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30 Years of Daily Courtroom Experience
Los Angeles DUI Lawyer Blog
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There are several ways you can be found guilty of a Los Angeles DUI. However, before any guilty verdicts are decided, there must first be an arrest, and a charge. After you have been charged and arrested, you will be given an arraignment date. You must appear in court on this day. This is mandatory, there is no excuse for you not to appear, and failure to do so could result in a bench warrant. The only way you do not have to appear is if you are represented by a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer. If your lawyer meets the guidelines, then they can appear on your behalf.

At the arraignment you will be read the charges against you, the potential consequences and you will be asked to enter a plea. You will also be given a plea bargain. A plea bargain is an offer with usually a lesser sentence if you plead guilty. This is without a trial, without being heard, or without presenting any evidence. This is not always a good idea, and should warrant careful consideration and consulting with a legal professional.

You may enter a plea at this hearing, or ask for a continuance. Continuance may be given by the Judge for up to thirty days to hire an attorney, or to request discovery. Regardless, there are two major ways a plea of guilty may be entered.

First, as stated, you can enter a plea yourself of guilty. If it is part of a plea bargain, the prosecutor will have you review your rights, check that you are waiving your rights to go to trial, and your case will be concluded. When you choose this option, your case concludes very quickly, but you may be prematurely agreeing to something that may be reduced or dismissed. It is worthwhile to discuss the facts and the evidence against you with a Los Angeles attorney in the event it may be better for you to proceed to trial.

Second, you can be found guilty by a Jury or a Judge. In this option you have the right to present you case, you will go to trial, present evidence, take testimony, and make your arguments before a Judge. If after an entire trial, the Jury or the Judge find you guilty, then you will be sentenced accordingly. In a plea bargain you will know the sentence as you will be accepting it as part of your “deal”.

If you are being charged with a DUI, and are considering entering a guilty plea, it is a good idea to consult with a professional first. There may be facts that would warrant proceeding to trial, and there may be facts that would support you accepting a plea. If you do not have legal experience or background, you may be prematurely making a decision that could harm you and your career, or education in the future.

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If you have been charged with a Los Angeles DUI, you have not yet been convicted. If you have been arrested, you have not yet been convicted. It merely means that there is probable cause for officers to believe that you are guilty of driving while under the influence.

For someone to be convicted for a DUI, the prosecutors must prove that the driver was in fact driving beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the driver was intoxicated while driving. The prosecutor must prove both elements, not just one or the other.

This does not mean that you cannot be charged with a DUI, if you weren’t driving. You may still be charged with a DUI if officers have a reason to believe that you were, at some point, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. To better understand this concept, lets consider some examples.

Example 1: Danny is sleeping in his car. His car is parked in front of a bar, and he is asleep in the backseat with the keys in his pocket. There is a receipt in his pocket showing that he had purchased drinks throughout the night, including one about 10 minutes prior to officers finding him. These drinks were purchased from the bar he is parked in front of . His blood alcohol level is at .12, which is high. There is no one else in the car.

Example 2: David is sleeping in his car. He is asleep in the driver seat with the keys in the ignition. His car is parked on the side of the highway. There is nothing around except for the highway and the trees along the highway. David’s blood alcohol is high about .12.

Now let’s compare the two. In both examples, neither person was driving, and both were asleep in their car. Because neither person was driving, the prosecutor will have to build a case for driving using the facts surrounding the situation. Danny will have a much stronger case against a DUI than David. This is because it appears, and the facts support, an argument that Danny never drove his car after he had drank. It paints the picture that he probably went to the bar, drank too much, then made the decision to sleep in his car rather than drive in his intoxicated state. David on the other hand, cannot make that argument. He would have had to drive his car to get to where he was. His facts indicate that he drank, drove and decided to pull over and sleep. He could possibly argue that someone else was driving, and not him, but the facts do not support that contention.

Driving is not always a straightforward element to prove and allows room for argument. If you find yourself in this situation you owe it to yourself to consult with a Los Angeles DUI Attorney so that you can assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case. This could potentially lead to a dismissal.

