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DUI Charges

What are DUI Charges?

A DUI stands for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A DUI can happen if you are pulled over by a police officer while operating a bicycle or motor vehicle for suspicious driving. All California DUI laws are found in the California Vehicle Code. If you get pulled over for driving intoxicated, contact a DUI lawyer.

What is a DUI Lawyer?

A DUI lawyer is a lawyer with experience in DUI defense. With that in mind, any lawyer can retain a DUI case. Therefore, what distinguishes a DUI lawyer from a regular lawyer is experience. As a result of experience, a DUI lawyer will know what to expect and the best possible defense. In conclusion if you are charged with a DUI, you will want to hire an experienced lawyer.

What happens when you get a DUI?

Whether or not you get charged with a DUI depends on a few certain variables. The first variable is whether the officer detects the smell of an alcoholic beverage when first contacting you. The second variable is whether your speech is slurred or normal. The third variable–while it is not mandatory, is how well you perform a field-sobriety test which the officer may ask you to perform. The next variable is a MANDATORY chemical or blood test, often times performed with a breathalyzer that determines your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). More information on the chemical and blood test can be found in the California Vehicle Code Section 23612.  If your blood alcohol content is .08 or higher, you could be charged with a DUI; however, that still depends on the final variable which is always unpredictable and it is based entirely on the police officer’s judgment.

The first thing you need to do when you have been arrested for DUI is to cooperate. You are required with the requirement to submit to mandatory testing for alcohol in your system. If you refuse a breathalyzer test, it will only hurt your case. The second thing you need to do is provide the officer with a valid drivers license, registration, and insurance. Other than that, remember that you have a right to remain silent, and to call your DUI lawyer.

At the time of arrest, the arresting officer is required to give you a copy of an Administrative Order from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, called “Administrative Per Se – Suspension / Revocation Order and Temporary License.”  At the same time the officer confiscates your California Drivers License. The Administrative Order, referred to as “Admin Per Se,” doubles as your temporary drivers license.  Read it carefully, and provide a copy to your lawyer.  The date on it starts a 10 day count-down. You have 10 days to request a hearing from the DMV. If you do so, be sure you are represented. The hearing officer is not a lawyer, but an employee of the DMV, the same agency that issued the order which you are challenging. The issues that may be litigated at the hearing are limited, and the cards are stacked heavily in favor of the DMV. By requesting a hearing, you extend the 30 day period before you lose your driving privilege.  At the hearing, if you subpoena the appropriate witnesses and bring your own court reporter, you can create a record of the testimony of the witnesses that you subpoenaed. This may become helpful later in Court.

What is Arraignment?

An arraignment is the legal term for your first Court hearing. During the arraignment, you may be asked to sign a Watson Advisement, but that could also come later. You will also be presented with the charges filed by the prosecutor, and the defense attorney receives a copy of the arrest reports. If you have already gone through the DMV process, your DUI lawyer will already have received copies of these. You will also find out the plea bargain offer. Your lawyer must explain to you all the consequences of accepting the offer as well as the possible consequences of rejecting it. If you decide to accept the offer then and there, it is your choice, not the lawyer’s. With some exceptions, most such offers involve probation, and little or no jail time.  Among the terms of probation are what I describe as a bunch of promises. If along the way you break any of those promises, you can be found in violation of your terms of probation, and sentenced up to the maximum possible sentence for the given charge.

Punishment for DUI Charges

The punishment for a DUI varies by category. These categories include the offender, prior convictions, degree of intoxication, and harm caused during the commission of the offense. The consequences are different for adult offenders involving alcohol and drugs and juvenile (21 and under) offenders. The First Offense DUI is not handled the same way as the subsequent offenses. A Second Offense DUI and a Third Offense DUI might be punished more similarly. Each offense following the First Offense DUI increases the severity of the punishment. A Fourth Offense DUI is a felony involving a possible state prison sentence and license revocation. What each DUI has in common is that within each category, the punishment depends on the severity, the judge, the prosecutor, and of course, how well your DUI lawyer works with the given facts.

