General Info

  1. Introduction
  2. You Have Only 10 Days to Contact the DMV
  3. Penalties. Costs, Attorney’s fees. etc..
  4. First Offenses at DMV and at Court
  5. Refusal or Failure to Complete Test
  6. Zero Tolerance, MIP and Minors
  7. Prior Convictions, Violations of Probation, Failures to Appear and Multiple Violations
  8. Felony Convictions
  9. Cases Filed with Juvenile Courts
  10. Private vs. Public Defender / Accident Cases and Your Insurance Company

1. Introduction

First, I am required to tell you by the California state Bar Association, my name is Joe VanDervoort; I am an attorney in good standing. I have practiced DUI and DMV law in excess of 39 years. My state bar license # is: 54720, listed as John Joseph VanDervoort.

I am further required by the California state Bar to advise you that the information I give you pertains only to California state law and cases in the state of California. Further, the law I am giving you is generally applicable to all cases, but may not be applicable to the specific, individual, legal, or factual background of any matter you are involved in. As to your particular matter, you should definitely consult with an experienced private specialist in the field of DUI and DMV immediately, and not rely on any general information given here.

Further, I am required to advise you that this website does not create an attorney/client relationship or privilege between us, and that this is a legal advertisement and a solicitation for attorney’s fees and services within the meaning of the law as it pertains to attorneys practicing in California.

If you have been arrested for DUl, driving with a .08 blood alcohol, zero tolerance, minor in possession of alcohol, marijuana or some other drugs, or have a Department of Motor Vehicles suspension or revocation pending against you for too many points. or accidents, you need the services of an attorney immediately.

If you have been arrested for DUI, 08, or zero tolerance, you only have ten calendar days from the day of your arrest within which to take action to protect your driver’s license.

The Department of Motor Vehicles may restrict, suspend or revoke your license prior to any Court date, and may have already taken it and given you a temporary license. Such restriction or revocation can be from four months to life without a hearing. At DMV you have no right to a jury trial; you have no right to a public defender.

DMV and Court actions can remain on your driving record for life and can be used as enhancements or prior convictions, similar to a “strike,” for ten years or more, and have other serious consequences, including loss of insurance, insurance costs, fines in the thousands of dollars, mandatory jail sentences, drunk driving school for up to thirty months, and probation of up to five years. If you are convicted of a Felony DUI, you can be sentenced to state prison and be placed on parole upon your release. If you receive a conviction for driving under the influence or .08, your record cannot be cleared or expunged in the future, ever, and for purposes of job applications, is considered a “crime”.

If you were arrested for DUI .08 or zero tolerance, your lawyer has ten calendar days in which to contact DMV in Sacramento, and not locally. If your lawyer does not contact DMV within ten days of your arrest, you automatically forfeit any meaningful chance to save your license. Some lawyers argue that you have thirty days from the date of your arrest to contact DMV, but if you do not contact DMV in Sacramento within ten days, you will not get an extension of the thirty day right to drive pending the hearing which may not be set for several months; thus leaving you without a license.

If you are a multiple offender, refused to take or failed to complete a chemical test of your blood, breath or urine, or you are a minor, the consequences of your case are even more severe. If you decide to contact DMV yourself, do not allow them to confuse you or stall you. Demand the right to an in-person hearing immediately. You have many rights and defenses at DMV and Court. Loss of license, suspensions, convictions, fines, jail sentences, interlock devices, and even probation, can often be avoided, or mitigated. Many cases result in acquittals, or reductions of charges and reinstatement of driving privileges.

It is critical that you speak to an experienced lawyer who is a specialist in DUI and DMV law immediately.

I have been an attorney for over 39 years, specializing in DUIs and DMV cases, I don’t do probate, divorce, business law and most other kinds of criminal cases. Although it is often best, for Court, to get a criminal lawyer near your own jurisdiction, DUI and DMV cases can be handled by this office in any County in the State of California, and if you don’t have a specialist, please contact us to handle your matter. If we need a lawyer for Court in another jurisdiction or area, we will associate or refer you to one who specializes in DUI.