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When you are first pulled over and arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence, you will be given a citation notice that states a day and time, as well as a courthouse. This is your arraignment date. On the arraignment date, the Court will explain the charges against you, the possible penalties and will ask you if you wish to enter a plea at that time. At your arraignment, you will also have the opportunity to speak to a public defender, ask for a continuance to hire an attorney, and also be given a plea bargain from the Prosecutor.

A lot happens at an Arraignment, as it is a very important appearance. This is a court ordered mandatory appearance. The only excuse for not appearing is if you have a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer representing you in a misdemeanor case. If you do, the attorney can appear on your behalf and you do not need to appear at all.

If you do not have a Criminal attorney representing you, then you must appear in court on the day that you have been ordered to do so. This is mandatory, you have to appear and is not optional. You cannot appear a day after you have been ordered, but you may have the option to appear before.

If you do not appear on or before the ordered date then a warrant will be issued against you. This is not a simple charge, it is it’s own charge and can result to you being arrested. If you are stopped for another violation, and a warrant is pending then they can arrest you right on the spot because of the pending warrant.

If you have a warrant issued against you, you must appear before the court to explain as to why you did not adhere to the mandatory court orders. The Judge will then make a determination as to whether the warrant will be recalled, or if they will take you into custody.

Not appearing in court for your arraignment leads to additional charges and trouble. It is a good idea to appear on the date you have been ordered to. Everyone is busy and has a lot going on, and it is often difficult to take a day off of work. However, if you hire a Los Angeles DUI lawyer, you can have the lawyer appear for you. In fact, having a lawyer appear on your behalf helps you avoid taking a day off work, but more importantly, it helps alleviate the stress and hassle of having to appear in court yourself.

It can be very scary to do it on your own, especially when you are not regularly in court and do not know what to expect. Take the proper precautions and avoid the unnecessary stress by hiring a DUI professional right away!

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Your constitutional rights are applicable to a DUI arrest, just like in any other arrest. When an officer stops you for suspicion of a DUI, they can only obtain evidence within the guidelines of the Fourth Amendment. They must have reasonable cause, and suspicion to do so. In order to illustrate the concept, let’s discuss a few examples.

Danny is driving home from a networking event. He has had a few glasses of wine throughout the evening. Officers see him pull out of the parking lot and they start following him. Danny observes all traffic signals, and is driving within the traffic guidelines. After following him for about 25 minutes, officers get tired and pull him over. When Danny asks why he has been pulled over, officers tell him that it is because they think he has been drinking.

This is not a sufficient ground for pulling Danny over. In order for officers to pull him over, they must have reasonable grounds. This includes regular traffic violations, a DUI checkpoint, or a welfare stop. In the example, none of these reasons existed. Officers cannot pull someone over simply because they believe someone was drinking. It is a violation of your fourth amendment rights, and it is an unreasonable search and seizure.

Now let’s consider a second example.

Danielle is driving home from her friend’s birthday dinner. She has had one glass of wine three hours prior. She is driving home, and makes a right turn without stopping at a red light. This is a violation of traffic laws, and officers pull her over. They explain to her that she did not stop at the red light, prior to making her right turn. They also ask if she has been drinking. Danielle replies that she has not drank any alcohol in the time prior to driving. Danielle has no signs of intoxication, as there is no alcohol in her blood stream at the time. She is not slurring, she is cooperative and she is answering all the officer’s questions. The officer asks her to step out and submit to an alcohol screening test, which she does. The result is 0.00. However, officers tell her that there is a blood alcohol level and arrest her.

Officers did not have probable cause to arrest Danielle. They had no evidence or grounds to suspect that she had been drinking or was intoxicated. Any evidence gathered by officers will be in violation of Danielle’s fourth amendment rights.

Any evidence that is gathered in violation of a person’s Fourth Amendment rights is subject to being suppressed. In order to do this, consult with an experienced Los Angeles DUI Attorney who can file the appropriate motions before the court so that the evidence cannot be admitted or considered by the court with hearing your DUI case. This is an important right that you have and it must be protected. Talking to a legal professional will give you the information you need to determine whether your rights have been violated.

