Los Angeles Drunk Driving Attorney
Like it or not, what used to be considered largely a social nuisance is now a misdemeanor or felony criminal offense punishable by prison time, expensive fines, loss of driving privileges, and other penalties. In some cases, drivers convicted of DUI may see their licenses permanently revoked. Here in California, more than 200,000 drivers are arrested on suspicion of DUI every year. If you are one of them, you need to act quickly to protect your rights and your liberty. Contact an aggressive Van Nuys drunk driving attorney at the Law Offices of Mark Daniel Melnick immediately. We can help you beat your charges and retain your driving privileges.
Signs of Driver Impairment That Can Serve as Probable Cause For a DUI Arrest
Driver impairment may be obvious in a number of ways. Police are trained to observe drivers’ behavior and look for suspicious actions. For instance, performing any of the following maneuvers while you are driving may lead to you being pulled over:
- Driving very slowly
- Weaving between lanes
- Driving in more than one lane at the same time
- Hesitating before going through green lights
In such cases, an officer may have sufficient cause to pull a driver over and arrest them for drunk driving even without subjecting them to a breath test or observing them in person. Sometimes an officer may pull a car over for other reasons (such as a broken taillight) and then notice signs of impairment that can serve as probable cause in an arrest. These may include:
- Dilated pupils
- The odor of alcohol
- Bloodshot eyes
- Speech that is slurred
- Unusual or erratic behavior
In California, DUI is defined as driving under the influence of alcohol (with a blood alcohol level of .08% or greater) and/or drugs. However, drivers who are impaired due to the use of alcohol can still be charged with drunk driving if the officer deems it appropriate, even if their BAC is less than .08%. DUI laws are meant to keep all impaired drivers off the road, not just those with high BACs! Driving under the influence of drugs, such as marijuana or prescription drugs, can also result in DUI charges. Even if certain drugs are legally prescribed by a doctor, it is still illegal to drive and may result in a DUI offense. It’s important to read the warning labels or talk to your pharmacist if you’re unsure about a drug’s potential for impairment. The key to both kinds of DUI is the legal doctrine of probable cause. If a police officer has a reasonable suspicion that a driver is impaired, they have probable cause to pull them over and arrest them.
Field Sobriety Tests and Preliminary Breath Tests
A police officer may ask a driver suspected of drunk driving to perform what are known as field sobriety tests. These include:
- Asking the driver to follow an object in motion (such as a flashlight or penlight) while keeping their head still
- Asking them to walk in a straight line, pivot, and walk back
- Asking them to balance on one foot with their arms at their sides
If a driver is unable to perform these tests to the officer’s satisfaction, the officer has probable cause to arrest them for drunk driving. It doesn’t matter if the driver doesn’t understand the instructions for performing the test, if they have a medical condition that makes it difficult for them to do so, or if the tests are conducted late at night on the side of the highway in a downpour. If you consent to a sobriety test and you “fail” it, the officer can arrest you.
Of course, an arresting officer can simply ask a driver to take a preliminary breath test by blowing into a breathalyzer. If the breathalyzer indicates a reading of .08% or higher, the officer can arrest a driver for DUI even if no other signs of impairment exist. It’s important to remember that under California’s implied consent laws, the DMV can suspend your license if you refuse to consent to a preliminary breath test (q.v. below), and this matter needs to be handled separately from your criminal defense.
Penalties in Drunk Driving Cases
Penalties in drunk driving cases depend on many factors, but the most important variable may be whether a driver has been previously arrested for DUI or not. In any case, even first-time defendants can expect to pay thousands of dollars in fines and fees and be required to attend – and pay for – drunk driving classes. Generally, your driver’s license will be suspended for anywhere between six to ten months following a DUI conviction, but sometimes first-time DUI offenders can get a restricted license in order to drive to and from work. It’s not unusual for repeat offenders to receive hefty prison terms and pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines and restitution. In some cases, their driver’s licenses will be permanently revoked. Also, if bodily injury to another driver occurred, felony charges may be involved, which result in even harsher penalties for those convicted. The best way to avoid the consequences of a conviction is to partner with an aggressive DUI lawyer as soon as you can after an arrest.
DUI and the DMV: Understanding Administrative Suspension in California
California drivers who are being arrested for DUI for the first time may not be aware that an arrest or refusal to submit to a chemical test automatically triggers an administrative driver’s license suspension by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. This suspension is independent of any action taken by the courts and must be handled separately.
When you are charged with drunk driving, the arresting officer will usually forward your confiscated license, a completed notice of revocation or suspension, and a sworn report to the DMV. The DMV will then conduct a thorough administrative review of these documents, including the results of any chemical tests in which you participated. If the DMV upholds the suspension, you have only ten days from the date they received the suspension order to contest it. If the DMV denies the suspension, you will be notified in writing after the review is complete.
If you agreed to take a blood or breath test and your BAC exceeded .08%, the DMV will revoke your license for four months, assuming that they uphold the suspension. If you’ve been arrested for DUI within the last ten years, a second or subsequent offense will result in a suspension period of a year. A driver who is under 21 and is found to have a BAC of .01% or greater, on the other hand, will have their license suspended for a year. What’s more, by simply refusing to take a chemical test, a driver of any age can have their license revoked for a year, and subsequent refusals result in longer suspension times. A knowledgeable drunk driving attorney can assist you with the administrative aspects of your DUI case and may be able to help you retain your driving privileges after your arrest. Contact a skilled DUI lawyer today to learn more about your legal options in the wake of an administrative suspension of your drivers’ license.
Contact a Van Nuys Drunk Driving Lawyer Today
If you have recently been charged with DUI in Los Angeles County or elsewhere in southern California, contact an aggressive drunk driving attorney at the Law Offices of Mark Daniel Melnick to learn more about your rights and your legal options when it comes to fighting your charges. We can assist you with both your criminal defense and the administrative suspension of your license by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. We never back down from a fight when a client’s future is at stake. Call today!