2. You Have Only 10 Days to Contact the DMV

Upon arrest for DUI, .08, or zero tolerance, if you hold a valid, unexpired California driver’s license, the arresting officer will take it and send it to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento. You will receive a temporary license from the officer which expires thirty days from the date of arrest. You must have an attorney contact DMV in Sacramento, and not elsewhere, within ten calendar days if you wish to meaningfully contest this matter and you probably should have a private attorney who specializes do so; even if the officer fails to take your license you still have 10 days.

You, of course, can contact DMV yourself, but if you do you will get a lengthy set of tape recordings, and then a paid employee at the Department of Motor Vehicles will come on the line and ask you a bunch of technical questions and probably convince you to give up your right to an in-person hearing or any hearing at all, or perhaps set a telephone hearing which may, or may not be ok, but should be decided upon by an attorney who knows the strategic differences and whether or not an in-person or telephonic hearing should be set, and whether the hearing should be set in the jurisdiction nearest where you resided at the time of the arrest, or in the jurisdiction nearest the place at which you were arrested, which may make a big difference in the outcome of your DMV hearing. If you do not have an attorney contact, or you don’t contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento (not some other DMV headquarters), within ten calendar days, you will automatically lose your license at the end of thirty days from the date of your arrest. The hearing probably will not be set for several months, and you will not be given an extension of your driving privilege unless you contact them within ten calendar days. This information is on the temporary license the police officer gave you, but is quite confusing and hard to find for most non-attorneys when reading the form. Occasionally DMV will grant a hearing after 10 days, so always call and try to get a hearing. Our office is often successful in doing so.

Contacting the Court or some local DMV office, or the arresting agency, will have no effect on your loss of license. The only way to save your license is to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento, and the only number you can call, without an attorney, is the one that is on the upper right hand corner, at present, on the temporary license the police officers are supposed to give you. Sometimes the police officers, for one reason or another, particularly in case of an accident, don’t give you a temporary license with the information on it, or they give you one that is misplaced because of the fact there was an accident, you’re in the hospital, it is lost during the booking procedure, or misplaced by the person arrested. There are certain unlisted phone numbers that are given to attorneys who specialize in DUIs to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles immediately and directly to set up hearings, but I am precluded, by law, unfortunately, from divulging those phone numbers, and if you attempt to contact DMV yourself, without an attorney, you will have to go through the procedure by using the phone number on the temporary license or call Sacramento Department of Motor Vehicles and ask for the Administrative Per Se DUI telephone number.

If you call, or have your attorney call, within ten days of your arrest, the thirty-day temporary driver’s license privilege will be extended until at least the date of your DMV hearing. This should be done in every case because it gives you time to get investigation reports, arrest records, what attorneys call “discovery” from the prosecutor and from the Department of Motor Vehicles to properly prepare your case.

If you don’t call within the first ten days, but call within the first thirty days, you might be given a hearing, but in many cases, you can get your license back by the time you get to the hearing procedure, and will have already been suspended several months, which, of course, is no help to your immediate driving privilege.

If you don’t call within the first thirty days after your arrest, you will ordinarily not be given a hearing date at all and will automatically lose your license for a period of four months, or more. An experienced lawyer can sometimes get you a hearing even if the time period has passed, so it is even more essential to contact an attorney immediately.

3. Penalties. Costs, Attorney’s fees. etc..

An adult first offender will be losing his license if proper procedures are not followed for four months, but under specified conditions that can be explained by this office, or any other DUI specialist, you can get your license back after a thirty day suspension. A person found to have refused or failed to complete a chemical test (blood, breath or urine) without a valid legal defense, will lose their license for one year, without any possibility of a restricted or part-time license. A person under the age of 21, whether arrested for zero tolerance, .08., or .05, depending on which law is applicable, will lose their license upon a first offense for one year. Under some limited circumstances you can get a license in a zero tolerance matter if there is a critical need. This can be explained to you by this attorney or any attorney specializing in DUI and DMV law.

If you are a second offender, your license will be suspended for a period of at least one year, and perhaps more, depending on your driving record. If you have three or more, your license can be revoked for three years to life. A commercial license can be revoked for life for a second-time DUI.

