Criminal Defense

DUI FAQ | Frequently Asked Questions About Drunk Driving

March 04, 2024 by Seppi Esfandi in Criminal Defense  DUI  
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Frequently Asked Questions About Drunk Driving

As one of the leading DUI attorneys in Los Angeles, we frequently encounter clients who have numerous questions regarding drunk driving. In this comprehensive guide, we aim to address the most commonly asked questions and provide valuable information to help individuals better understand DUI laws, consequences, and the legal process.

What is a DUI?

A DUI, or driving under the influence, refers to the act of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. It is a generic term used to describe court proceedings or arrests related to drinking and driving. Being charged with a DUI can have serious legal and personal consequences.

What is “blood alcohol level”?

Blood alcohol level, also known as BAC level, is a measurement used to determine the level of impairment caused by alcohol or drugs. It is used to determine whether a driver should be arrested and charged with a DUI. In California and most other states, the legal limit for BAC is 0.08%. If a driver’s BAC is 0.08% or higher, it is considered illegal and can result in DUI charges. BAC can be measured through a breathalyzer test or by analyzing a blood sample.

It is important to note that BAC is relative to each individual and takes into consideration factors such as weight, body mass index, metabolism, liver function, and other variables. Therefore, the actual BAC number is a percentage of the person’s total blood content.

What BAC warrants a DUI?

The national standard for impaired driving is a BAC of 0.08% or higher. Any test result at or above 0.08% will lead to a DUI charge. However, it is worth mentioning that prosecutors can still charge a DUI even if the BAC level is below 0.08%. If there is evidence of impairment, such as erratic driving or poor performance on field sobriety tests, the district attorney can pursue a DUI conviction. Additionally, using alcohol and drugs simultaneously, even with a BAC below the legal limit, can still result in a DUI charge.

What should I do as soon as I get a DUI?

It is crucial to take immediate action after being charged with a DUI. One of the first steps you should take is to find the right DUI lawyer who can represent you and guide you through the legal process. A skilled attorney can help you request a DMV hearing promptly. This is essential to prevent the automatic suspension of your driver’s license and to challenge the case effectively.

Your attorney will ensure that all necessary defenses are presented and will work to protect your rights. They will handle every aspect of the case, explain the entire process to you, and provide the support you need during this challenging time.

Do I have to answer DUI checkpoint questions?

At a DUI checkpoint, drivers are not legally obligated to answer questions beyond providing their name, driver’s license, proof of insurance, and registration when requested by a police officer. You are not required to disclose whether or not you have been drinking prior to the checkpoint. It is important to note that you should always remain polite and cooperative with law enforcement officers.

Do I have to take the breathalyzer test?

In general, when suspected of DUI, you will be given a choice between a breath test or a blood test. If you choose the breath test but are unable to provide a sufficient breath sample or if the breathalyzer machine is not working properly, you will be required to take a blood test. It is important to note that you have the right to decline all tests except for the blood test. However, if the blood test is unavailable, you may be required to undergo alternative testing methods such as a breath or urine test.

Do I have a choice between breath or blood alcohol tests?

In most cases, drivers have the option to choose between a blood or breath alcohol test. However, if officers suspect the involvement of drugs, they may require a blood test. It is crucial to comply with the testing methods requested by law enforcement. Refusing to consent to a blood draw can have severe consequences.

What is “mouth alcohol”?

Mouth alcohol refers to any alcohol present in the mouth that may be expelled during a breath test. It can result from various factors such as drinking alcohol, acid reflux, or certain dental procedures. It is important to note that mouth alcohol is not an accurate indicator of impairment since it is not directly measured in the blood. To prevent mouth alcohol from affecting the breath test results, police officers are required to observe a suspected DUI driver for 15 minutes before administering the test.

What can I expect in the first 24 hours after a DUI?

If you have been arrested for a DUI, you can expect to be held in jail during the booking process for a period ranging from 2 to 24 hours, with the average being around 12 hours. Upon release, you will receive important paperwork that outlines the date of your upcoming court case and any urgent requirements from the DMV. The first 24 hours after a DUI arrest can be overwhelming and confusing. It is crucial to seek the assistance of an experienced DUI attorney who can guide you through the process and ensure that your rights are protected.

Is a DUI a felony?

In most cases, DUIs are classified as misdemeanors rather than felonies. The maximum jail time for a misdemeanor DUI is one year. However, certain circumstances can elevate a DUI charge to a felony. These circumstances include causing injuries to others in an accident, receiving a fourth DUI within 10 years, or being charged with a DUI causing death. Felony DUIs carry more severe penalties and can have long-term consequences, including limitations on job prospects, housing applications, credit, and other aspects of life.

Does a DUI ruin your life?

While a DUI can have significant consequences, it typically does not ruin your life. In most cases, DUIs are misdemeanors that can be negotiated to minimize or eliminate punishment. Additionally, a DUI record can be expunged or cleared after a period of law-abiding conduct. However, it is important to note that felony DUI charges can have more severe and long-lasting impacts on various aspects of life, such as employment opportunities, housing applications, and other areas where a felony conviction can be a hindrance.

What is the most common time to get a DUI?