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Before a person can be stopped and asked to submit to an alcohol screening test, there are many procedures an officer must follow. These procedures are crucial and put into place so that a person’s constitutional rights are not violated. An officer cannot arbitrarily stop a driver and ask him or her to take an alcohol drug test.

Before an officer can even stop someone and question them regarding alcohol or drug use, they must have probable cause. Probable cause may be achieved in several different way.

  1. Traffic violation

If a driver has violated traffic codes then the officer has grounds to ask the driver to pull over. This includes speeding, swerving, or even running a red light. If the driver has not violated any kind of traffic code, or other code, the officer has no grounds to pull them over and even begin an alcohol or drug test.

  1. Good Samaritan check

The part of an officer’s job is to make sure the general public is safe. If a person is pulled over by the side of the road, it is an officer’s job to check and make sure the driver is ok. If there is car trouble, or if there is something wrong, the officer has to check on the person. If an officer stops to find out if someone who is pulled over is ok, and they come to find that there may be reasonable suspicion to check for alcohol or drug use.

  1. DUI Stop

Oftentimes, officer will set up a DUI checkpoint. At a checkpoint, a driver must follow the cones, forcing them to be stopped and     questioned by an officer. If an officer finds reasonable suspicion to ask a driver to submit to a drug or alcohol screening test, then they have the grounds to do so. It is also important to note that a driver may approach a DUI checkpoint and opt to turn around and go a different way. Doing so can in many different situations prevent it from being used against you.

When an officer gains probable cause for a DUI stop, his or her obligations to follow procedure are not over. Before an officer can ask a person to submit to alcohol or drug testing, the officer must have reasonable suspicion. The reasonable suspicion can arise from the officer’s observations. This can be slurring, red and watery eyes, or alcohol on the breath. Or reasonable suspicion can also, more often than not, come from admissions from the driver themselves. If a driver admits to having been drinking prior to driving, the officer has all they need to proceed with an alcohol and drug screening test.

There are many procedures that an officer must follow, and they must be very careful otherwise all evidence they have gathered may be thrown out. Therefore, the actual arrest must be gone over with a fine toothed comb. A Los Angeles DUI lawyer has the knowledge and expertise to carefully review how all evidence has been gathered, so be sure to consult with a professional as soon as possible.

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Like any legal case, there is certain evidence that must be presented in support of an argument. Which pieces of evidence are offered shall differ depending on which side of the case is being presented.

Prosecutor’s Case

A prosecutor will be looking to prove two different elements. 1) the person being charged was driving and 2) they were under the influence. In order for Prosecution to establish their case, they must present evidence that supports these two elements. Most often, the evidence presented will be pretty standard in DUI cases.

  1. Police report

The police report is important because it will note observations of the driver, but also, the reason for the stop in the first place. When a person is stopped for a DUI, they must have a probable cause for the stop. This means that they must have violated some sort of traffic law, or fall under one of the exceptions. For example, officers can pull someone over for running a red light, or speeding. Officers cannot stop a person without a reason, and the police report will indicate their reason. If this reason is not acceptable, and does not fall under reasonable suspicion, then all evidence may be thrown out, creating strong grounds for the DUI to be dismissed in its entirety.

A police report is also extremely crucial when there is no blood alcohol reading. When a person refuses, or does not submit to a blood alcohol test, then officers must prove intoxication in another way. Oftentimes, this is through the use of the officer’s observations, which will be stated in the police report.

  1. Breathalyzer Readings

The blood alcohol reading is extremely crucial because it will demonstrate if there was alcohol in the driver’s bloodstream and how much. The quantity and presence will make a strong argument as to intoxication. If there is no blood alcohol reading then the Prosecutor will rely on the police officer;s observations to establish intoxication.

  1. Surveillance

Many patrol vehicles are required to have surveillance in the patrol car, and when they do a stop for suspicion of DUI, it is recorded. This tape proves to be quite significant when demonstrating that the officer followed all routine procedures and all evidence that is gathered is per code. This helps assure that the evidence gathered in support of the Prosecutor’s case is procured through correct procedures and will not be thrown out.