In Court, a first offender is looking at a wide variety of possible penalties, depending on prior convictions, driving record, the level of blood alcohol shown by a chemical test, the age of the offender, whether or not an accident was involved, and whether any other offenses such as driving without insurance, or driving with a suspended or previously revoked license were also involved, and/or whether there were any children in the automobile. As a general rule, subject to some exceptions, there is a mandatory jail sentence, extensive fines, probation for as long as five years, conditions of probation involving (1) no drinking whatsoever; (2) not entering into any place where the primary item of sale is alcohol; (3) going to DUI School; (4) going to AA; (5) participating in educational psychological, or psychiatric testing or programs;
(6) anti-abuse drug program; (7) community service; (8) abstinence from alcohol; (9) submission to drug and alcohol detection tests; (10) submission to unlimited searches and seizures of your home, car, self, or anything under your control, and; (11) requirements in regard to certain placing of devices in your vehicle. We can usually keep you out of jail.

Convictions and revocations stay on your DMV record for life, or at least ten years, in spite of what you may have heard. Convictions cannot be successfully expunged from your driving record, except where there are constitutional infirmities, and the procedures are best left to an attorney. Insurance companies will undoubtedly discover your conviction when you ask for an SR-22 form to get your license renewed, and may cancel you. If you violate any of the terms and conditions of your probation, you can be brought back to Court at any time for probation violations, and imprisoned and fined.

You are not entitled to an attorney at public expense at any DMV proceeding, although you may get a public defender at Court. Most public defenders have way too many cases. Some, fifty or more a day. They are often inexperienced, and in “cow” counties in particular, have a conflict, in that they must rely on the local Judge or Supervisors to appoint them or issue them contracts, thus diminishing their capabilities to represent every client to the maximum potential.

Fees for experienced private lawyers vary a lot depending on whether the case is in a metropolitan or rural area, and upon the attorney’s experience and the facts of the case. Make sure and hire an attorney on a flat fee basis and never on an hourly basis. Make sure and get a written fee agreement in advance and a quotation as to the costs for any out-of-pocket expenses.

Attempt to hire an attorney who specializes in DUIs and DMV and does not make his income as a jack-of-all-trades. Since a DUI is one of the most economically and socially devastating events in your life, suffice to say, “he who attempts to represent himself has a fool for a client”. A DUI case is far more complicated than any other misdemeanor and many felonies and; has much more long lasting social and economic consequences and should result in the hiring of a private, experienced attorney more than in any other type of case.

4.First Offenses at DMV and at Court

The first offense DUI or .08 can result in the loss of your license for four months, though it can be returned on a restricted basis after thirty days, if proper procedures are followed by your attorney. Although the minimum and maximum fines and consequences in Court range from forty-eight hours to six months in jail, the standard first offense with a Class C driver’s license results in 48 hours in jail, a fine ranging in the neighborhood of Twelve Hundred Dollars to Two Thousand Dollars, with a first offense DUI School usually approximating thirty hours of school at a price in the neighborhood of Two Hundred Dollars to six Hundred Dollars, depending on the jurisdiction. Most Courts also impose Court probation, without a probation officer, with conditions that you violate no laws, don’t drink and drive with any measurable amount of alcohol, and submit to a search or seizure by any police officer or probation officer without a warrant or probable cause. Many jurisdictions add other conditions. Some jurisdictions allow community service, work alternatives, or home arrest electronic monitoring in lieu of mandatory jail sentences, and often an experienced lawyer can get a restricted license or other alternative to jail time. The standard Class C suspension by DMV, is totally separate and apart, since Courts usually do not suspend on the first offense, is for four months. If your attorney can arrange for an SR-22 from your insurance company, and the payment of a DMV fee, your license can usually be reinstated, if you have no other restrictions or holds on the license after a thirty day period of suspension. Often an attorney on a first offense can get your case reduced to an offense other than driving under the influence, which has no mandatory jail, and has a greatly decreased sentence or fine, and oftentimes do away with such requirements as DUI School, going to AA three times or more a week, and other restrictions that Courts often put on DUI offenders. Attorneys can often plea bargain the case so that it results in the inability of the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend your license for any period of time by entering into an agreement that collaterally stops the DMV from suspending. Only an experienced lawyer is familiar with these procedures. If you go to Court and proceed to a jury trial and are acquitted before the DMV takes action against your license, the DMV is precluded from any suspension under normal circumstances. Our clients rarely get a jail sentence on misdemeanor DUI cases – even with priors.

