Last night you were celebrating the new year with friends. You didn’t think you’d had too much to drink, but on the way home, you were arrested for driving under the influence.
Ten Days to Request Hearing or Automatically Lose License
The first thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have a second to waste. To have any hope of hanging onto your driver’s license, you’re going to need to contact a DUI* attorney immediately. Don’t wait until after the holiday. Don’t wait until Monday. Contact me, or some other DUI attorney, now!
A DUI arrest in California triggers actions that run along two “tracks.” The first track is Administrative, involving the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The second track is Criminal, involving the Superior Court of the State of California for the County in which the arrest occurred.
It is the responsibility of the arrested person — or where that person was smart enough to hire an attorney, of the attorney — to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles and request a hearing within 10 days of the arrest. This hearing is called an “Administrative Per Se,” or “APS,” hearing. The purpose is to determine whether you were driving drunk, whether you were lawfully arrested and whether you were driving with blood alcohol greater than 0.08%.
If You Wait for a Public Defender, You Will Probably Lose Your License
If you go with a Public Defender, at least in Fresno and surrounding counties, the Public Defender will not assist you with the DMV hearing. Even if they would, the Public Defender almost certainly won’t be appointed in your case until after the time for requesting the DMV hearing has past and your license has been suspended.
(Let me be clear about something: I do not “bash” Public Defenders. Public Defenders can be some of the best attorneys around. Public Defenders usually have more courtroom experience on a variety of issues than private attorneys. However, your first appearance on a court case for a DUI — which is where you would be appointed a Public Defender if you cannot afford a private attorney — usually does not happen until long after the 10-days have passed to request the DMV APS hearing.)
Not All Attorneys Understand DUI Cases
Many attorneys will willingly take your DUI case. Not all are qualified. DUI cases are not “glorified traffic tickets.” They are very serious criminal charges which can result in significant fines and even jail or prison time. Surviving a DUI case depends upon very complex laws and scientific evidence which can be more difficult than it appears to be on the surface.
In addition, whereas with regular criminal cases, you go in, ostensibly, with the assumption that you are innocent until proven guilty, with a typical DUI case the assumption is that you are guilty unless you can convince the court or jury that you are innocent. The reason for this is that if you had a blood-alcohol test showing greater than 0.08% blood-alcohol concentration (BAC), you will be presumed to be guilty of violating Vehicle Code section 23152(b) under California law.
The Cost of Hiring a DUI Attorney
Charges in the Fresno County and surrounding areas range anywhere from $500 to $5,000 for a private attorney in a DUI case. (This fee typically does not include the cost of a trial.) This is a good time to remember the old saying, “You get what you pay for.”
I’m not saying that you have to pay a fortune for a good DUI attorney. However, as I’ve already noted, DUI cases can be very complex. Such cases may involve conferring with laboratory technicians, understanding the interaction of complex laws from the Penal, Vehicle, Evidence and Government codes, and they require a scientific mind and background. They may require numerous written motions both before the DMV and before a court of law.
If all you want is an attorney to help you “walk through the process,” accept a conviction and pay a fine, you can find “DUI attorneys” with very low prices. But if money is an issue, why not go with hire an attorney just to handle the DMV hearing and go with a Public Defender for your court case?
If you want an attorney who will dig in and fight for your rights and your license, then ask around, search for and read attorney blogs to get a feel for their approach and how they handle cases, and realize that while all people may be “created equal,” not all attorneys are. Some really good defenders may have lower prices than others. But DUI cases are complicated and require attention to detail. One size does not fit all. And how much is keeping your license worth?
Regardless of what you decide to do, if you want to keep your license contact me, or another attorney, NOW!
The acronym “DUI” stands for “driving under the influence.” This is more accurate than saying “drunk driving,” because many people arrested on a DUI are actually not drunk. They either have had less alcohol than necessary to make them drunk, or they are under the influence of a drug and not alcohol. This article uses the acronym to cover all types: driving under the influence of alcohol, “drunk driving,” and driving under the influence of drugs.