answer is yes. Because of the political nature of DUIs, judges, and prosecutors view all DUI charges as serious crimes.
You do not want to deal with the court case or the DMV on your own. Your best course of action is to hire an experienced DUI Attorney to defend and protect you from the system and get your life back on track.
Is a First Offense DUI a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
Generally speaking, a first-offense DUI in California is less serious than multiple offenses. A first offense is more often than not a misdemeanor under California Vehicle Code 23152.
There are different levels of punishment for first, second, third, and even fourth DUI offenses. However, even on a 1st DUI, the prosecutor can charge you with a felony DUI if your case resulted in a car accident that caused injury or death to someone else. VC 23153, PC 192(c), PC 191.5(a), PC 187-189.
A DUI Lawyer Can Help You With Your First DUI Case
A first-offense DUI usually ends in what is called a plea bargain or settlement agreement where you pay a fine of around $2500, get put on DUI probation for 3-5 years, are ordered to complete a drinking and driving program, and possibly do community service or trash pick up.
If your case involved an accident with no injuries, a high BAC level, a child in your car age 14 or younger, you refused the chemical test, or some other aggravating factors, the prosecutor will argue for increased punishment. In these instances, there is no question that you need an experienced DUI attorney to defend you. There will also be consequences to your driver's license. You also need help getting a restricted license.
1. Know Your Rights
Hire a lawyer to go through your DUI case with a fine-toothed comb to discover possible defenses and mitigating circumstances.
Your DUI attorney can formulate a defense strategy to challenge your DUI.
- Is the arresting officer believable? Can his credibility be impeached?
- Did the officer who gave you the tests follow the correct procedures?
- Was the machine that tested your breath or blood working properly at the time of testing?
- Did the officer have reasonable suspicion to pull you over or probable cause to arrest you?
- Did the person who drew your blood do so in a medically acceptable manner?
- Was the person who drew your blood qualified?
- If you are accused of refusing, did the officer properly admonish you regarding the consequences of the refusal?
These are just some of the areas in which an experienced DUI attorney looks to find defenses and mitigating circumstances in your case.
2. Motion to Suppress Evidence Illegally Obtained
One way the best DUI lawyers win cases is by filing and serving the prosecutor with a motion to suppress evidence under Penal Code Section 1538.5. This is the procedure where the DUI attorney sets a hearing and explains to the judge that evidence should be excluded (or suppressed) because of an illegal stop, detention, search, seizure, and/or arrest.
The evidence your DUI lawyer seeks to exclude includes breath tests or blood samples that were taken to show your blood alcohol level, your performance on the field sobriety tests, and the observations made by the arresting officer, including
- Your eyes were bloodshot
- Your face was flushed
- You were unsteady on your feet
- Your speech was slurred, and
- You smelled like alcohol
The motion to suppress will explain to the court that the police officer violated your reasonable expectation of privacy under the 4th, 5th, and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution.
3. Negotiate With Judge and/Or Prosecutor for Reduced Penalty and Charges
DUI penalties and punishment depend on a variety of factors. The factors vary from county to county and from courtroom to courtroom. As a rule of thumb, the punishment for a first-time DUI is less than the punishment for subsequent DUIs.
However, each case is different. And if not handled correctly by an experienced attorney who knows DUI defense, the effect on your life could be devastating.
In some cases, the case calls for fighting it all the way to a jury trial. Make sure you hire an attorney who knows how to try cases, like former DUI prosecutor Richard Wagner.
Other times, you end up pleading guilty or no contest and getting the best possible result because the evidence is overwhelming and you want to get on with your life and avoid jail time.
An attorney helps you resolve DUI charges expeditiously, makes the whole process way more convenient and less stressful, and makes sure you do not compound your mistake. The last thing you want to do is make your situation even worse than it already is.
4. Get Sound, Professional Legal Advice
We all have friends, and family members, or have met someone who has gotten a DUI. However, just because they all have been arrested for the same thing, each case is very unique. You need answers to the specific questions that apply to your own situation.
You need someone to advise you on whether you are making the correct decision concerning your case. You will be going up against highly trained lawyers from the prosecutor's office and you will not be given any breaks for your lack of legal knowledge or background.
Your attorney evaluates your case. They formulate specific advice for you and give you the best course of action that is tailored for you. They break down the legal jargon and guide you through the court process and the DMV.
Since it is your first time committing a DUI offense, it also may be your first experience with the criminal justice system. It can be intimidating and frightening. Your lawyer will there for you.
Your lawyer will lay out and explain all the different options available and help you decide the best options that suit you.
What Should You Do After Your First DUI Arrest?
The first step after the police arrest you for DUI charges in California is a free consultation with a lawyer who patiently explains the legal process involved with the court and the DMV.
DUI attorneys are ethically prohibited from making any predictions or guaranteeing any results with respect to the outcome of your case. However, DUI Attorney Richard Wagner will explain the DUI court and DMV processes.
He will explain how he can send out subpoenas to get evidence such as body-worn camera footage and other video or audio recordings, police reports, traffic accident reports, and accuracy and maintenance records on the breath machines and machines used to analyze your blood sample.
To increase your chance of success and to prevent you from missing any important deadlines, you should hire an experienced lawyer to defend your DUI as soon as possible.
How Can I Get the Best DUI Lawyer Near Me?
Search for an attorney experienced in DUI when seeking legal representation. An attorney with expertise in DUI is better informed in this specialized field of law.
If you've never worked with an attorney before, the first step would be to do your research. Look for a lawyer in your area with years of experience and excellent reviews who focuses on and specializes in DUI defense.
In your search for the best DUI attorney, you should stay away from law firms with websites where it is difficult to find information on individual attorneys. The names of these firms are often a search term like “Los Angeles or Orange County DUI Attorney Law Firm” but you can't find information about any lawyers who will be handling your case.
This is a red flag. You can't put your trust in an attorney-client relationship if you don't know which attorney will be representing you.
Richard Wagner meets with you for the initial consultation. This is a free, confidential consultation with an attorney. He gives you straightforward and honest information. You will not get a sales pitch.
You can learn about how long your license will be suspended, the effect of a DUI conviction, what happens at the DMV hearing, and whether you will serve time in the county jail.
Richard Wagner also personally handles your DUI case from start to finish, including the DMV license suspension hearing and the court case.
With an experienced and competent DUI lawyer, you will be able to transcend your DUI arrest. Contact Richard Wagner at (714) 721-4423 today to discuss how best to defend your first DUI.Read Richard Wagner's Profile