Driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI), or driving under the influence (DUI) are all ways to describe the same thing: intoxicated driving. Intoxication may be the result of alcohol or another chemical substance (e.g., marijuana) or both. To be a criminal offense in Los Angeles, your blood alcohol content must be at or above the legal limit, you have an illegal chemical substance in your system, or your driving abilities were otherwise impaired.
In California, there are many arrests made daily for intoxicated driving. Those arrested are often people like you and me: law-abiding citizens. At Berglund Law Office, P.C, our DUI defense lawyer works hard to help you beat a DUI charge or to, at a minimum, get the best possible outcome in your unique situation. Call us at (877) 667-1205 or submit our CONTACT form to learn more about how we will help you. In the meantime, here are some of the most commonly asked questions we get from our clients when we first meet them about their DUI arrest.
What is “blood alcohol content” level?
Blood alcohol content (BAC) is a measurement of the amount of alcohol found in the blood expressed as a percentage. It is calculated in grams per 210 liters of breath, and a BAC of 0.08 means there is 0.08% alcohol by volume. Measuring BAC is a way for law enforcement to calculate the amount of alcohol someone has had and their ability to drive a motor vehicle.
Can I refuse a breathalyzer test in Los Angeles?
Unless you are already on probation for a previous DUI, you can refuse a breathalyzer test during the DUI investigation. The "PAS," device, aka preliminary alcohol screening device, is a portable instrument that the police have with them to test your breath for alcohol. HOWEVER, do not mistake this with the breath or blood test that you are required to take AFTER you have been arrested for DUI. You must take this test or the DMV will suspend your driver's license for one, two, or three years. Submission to this test is required by California's implied consent law.
Also, if you refuse, the police officer may request a warrant to take a blood sample. A driver who refuses could face refusal consequences and the prosecutor could also have blood alcohol content evidence to use against them in court. This can make it more challenging to defend against DUI charges.
What are standardized field sobriety tests (FSTs)?
Standardized field sobriety tests (FSTs) are tests approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These tests are given during the DUI investigation and are allegedly designed to help police determine whether a driver is intoxicated or not.
There are three standardized FSTs:
- the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN test)
- the One-Leg Stand Test (OLS test)
- the Walk-and-Turn Test
There are other "non-standardized FSTs" that officers may use as well.
Non-standardized FSTs include:
- finger to nose test
- the finger count test
- the hand pat test
- the alphabet test
- the reverse counting test
- the coin pickup test
Can I refuse field sobriety tests in California?
Similar to the PAS test, unless you are already on probation for DUI, you can decline to submit to the field sobriety tests. Usually if a person refuses to do sobriety tests, the officers will place them under arrest and force them to comply with the implied consent law (e.g. requirement to submit to a breath or blood test).
After a DUI arrest in California, will my driver's license be suspended or revoked?
There are two different types of suspensions. The first is an administrative suspension. The California DMV will suspend your license if you refuse the post arrest chemical test or have a BAC over a .08 percent. This means you can lose your driving privileges even when you have not been found guilty of DUI in court.
The other type of suspension occurs if you are convicted in court of DUI. Once the DMV receives notice from the court that you have been convicted of DUI, your driver's license will be suspended. The length of suspension depends on how many prior DUI convictions are on your record.
What happens after a drunk driving arrest in Los Angeles?
If you are arrested for drunk driving, what happens next depends on the facts and circumstances. It's important to know that DUI arrests result in two processes after an arrest: (1) the administrative hearing, which results in civil penalties, like driver's license suspension; and (2) the criminal process, which can result in a conviction in the absence of a strong DUI defense. A conviction can lead to fines, driver's license suspension/revocation, imprisonment, ignition interlock device (IID) installation, and other penalties.
Can I still get auto insurance in Los Angeles after a drunk driving conviction?
Your ability to obtain or maintain auto insurance after a drunk driving conviction depends on whether it was your first conviction. You will likely find insurance after a first conviction, although your rates will increase significantly.
Note, however, that even if you have been convicted of only one drunk driving offense, you may still be required to obtain SR-22 insurance. SR-22 is a certificate of financial responsibility required by the state of California. This form is not insurance, but rather proof that your auto insurance policy meets the minimum liability coverage required by state law. A fee, which ranges from $300 to $800 on average, is most often charged to file this form.
Can I beat a drunk driving charge in California?
It is possible to beat a drunk driving charge, although it is not typically an easy process. It will require a thorough understanding of the law and a thorough understanding of the technical nature of field sobriety tests, breath tests, blood tests, and urine tests. Understanding the latter tests is critical to identifying errors (technical or human-made errors) to highlight the unreliability of the results.
Aside from errors or unreliable test results, an alleged DUI offender may have had their constitutional rights violated. This happens more often than you might imagine. A violation can lead to the inadmissibility of some or all evidence. Without sufficient evidence, the case will be dismissed, or a jury may return with an acquittal.
You will need a drunk driving defense attorney to help you beat a DUI charge. These cases can be highly technical, as much as legally complex.
Should I just plead guilty to drunk driving?
An arraignment is a hearing where the defendant can plead guilty, no contest, or not guilty. You can plead guilty, but the real question is whether you should or not. It would be a mistake to plead guilty at this time without the counsel of a drunk driving lawyer in Los Angeles, and there are multiple reasons for this.
- If you plead guilty immediately, you lose any opportunity to fight the DUI charge.
- If you plead guilty immediately, you also lose any opportunity for a plea deal, if that is what would be best in your unique circumstances. Admittedly, a plea deal means you would plead guilty, but the process can render a better outcome than an immediate plea of guilty. With representation by a good Los Angeles DUI lawyer, you may be able to plead down to a lesser offense.
- The sentencing is often harsher when given in response to a plea of guilty during the arraignment, as opposed to what a plea deal would entail or a sentencing after a conviction would impose. The reason is simple: you have time to mitigate and negotiate.
If it's your first drunk driving charge, it can be tempting to plead guilty right away so that you can get the case over faster and get on with your life. But if you do not fight to get the charge dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense, it will be a DUI conviction on your record. With the latter on your record, you want to keep in mind that subsequent DUI convictions will assuredly lead to harsher penalties.
Do I need a drunk driving lawyer in Los Angeles to win my DUI case?
If you plan to fight your drunk driving charges, it is in your best interest to have an attorney represent you. The law can be complex. The evidence can be highly technical and scientific. Police and state expert testimony can be damaging. All these things can lead to a conviction, unless you have the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully counter them.
At Berglund Law Office, P.C, we know the law and the technical, scientific make-up of field sobriety tests, blood tests, breath tests, and urine tests. We also know how to identify and proactively address any constitutional rights violations to benefit your case. Contact our DUI defense lawyer in Los Angeles today at (877) 667-1205 or submit our CONTACT form to schedule a free initial consultation and get honest advice on your best legal options.