If you have a misdemeanor DUI, .08., MIP, or any other type of misdemeanor, you never have to appear in Court or at a DMV hearing, but may do so through your attorney. Many Court hearings are merely procedural and it is a waste of time for you to appear at them unless there is going to be a meaningful hearing where the attorney needs your assistance listening to witnesses or participating as a witness yourself. Unfortunately, in most Counties, although the law provides differently, you will be ordered to appear at each hearing if you have a public defender, or, of course, if you represent yourself. At a DMV hearing, you are entitled to an evidentiary hearing and the issues are if you took a chemical test, or whether the policeman had reasonable or probable cause to detain you, and whether the arrest was lawful, including the advisement of certain rights, and whether or not the blood, breath or urine test showed a legal and accurate .08 or above, if you are an adult, or zero tolerance or .05, depending on your age and circumstances, if you are a minor. The procedure is similar to a Court trial, but is governed by the rules of administrative law, in addition to the other rules of evidence, etc., involving ordinary cases. Criminal law, per se, does not apply procedurally and that is why a specialized DUI or DMV attorney is preferable to one who handles only criminal cases of assorted nature, and doesn’t specialize in DUI or administrative work. You may subpoena witnesses, although to subpoena police officers actually costs money. You may also have expert witnesses, such as forensic alcohol analysts, testify either in person, by telephone, or by affidavit. You may have other witnesses testify, and they can often do so by telephone or affidavit without the necessity of being personally present. DMV hearings are usually on time and take place on the date scheduled and usually do not involve a lot of continuances and “pleading” prior to hearings. Unfortunately, the hearing officer is ordinarily an employee of, or has a bias, towards the Department of Motor Vehicles.

In Court, a DUI lawyer will ordinarily make numerous appearances and file numerous motions, requests for discovery and other legal maneuvering prior to any actual hearing or trial. The procedures are usually lengthy and involved and often result in continuances. You have a right to a jury trial in which there is a presumption that you are innocent, unlike DMV hearings, they cannot call you as a witness, and for that reason, although you are not required at any Court hearing, you may wish to be present. On the other hand, at DMV your attorney may not wish to have you present, but may wish to have no testimony or affidavit from you, because at DMV you can be called as a witness if you are present, or can be demanded as a witness to testify if you submit an affidavit. In the criminal Court procedure, you have a right to remain silent. You also have a right in a criminal case, if you are totally indigent, to the appointment of a public defender.

If you are unfortunate and lost a DMV hearing, or part or all of a criminal proceeding, you are entitled to review, by either what is called a writ, or appeal.

You have a right to a re-hearing by the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento, which is somewhat limited in nature, if you lose a DMV hearing. You are also entitled to a writ, which is similar to an appeal directly from a DMV hearing, or from an adverse DMV Departmental Review.

In criminal cases, you are entitled to writs and appeals at several different levels should you lose a motion or trial.

5. Refusal or Failure to Complete Test

If you did not take or complete a chemical test and you do not have a legal justification, DMV will suspend you upon a first offense for one year – on a second offense within seven years you will be revoked for two years, and three or more offenses within ten years will result in revocation for three years or more. Unlike the person who takes or completes a chemical test of blood, breath or urine, if you are found to have refused or failed to complete without legal justification at DMV, you will not, under any circumstances, be entitled to a restricted driver’s license to go to and from work in course of employment, or to and from a DUI School. The meaning of “refusal” is a difficult legal standard and requires the help of an experienced DUI attorney specialist.