DUI incidents commonly occur between 8 pm and 2 am. This time frame coincides with the closing hours of bars and establishments serving alcohol, leading to individuals who may have driven to these locations deciding to drive home.

What does a DUI prevent you from doing?

Having a DUI on your record can have consequences that extend beyond the legal system. It can result in a permanent blemish on your background check, which can impact various aspects of life, such as traveling (e.g., Canada may not allow entry with a DUI record), renting cars, qualifying for financing, obtaining a mortgage, and job opportunities.

Does a DUI always stay on your record?

No, not all DUIs remain on your record permanently. Some DUIs can be dismissed, resulting in no record. For DUIs that lead to criminal convictions, it is possible to have them erased or expunged through the expungement process. However, it is important to note that expungement does not clear your DMV record, which logs DUIs for ten years. Additionally, if you receive another DUI in the future, the court and DMV will consider the expunged DUI as a prior offense, resulting in increased penalties and punishment.

Does a DUI give you points?

Yes, a DUI typically results in the accumulation of points on your driving record. In most cases, a DUI carries two points with the DMV, which can lead to increased insurance costs and additional suspension time. If the DUI involves an accident, the points can increase to three. These points can have long-term effects on your driving privileges and insurance rates.

What are the penalties for a DUI?

DUI penalties can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the negotiations during the court process. Severe penalties can include jail or prison time, fines, DUI education programs, community service, probation, attending AA meetings or MADD meetings, impoundment of the vehicle, and license suspension. The actual penalties depend on factors such as the severity of the offense, prior convictions, and other aggravating factors.

What will a DUI cost me?

The cost of a DUI can vary widely depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the legal representation you choose. Costs can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Factors that can affect the cost include attorney fees, court fees, fines, DUI classes, ignition interlock device installation, and potential increases in insurance premiums. It is important to find an attorney who offers flexible payment plans to accommodate different financial situations.

What if I’m under 21 and pulled over for a DUI?

If you are under 21 and pulled over for a DUI, there are specific consequences to be aware of. There are two types of underage DUIs. The first type occurs when the driver’s BAC level is below 0.05%. In this case, the prosecutor may file the case as an infraction rather than a misdemeanor. However, the DMV will automatically suspend your license for one full year without the ability to drive to work or school. The suspension will restart after the conclusion of the court case.

The second type of underage DUI occurs when the driver’s BAC level is 0.08% or above. This is treated as a misdemeanor offense and carries significant punishment, including a one-year driver’s license suspension. It is crucial to seek legal representation to navigate the legal process and minimize the consequences of an underage DUI.

Will I have a criminal record?

Being charged with a DUI means that the state has accused you of driving under the influence, which can result in either a misdemeanor or felony charge on your record. Both misdemeanors and felonies are considered crimes. Most DUIs are classified as misdemeanors, but they still carry potential jail time. Felony DUIs are more serious and can result in state prison time. It is important to note that a DUI conviction can have long-term implications on employment, housing, and other areas of life.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Your 1st DUI

What usually happens on your first DUI?

The penalties for a first-time DUI offense can vary depending on the circumstances of the case. On the lighter end, cases can be dismissed or reduced to a non-DUI charge. However, the maximum jail time for a first DUI is six months. In most cases without an accident or high BAC level, jail time is not a significant concern. A first DUI typically requires completion of an alcohol education course and other costly punishments.

Can I lose my license from a first-time DUI?

Yes, it is possible to lose your license from a first-time DUI. The DMV typically suspends driver’s licenses for individuals charged with a DUI with a BAC level of 0.08% or higher. The initial suspension period is usually four months, but drivers are often eligible for a restricted license after 30 days of suspension. However, there is a separate suspension that occurs after the court case if the driver is convicted of a DUI. This suspension can range from 6 to 10 months depending on the BAC level.

Will I go to jail?

In most first-time DUI cases, jail time is not required and can often be negotiated away. However, there are certain circumstances that may lead to jail time, such as car accidents, high BAC levels, driving on a suspended license, or a refusal to comply with testing. Skilled defense attorneys can often find flaws in the case and eliminate jail time. In some cases where jail time is required by the court, alternatives such as community labor or Caltrans can be substituted.

What other punishment comes with a 1st-time DUI in Los Angeles?

In addition to potential jail time, first-time DUI offenders can face various other punishments. These can include DUI classes ranging from 3 to 9 months, fines, community service, probation, AA meetings, MADD meetings, hospital and morgue programs, and license suspension. The court may also require the installation of an ignition interlock device in the offender’s vehicle. The specifics of the punishment depend on the details of the case and negotiations with the court and prosecutor.

Will my driver’s license be suspended?

A first-time DUI results in two separate DMV suspensions. The first suspension, known as the Administrative Per Se (APS) suspension, begins soon after the arrest. To prevent or delay this suspension, it is crucial to request a DMV hearing immediately. The second suspension occurs after the court case if the driver is convicted of a DUI. This suspension can range from 6 to 10 months, and drivers may be eligible for a restricted license or may need to install an ignition interlock device.

More DUI Resources

For more information on how to handle a DUI charge or arrest, please feel free to browse our blog articles on California DUI:

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How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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