First Offense DUI In California – [The 8 Stages of Your DUI Journey]

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Getting arrested on a 1st DUI is a daunting experience. The emotions are overwhelming. It’s important you know the stages of your 1st DUI. Knowing the stages of your case and having an idea of what is going to happen next is calming. There are at least 9 stages to your 1st DUI.

Table of Contents

1st stage Investigation

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You were pulled over for a reason on your first-time DUI. Nobody goes out thinking they are going to get their 1st DUI tonight. The reason you were pulled over does not even have to be DUI-related. Perhaps you were in an accident or perhaps your headlights on your vehicle were out. The police officer will usually say that they observed you had signs of being drunk such as alcoholic breath or red face. And most likely make you perform some field sobriety tests or the spot breathe test. 

He will have to include this in his police report details for drunk driving. The report will have the reason why he pulled over your vehicle(usually a description of your driving), an injury that was present because of a collision, and any that may indicate you were under the influence of alcohol. 

This report will have police mistakes if he was lying or embellishing. Police mistakes happen during this stage of the drunk driving arrest. It’s important to get the body camera if you wanted to fight at this stage if you want to fight the case or go for some kind of plea bargain on your case. 

2nd stage Arrest

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After getting your vehicle towed, you are then taken to a hospital, jail, or police station for a formal blood or breath test for your 1st DUI. If the breathe test says your blood alcohol concentration, BAC, was over 0.08% legal limit then you will get charged with driving with excessive BAC. If the test was low then the officer may require you to have a urine or blood test. Your license will be suspended and will give you a temporary license with 30 days. If your license is suspended because of a high chemical test then you will have to get a restricted license and install an Ignition Interlock Device on your motor vehicle. The officer then sends the report to the prosecutor and can either decline to file or charge you with your 1st DUI. 

3rd stage – Figuring out if you want a Lawyer

You can choose to represent yourself on a 1st DUI process, get a public defender, or a private defense attorney. Unless you know a lot about DUI representing yourself is a bad idea as there are various defense strategies tailored to specific situations. There is a trained prosecutor out to make a case against you. If you chose to hire a DUI Attorney for your services then you will want to ask about the fee structure of your representation and make sure they have a passion for defense. The last thing you want is to be caught by hidden costs or a lame attorney. The fee structures for DUI Attorneys will include whether or not your representation will DMV, trial, or post-conviction services and whether or not you want to use an expert for your case.


4th stage – DMV

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DUI and DMV and complicated especially for a person who is facing their 1st DUI. After the arrest, you must request a hearing within 10 days of the arrest. You or your private attorney can speak to them either in person or on the phone. They will inquire if the officer had reasonable to pull you over, had probable cause to pull you over, and if the BAC was 0.008 or above. More information about preparing for a DMV Hearing and what to do can be found here. 

It’s important to know that there is no criminal penalty such as jail time or criminal records involved here. No matter what happens a DMV APS hearing only involve driving privileges and administrative penalties on your driver’s license. 

A hearing officer presides over your license suspension hearing and hears the facts of your case. If there is enough evidence to show that you were driving under the influence of alcohol then your driving privileges will be revoked and there will be an administrative suspension on your case. The suspension periods will differ depending on whether there was a refusal or if there were prior DUIs on your driving record. If you did not request a DMV hearing within 10 days then the automatic suspension would kick in. When this happens you will have to get registered in a DUI school for a restricted license and to get your license back. 

5th stage – Figuring out how to handle your Criminal court

You need to figure out how to handle your 1st DUI which schedule on the court date. If you plan on going then you have to set aside 4 hours to be there in the morning. If this is a second DUI and you have no bailed out yet, then you will want to talk with a bail bondsman.

The biggest factors when it comes to a criminal penalty on your DUI will depend on whether there was an injury on your DUI or whether there were any priors involved. People who have prior DUIs are subject to tougher penalties on their case such as jail time. People who have over .15 or twice the legal limit also face enhanced penalties on their case which can mean longer classes and higher fines. 

The fees will be $390 but there will penalty assessments. This means that there are additional taxes added to the base amount. For example, a $390.00 base fine will come out to around $1900 or $2100.00. The maximum penalties on a misdemeanor DUI will be 1 year in jail and $1000.00 in fines. The minimum penalties will be no jail, probation, and $390.00 in fines and 3 years of probation.  


Will I Have to Go to Court for My DUI?

For a 1st DUI, the answer you want to hear is no. The short answer is Yes. The chances are very real that you will be held to answer for your Los Angeles DUI or a DUI in any county. When you were picked up for your California First Offense DUI, you were probably given a yellow slip of paper. This yellow piece of paper is what you would call a promise to appear. It is your promise to the officer that you will make the court date. It’s this paper that bounds you to the court

However, several things may happen when you show up to court for your 1st DUI. The first one is that you will see your name on the calendar. If this happens then that means your case is on the calendar. It is at this moment where you can enter a not guilty plea or a guilty plea. However, there is another option as well. You can ask the judge for more time to get yourself an attorney. You can get about two weeks if you do this.

6th stage – Arraignment

What happens at the first court date?

The first court date in your 1st DUI is called an arraignment. An arraignment is your chance to assert your innocence and deny criminal charges on your case. It is your first opportunity to look at the police reports and get discovery from the district attorney to see your blood alcohol level. It is not the place to talk about your case. The proper place to talk about your case is the pretrial stage.

What happens if I do not appear for my arraignment on my 1st DUI?

If you decide to not appear on your arraignment on your 1st DUI then a warrant will be issued for your arrest.

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The warrants will probably be around $5000.00or $25,000 even on a 1st DUI. You will then need to post a bond or recall the warrant yourself or hire an attorney to recall the warrant for you. If you post bail then you have to put down 10% of the bail amount. If your bail was $25,000 then you must put down $2500.

7th stage Pre-Trial Motion and Negotiations

Your lawyer or yourself will negotiate your 1st DUI case. There are a number of things that come in play with your case. Such things include witness availability, reliability of the prosecutors evidence against you and the skill and temperament of the prosecutor. In many cases we have been succesfful in getting the prosecutor to dismiss the DUI and our clients a Wet Reckless Plea

8th and 9th stage Trial and conclusion

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To be convicted of a DUI the prosecutor has to make all 12 jury members believe you were guilty and then after if you plead guilty or were charged by the jury, the punishment then sets in. If not then your case will be dismissed or result in a not guilty. In some cases, our clients will have to move out of state after the California DUI. If this happens then they may need to transfer their class out of state and there are things to avoid.

If you are convicted on your case then you will be facing court-ordered probation. In most cases, this is informal probation meaning that you do not have a probation officer following you around to keep track of you. However, you will still need to be wary of probation violations and follow the conditions set forth by the court. The biggest conditions will be to not be removed from your DUI classes for too many absences and to not drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in your system. This means you need to drive with no blood alcohol content in your system. Failure to comply with these conditions will trigger one of the many probation violations.

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