In order to prove that you failed to complete or refused a test, the arresting officer is required to testify he informed you, in detail, and understandably, that you have a right to a chemical test of your blood, or breath, although scientifically speaking, a breath test is not a chemical test. Furthermore, don’t be confused that a preliminary screening test, i.e., some hand-held breath tests out in the field qualifies, because under the implied consent law, that is the law that the officer must read you, he is also required to tell you that the hand-held breath tests do not qualify as a chemical test of your blood or breath, and that a second test is required. In some counties portable breath tests are admissible.

There is also a great volume of law in regard to how far the officer must go in advising you, because obviously the person he is arresting is alleged to be under the influence of alcohol, and therefore has somewhat of a diminished capacity to understand.

Because of the fact that an officer must also advise you, once you are in custody, that you have a right to have an attorney and have an attorney appointed at no cost, and to have one present before any questioning or statements by you, there is a lot of confusion legally and factually in regard to what is a refusal or failure to complete, and what is not.

Also, many people charged with refusal did not understand they must also be factually driving, and that there must be probable cause for arrest, and a lawful arrest, before the Department can use the issue of refusal or failure to complete against the driver. All of these issues require the review and expertise of an experienced DUI/DMV lawyer. The law is further complicated in regard to refusals in that it is possible under some circumstances for a driver to decline to take a blood, breath or urine, and then for the officers to have a legal justification, under some very limited circumstances, to force a blood test from the party. The issue of whether it is admissible in Court or DMV becomes a legal question as well as a factual determination that can only be made on a case-by-case basis by an experienced attorney.

One of the obvious reasons law enforcement does not like what they refer to as a refusal is that it is very difficult for law enforcement and the prosecution to prove that someone is under the influence, or over a .08 blood alcohol, or whatever level applies in your particular case, without a blood, breath or urine test. Further, officers and prosecutors, as well as juries, do not like or believe in urine tests, or breath tests, as much as blood tests, so often officers will coerce or force a blood test illegally because they know they will have difficulty proving a urine test, and may not able to get a conviction without some type of chemical test. The law no longer gives the option of a urine test.

Further, it is human nature for officers to detest giving the urine test, which also requires at least a twenty minute waiting period and the taking of two samples. Also they can get a very clean blood test done by medical technicians at a hospital, which is much more reliable and persuasive to a jury later in Court.

If you have failed to take, or refused to take a test, the penalty is enormous in terms of loss of your license, but also results in enhancements of further jail and fines in Court, but on the other hand, may result in the prosecution failing to prosecute or having insufficient evidence to win a case in a trial beyond a reasonable doubt. If you have a refusal, you need an attorney even more than that person who took a blood, breath or urine test, even if it is a first offense.

6. Zero Tolerance, MIP and Minors

If you are a minor, or more precisely under 21 years of age and in possession of alcohol, even if none is consumed, and even if the possession did not involve the use of a motor vehicle, you may lose your license for one year. If you were arrested for zero tolerance, that is .01 or above, you are looking at a one year suspension. In order to be convicted in a courtroom, as well as receive a one-year suspension, a minor will have to be charged with driving with a .05 blood alcohol, or above, or driving with a .08 blood alcohol, or driving under the influence. Under anyone of these sets of circumstances, the minor is looking at a loss of license for a minimum of one year period and more if there are prior convictions, refusals, or a bad driving record. Possession, even without a car and with no drinking, is also a one-year suspension.

Depending on which Code section the minor is arrested and charged with, it is sometimes possible to get back a license on a restricted basis to drive to and from work, in the course of employment, to and from school, to and from medical appointments, home, etc. Whether this applies to your particular factual basis and the law under which you are being prosecuted, should be reviewed by an attorney who specializes in alcohol related offenses, DUI and DMV.

These cases differ greatly from those that are filed in Juvenile Court, for a person under 18. If your case involved a minor in possession of alcohol or possession of some drugs, including less than an ounce of marijuana, you may not have your license taken immediately by the arresting officer, but upon conviction by any Court, including Juvenile Court, will be notified that your license is suspended or revoked for a period of one year or more by the Department of Motor Vehicles. This, unfortunately, may also be in addition to the penalties imposed on your driving by the Court or Juvenile Court hearing officer.