It is important to assess and analyze all of the evidence that Prosecution may present because it will help determine how strong or weak their case is. It will also help prepare any motions that are necessary to throw out any evidence that may be procured illegally or outside of procedure. If any evidence is gathered without proper procedures, then that evidence may be thrown out. If it is thrown out, it could lead to a dismissal of the DUI case altogether. Consult with a Los Angeles DUI lawyer to learn about all of the options you may have available.

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Several things will happen when you are charged with a Los Angeles DUI and have to make your first appearance in court. This first appearance will be stated on the citation you receive, and will state the date and time of your appearance, as well as the Courthouse. This appearance is referred to as an Arraignment. Several things will happen on this first hearing.

  1. Reading of rights

At this first hearing, the Judge will read you your rights. You will earn exactly what you are being charged with, and what the highest potential sentence may be. You have a right to know the charges against you, the code section under which they fall and the extent of the possible sentence that can be imposed. In addition, you have a right to be aware of any and all rights that you possess, including the right to an attorney, a right to a jury trial and other important constitutional rights.

  1. Enter a Plea

You have the opportunity to enter a plea in the court of law. This plea can be of guilty, not guilty or no contest. Many people mistakenly believe that the proper plea is not guilty, however, in certain situations it might be appropriate. In order to make a determination, you must consider all possible arguments, defenses, the facts, and what the outcome of trial may be. It is not always apparent which way to plea, it is often the advice of a legal professional that can properly guide a person to make a determination as to what the best route may be.

  1. Plea Bargain

The prosecutor will also offer the person being charged a plea bargain. A plea bargain is an offer for a lesser charge or sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. Sometimes a plea bargain is recommended and is a good idea for the person to agree to. In certain situations, it is not a good idea and it makes more sense for the person to hold off and plead not guilty. This, like entering a plea in general, is something that needs to be analyzed carefully. Possible facts, defenses and arguments needs to be considered. This is best done through the guidance of a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer. A legal professional has the experience and knowledge to be able to distinguish what a good plea bargain is, and when it should be refused. In addition, when you are familiar with the prosecutors, Judges and clerks, it helps make the right decision.

  1. Continuance

As stated earlier, you have the right to an attorney. If you do not have one at the Arraignment, the court will allow for a brief thirty day continuance for you to find one. If you wish to find an attorney, then it is highly recommended that you take a continuance and retain counsel.

  1. Discovery

At the arraignment, you will also be handed discovery. Discovery is any evidence the prosecutor wishes to use in Court. This discovery can be useful in determining is a plea bargain should be accepted, or if a plea should be entered.

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Many of our clients come into our office and are upset because they have been arrested for a DUI, but have had no alcohol. There is a common misconception that being arrested for a DUI requires alcohol consumption, when in fact it does not.

You can still be arrested if you are operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs alone. This not only includes drugs like marijuana, heroin and cocaine, but it also includes prescription drugs. Many prescription drugs inhibit your ability to operate a vehicle, and if you are on any such drugs, the court may find you guily of a DUI.

The beginning part of California Vehicle Code §23152 reads as follows:

(a) It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.

(b) It is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.

However, there is additional language that has been added to the section that reads as follows:

(c) It is unlawful for a person who is addicted to the use of any drug to drive a vehicle. This subdivision shall not apply to a person who is participating in a narcotic treatment program approved pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 11875) of Chapter 1 of Part 3 of Division 10.5 of the Health and Safety Code.

As well as:

(e) It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.

(f) It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle.

What many people miss is that it the second section of the statutes makes it unlawful for a person to operate a vehicle with any kind of drug in their system. What is also very important to consider is that some prescription drugs that prohibit operation of a vehicle, may also lead to a DUI.

DUIs that involve drug use are harder to prove because a breathalyzer is not issued for drug cases. There is no test that can accurately reflect the drugs in a system other than consenting to a blood test, or the officer’s observations. This makes the Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney’s case stronger, and the prosecutor’s case weak. This will give a lot of leeway for your attorney to argue and get a better deal for you, if you choose to take a plea bargain.

It is important that you hire a lawyer early on in the case, prior to any statements being made or pleas being entered. If the case is strategically planned and the proper defenses and arguments are presented in a DUI with solely drugs, there is a strong chance that the case can be dismissed or reduced. Be sure to contact a Criminal Defense lawyer as soon as possible!