There are a variety of factors that could lead to a severe sentencing. One factor depends on whether or not you had a DUI conviction within 10 years prior to the arrest. Another factor depends on the damage caused by the DUI. If any person or property was harmed, you could be facing a completely different set of charges. Other factors include whether or not you are a commercial driver or a foreign citizen. Depending on the severity of the crime, a DUI can lead to a felony or misdemeanor charge, jail time, probation, a suspended license, a revoked license, fines and fees, other great financial costs, and possible issues with employment. You will be ordered to complete an Alcoholics Anonymous program.

How much do DUI Charges cost?

Aside from the legal and life consequences of a DUI, there are also financial ramifications. The same way that not every DUI is punished the same, not every DUI costs the same.

  • A typical DUI fine can range anywhere between $390 to $1000.
  • If the DUI has led to injury or fatality, fines can range from $1,000-$5,000.
  • The average attorney fees for a DUI in the State of California is $1,900.
  • DUI School can cost $270-$3,000
  • Filing for an SR-22 status typically ranges $15-25
  • In the state of California, the average insurance premium following a DUI increases by $3,154.
  • In California, a First Offense DUI license reinstatement fee is $55.
  • The reinstatement fee after the Administrative Per Se can cost $100 and $125 if you are under 21.

The estimated best case scenario is $6,784. The estimated worst case scenario is $14,204. These numbers are estimates, and it is entirely possible that the DUI could cost more depending on the situation.

What do I do if my license is suspended?

When your license is suspended, you can either depend on other means of transportation or try reinstating your license. If you already have a suspended license, DO NOT drive until you reinstate your license or acquire a restricted license. Driving on a suspended license can only lead to further punishment. To reinstate your driver license in California means that you need to follow certain standards and protocols.

The first protocol in reinstating your license is to complete the full period of your license suspension. The period of a suspended license depends on the offense of the DUI. For a First Offense DUI, there are two options. The first option is 48 hours of jail time with a 6 month suspension. The second option is a suspended license period of 9 months. The period of a suspended license for a Second Offense DUI is a 2 years. For a Third Offense DUI there is a 3 year suspension period. A Fourth Offense DUI is a minimum 4 year suspension. There is also the possibility of receiving a “habitual traffic offender” status and having a permanently revoked license.

The second protocol depends on severity of the offense. There are circumstances where a DUI can lead to jail time. If this is the case, you cannot reinstate your license behind bars. Once you have served your full jail or prison sentence, you will have the option to reinstate your license.

The third protocol in reinstating a suspended license is DUI School. Depending on your age and the type of a DUI offense, DUI School could last anywhere between 12-90 hours. These hours consist of group counseling and drug and alcohol education. A DUI school may require you to complete 120-300 hours of community service if the offense is serious enough. DUI school can cost $270-$3,000 depending on the offense.

The fourth protocol is to apply for SR-22 status. An SR-22 is a vehicle liability document for insurance that is required by the California DMV for high-risk drivers. The SR-22 status must be maintained for a minimum of three years following a DUI related suspended license. An SR-22 is filed between you and your insurance provider and only needs to be filed once. Typically there is a $15-$25 fee attached

The fifth protocol is to apply for reinstatement. To apply for reinstatement, you will need to complete your suspension, DUI school and/or jail time. You will need to provide the DMV with all proper documentation and proof of insurance. There is also a reinstatement fee that can range from $55-$125 depending on the offense.

If your job and livelihood depends on your ability to drive, another option is to apply for a restricted license. A restricted license grants you permission to drive from home to work, school, DUI school, and vice versa. You can obtain a restricted license by enrolling in a DUI Offender Program and providing proof to the DMV. You will also need to provide proof of your SR-22 status to the DMV. In addition, a restricted license comes with a $125 fee attached.

How To Beat A DUI

There are many legal motions, objections, and arguments that could be made to beat a DUI. For instance, you may qualify for a DUI Expungment. Whether you intend to fight the case or to plead guilty, you need an experienced DUI lawyer to guide you. Stephen A. Varga has been a practicing DUI Laywer since 1980. With decades of experience, Mr. Varga will ensure that you are prepared with whatever choice you make. If you or a loved one is facing DUI charges, call Stephen A. Varga today.


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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Information about possible sentences are only provided to give the reader a general idea. In any given case, sentencing considerations can be far more complicated. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.

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