Although it is obviously easier to show a .01 blood alcohol, or possession of alcohol, the complicated issues of probable cause for arrest, lawful arrest, advisement of rights, illegal searches and seizures, Miranda rights and all of the rest apply with similar force in a minor case and the need for the use of a specialized attorney should not be minimized. In minor in possession cases, it is often possible for an attorney to get a prosecutor or Court to reduce the charges to some type of County or City Code violation that does not result in the Department taking your license.

On minors in possessions, and zero tolerance cases with the Department of Motor Vehicles, it is also possible to petition either the Court or the Department of Motor Vehicles for what is called a hardship license or restricted license which allows going to and from work, in the course of employment, to and from school, to DUI Schools and the like. The procedure to get such restricted licenses is difficult and requires precise procedure in pleadings and should only be handled by an experienced DUI/DMV lawyer, except in perhaps, the most liberal of jurisdictions. Further, many jurisdictions, because of their lack of a real County Public Defender’s office, take the position that they can file these cases as “infractions” and thus deny minor defendants their rights to a Court-appointed lawyer, jury trials, and the like. These hardships can be avoided by an experienced attorney.

7. Prior Convictions, Violations of Probation, Failures to Appear and Multiple Violations

If your arrest for DUI or .08 blood alcohol involves prior convictions, violations of probation, multiple charges, or failures to appear, the first thing you should think about is hiring an experienced DUI and DMV attorney. If you have been convicted of DUI on previous occasions, the minimum sentence is raised appreciably; for example: a DUI with two priors has a minimum mandatory sentence of 120 days in the County Jail. A DUI with three prior convictions can be filed as a felony and can carry a sentence of State Prison. Sometimes a prior conviction or more technically stated, a separate violation, can also not only result in a minimum mandatory jail sentence, which is much increased, but can also be a case in which you are currently on probation and result in a violation of probation which can have a lengthy jail sentence in addition to the minimum mandatory of the current case.

If you have DUIs involving hit-and-run, driving on a suspended license, no insurance, or failures to appear, the sentences and fines are dramatically increased, but so is the ability of an experienced attorney to negotiate or do away with significant penalties. The various multiples and possibilities are too lengthy to discuss here, but if you have even a single prior conviction in the last ten years, I would think it mandatory that you hire an experienced attorney who may save you more money than it costs to employ him. Violations of probation and failures to appear can often be plea bargained away or disposed of by various pre-trial motions. Oftentimes where there are multiple violations and prior convictions, a case can proceed to jury trial without the jury being allowed to know about other violations or prior convictions.

Prior convictions, which are better termed enhancements for separate offenses, stay on your record for life, and can be charged for ten years from the time of the first driving to the time of the second driving and does not date from dates of conviction to driving. In the current DUI, a good DUI/DMV lawyer can get the records on any separate or prior conviction, and it is possible in some circumstances to have those stricken from your present case, or even stricken or vacated from your driving record al together as though they never took place. This requires a fairly complex procedure of getting the records from the prior jurisdiction and reviewed for various procedural and constitutional defects. Further care should be taken in doing this, because if you happen to be on probation in the prior jurisdiction, the attempt to get the prior records will “tip off” the prior jurisdiction that you have a new DUI, and may result in a violation of probation on the first case, in addition to the current problems. So, such action should be taken only by an experienced lawyer who specializes in that area.

Often prior convictions, if they cannot be vacated or stricken, can be deleted for purposes of sentencing and fines, as can probation violations, failures to appear, and other types of violations and the savings in fines alone may more than pay your attorney’s fees.

There are alternatives to jail time. Our clients rarely get jail time even with multiple convictions.

8. Felony Convictions

There are at least three types of felony DUI cases in California. The first is a case wherein, in the normal DUI or .08, someone other than the driver being charged, is seriously injured. The charge requires that a second violation be involved, such as driving too fast, going over a yellow line, running a red light, or some other secondary offense, be the proximate or legal cause of the injuries in addition to driving under the influence, or with over a .08 blood alcohol. Any time there is a serious injury, you can expect to be charged with a felony. A felony allegation, whether resulting in a misdemeanor or felony, may result in the loss of your license through the Court system for a minimum of one year, and a suspension or revocation by the Department of Motor Vehicles for a minimum of one year. These, unfortunately, are not always concurrent, and may result in a suspension for even longer than one year. The typical case is a case where the running of a red light or going across a center line causes an injury to a passenger or driver in another vehicle, but it is not so required, and sometimes involves a passenger in your own vehicle, even one that may have been drinking and knew you were drinking, and knowingly got in your car, knowing you had been drinking together.

Sentencing on felonies of this type can run from 48 hours to three years (with 4 years parole) in State Prison or more, and can include conditions of probation ranging from Court probation to formal probation to supervised testing, psychological and psychiatric testing and counseling, restitution, and various other penalties.

A second type of felony is a DUI without an injury wherein there are three prior convictions or separate offenses within ten years of each other. The ten years is measured from the date of the driving, not from the date of conviction. In either one of these types of cases, but particularly where there are many priors involved, it is important to have an experienced DUI/DMV lawyer. Prior convictions can often be set aside, stricken for purposes of sentencing, or ruled unconstitutional and taken off your record for various reasons, including, but not limited, to the fact that you may not have been properly advised or waivers of your rights not properly taken during the prior DUI cases. In many cases of older convictions, there is not proper record keeping, an experienced lawyer can get the prior convictions taken off your record by various legal maneuvering which may reduce your case to a misdemeanor or have a significant impact in regard to sentencing.

A third type of felony can occur if you have prior felony DUI’s or too many priors within ten years.

Whether you have a felony resulting from an accident or from prior convictions, it is essential you have experienced representation. If you are convicted of a felony, you will no longer have your civil rights, you will not be able to vote or possess a firearm, even a hunting weapon, and your employment possibilities will be significantly limited. Further, you will probably be unable to find reasonable, if any, insurance, once you are re-licensed, and most Court will involve you in eighteen to thirty month DUI Schools, extensive counseling, Alcohol Anonymous meetings numerous times a week, or day; there may be frequent Court reviews, and meetings with probation officers, and urine, blood or breath tests, without probable cause, without a search warrant, as a condition of your release, even after significant time in jailor prison. If you get a prison sentence you may be subject to parole for up to four years.

If you have a felony based on a lot of convictions, a good attorney can keep that information from a jury in a case that goes to jury trial, and in the case of an accident, an attorney can easily point out to a jury that there is a lack of proximate or factual cause between the underlying events of the case and the injury, or a lack of seriousness of the injuries may convince a jury it should be reduced to a misdemeanor. Further, motions are sometimes successful, even in front of a Judge, to reduce a felony case to a misdemeanor if the facts warrant it. Often, also an attorney working with a victim of an accident case or with proper letters of recommendation, counseling and self-imposed disciplinary proceedings outside the Court, such as AA, Alanon, and the like, may convince a prosecutor and/or Judge to reduce the case to a misdemeanor, or not impose state prison time. A felony DUI is probably one of the most devastating, mentally, psychologically, and economically, of any charge, and certainly requires the expertise of an experienced attorney.

9. Cases Filed with Juvenile Courts

If you are under 21, you are considered a minor for purposes of alcohol, but this information has to do with those minors under the age of 18.

Juveniles are usually arrested and given a PAS test, that is, preliminary alcohol sensor, or preliminary alcohol screening test, which consists of blowing into a hand-held breath testing machine. These machines’ results may not be admissible in Court for purposes of proving you are over a .05, .08, or under the influence, but they are allowed in juvenile DMV hearings to show that you had more than a .01. The law in this area is very complicated and you should certainly retain an attorney if you are a juvenile or if you have a son or daughter being prosecuted for these types of offenses. In the typical juvenile case, the minor is arrested for zero tolerance, .05, or .08, and has the same options to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days or lose his license for one year.

You have ten days in which to call the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento (not locally), if you wish to preserve your driving privileges for the reasons set forth in that tape recording. Do not, under any circumstances, wait beyond ten days after your arrest.

If you are a juvenile and too young to drive, you may find that if you are convicted of any of these offenses that when you go to apply for a driver’s license for the first time, you will not be able to get a license until one year after your application. That is sometimes not explained to you properly when you go to Juvenile Court. Further, Juvenile Courts often suspend licenses themselves for a period of one year, and that may be months after the DMV has already suspended for a year, thus resulting in overlapping and consecutive losses of license.

If you are already a ward of the Court which means you have already been adjudicated a juvenile probationer and thus already under the jurisdiction of the Court for previous alleged offenses, it is even more imperative that you retain counsel in regard to any new DUI, zero tolerance, MIP, and the like.

A conviction of one of these offenses is a violation of your wardship and probation, and can result not only in the usual serious consequences, but can, in addition to DMV and usual Court penalties, result in sanctions for violation of your probation and sentencing to Juvenile Hall or in some circumstances, depending on your age and circumstances, to adult jail, a boys’ or girls’ ranch setting, or California Youth Authority, and in extreme cases thereafter, prison.

Juvenile Court, once it gets jurisdiction over you, that is, the power over you which it gets after a conviction of any offense, or as they call it in Juvenile Court, a finding or an admission, keeps that power even after you become an adult.

A Juvenile Court hearing officer or juvenile Court Judge has almost unlimited and unbridled discretion in what he may do to you if you have already been adjudicated a probationer or ward of the Court. An MIP, DUI, zero tolerance, etc. may be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back” in regard to a serious sentencing, a removal from a family, probation terms, or the like. Further, the Juvenile Court is not restrained in regard to adding additional conditions or suspension time to your driving privilege.

Although you will be told at Juvenile Court, after you successfully complete your probation, you may have your record expunged, the expungement law does not apply to Vehicle Code violations, and specifically to driving under the influence, and those records will stay with you, as an adult, for a period of at least ten years, probably for life, and will result in your inability to get insurance or afford it, and will be viewable by insurance companies, law enforcement and the like.

10. Private vs. Public Defender / Accident Cases and Your Insurance Company

When you go to Court, you will have another decision to make, and that is to represent yourself, ask for a public defender, or hire an experienced private lawyer.

Since you should get an experienced private lawyer immediately to handle the DMV matter, and surely within the first ten days, you should not have to make this decision, but if you have been foolhardy enough to get to the Court process without having already retained a private lawyer, you will have to decide whether to retain one, ask for the public defender, or represent yourself.

You may ask for a Court appointed public defender, depending on the size of the County in which you live. In metropolitan counties, there is a county public defender who is elected and hires certain, usually inexperienced young lawyers to work for him, many of whom have so many cases per day that they can’t adequately and properly represent you. In “cow” counties, or in counties where they do not have a county public defender, attorneys are usually hired on a contractual basis on the basis of who the supervisors and/or judges like, and who needs the business most.

Often these attorneys are inexperienced, and almost always have too many cases, little funds for experts, and negligible help in the way of investigation. The big problem is that they always have a conflict in that in order to get their contract renewed, whether they are appointed as a group or on an individual basis, they must “get along” and “play ball” with not only the Judge, but unfortunately, the prosecutor, and cannot represent their clients to the 100% maximum as a private attorney.

You might as well not have an attorney unless you hire one who specializes in DUI and DMV law. DUI cases are unique in the criminal field in that they involve administrative law, as well as criminal law, unlike any other type of criminal action. Further, they require a working relationship with expert witnesses in regard to blood, breath and urine tests; accident reconstruction experts on many occasions, and other expertise’s not held by those who practice general criminal law, and most certainly not by attorneys who dabble in all fields or are civil lawyers most of the time. Since the DUI will affect your record for at least ten years and probably life, and will seriously affect you economically not only from harsh penal ties, fines and the like, extreme increase in insurance charges, but also the money lost as a result of not being able to drive, it would be foolhardy, indeed, to proceed without an attorney. Further, if you attempt to set up a DMV hearing yourself, it must be done within ten days. You will have difficulty setting up a hearing and asking for temporary license pending the hearing that may not be for several months, on your own.

In summary, suffice to say, if one represents himself, he has a fool for a client, and the client has a totally inexperienced person for an attorney.

Joe VanDervoort
Chico California DUI Lawyers 45+ Years of Experience.

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