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A Los Angeles Criminal Defense lawyer can start working on your criminal case well before the first hearing. There is often a lot to do to prepare for a hearing, and this work can start immediately upon having been retained.

Many people will wait until the hearing to hire an attorney. The problem with this is that it gives the attorney very little time to prepare for hearing. An attorney will most certainly want to review the discovery that is being presented in the case. Discovery is any type of exhibits, documents, tapes, visuals that the prosecutor has in their possession that relates to the case. This most often is video surveillance of the arrest, and the police report. Oftentimes it can include information on the breathalyzer.

These are important pieces of information for the attorney to know when they analyze possible defenses or arguments to bring up pertaining to your case. For example, if there is blatant misconduct on the officers behalf, and they have not followed proper protocol, then there are strong chances of getting the evidence dismissed. Proper motions must be filed in a timely manner and must be addressed immediately.

Furthermore, the prosecutor will offer a plea bargain when you are in court. This is generally an offer to accept a lower charge or sentence, if the person being charged is willing to plead guilty right away. If the attorney does not know what happened at the arrest, or what the facts are of the case, they are not able to skillfully negotiate the plea, or to know whether it is a good idea to accept it or not.

Lets consider an example. Danny has been arrested for a DUI. When he was arrested, he was not driving but was parked in a parking lot sleeping in his back seat. When Danny hires a legal professional he tells them his version of the facts. The attorney immediately makes some calls and obtains the police report which does, in fact, state that Danny was parked in a parking lot, sleeping in the back seat. The attorney automatically knows now that Prosecutors have a weak case because they will have to prove that at some point Danny was actually driving WHILE intoxicated. The officer’s observations, nor the report indicate that Danny was driving at any point.

Knowing the facts the attorney goes into the first court appearance confident in his case knowing Danny’s argument is strong and the Prosecutor’s are weak. Prosecution will likely offer a much lower charge, or possible dismissal.

The attorney cannot go into a hearing not knowing the facts, or the strength of the case. This is important leverage. If you have been arrested for suspicion of a DUI, do not hesitate to contact a DUI lawyer. Be sure to work quickly and immediately hire an attorney so that they can start working on your case as soon as possible.

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In the previous blog, there was discussion on possible defenses for DUI. While an arrest is stressful and often traumatic, it does not necessarily have to lead to a conviction if the right defenses are available. The strength of each available defense will depend on the specific facts of your case. A thorough discussion of the each available defense with an experienced Los Angeles DUI Lawyer will help you determine what your options are and if any of the defenses will work in your favor.
In Part 1, two defenses were discussed; No driving, and Inaccuracy of test results. There are additional defenses available, with one of the strongest being a good lawyer who is aggressive and familiar with not only the law and procedure, but also the Judges and Prosecutors themselves.
Fourth Amendment Rights
Under the Constitution, we are afforded certain rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. When you have been stopped for suspicion of any criminal violation, not just DUI, officers do not have the right to search your property or your person without reasonable cause. For example, officers may not draw blood from you for sobriety tests, without your consent and permission. You must give explicit consent. Officers may not pull you over, unless they have a reason to do so, and they may not ask you to submit to an alcohol test or sobriety test unless they have reason to do so. There may be a reason if you admit to having been drinking, or if officers observe that you have visible signs of being intoxicated. This can include, the smell of alcohol, watery eyes, and slurred speech.
If it is found that officers have not  followed procedure and have gathered evidence against your Fourth Amendment rights, then  with the right motions and argument, the Judge may throw out each of those pieces of evidence, and Prosecutors may not use it to present their case. This will definitely weaken their  case, giving you stronger changes or prevailing.
Rising Alcohol Defense
Your blood alcohol must be high enough to indicate intoxication at the time you are operating a vehicle. To fully understand this defense, it is important to consider an example. Don has volunteered to drive to the neighborhood bar. His plan is that he can leave his car there after and everyone can take a cab back to his apartment. Right before Don leaves his apartment, he takes two shots of Rum, gets in the car and drives his friends to the bar, about 5 minutes away. At the time Don got into the car, his blood alcohol level was low because the shots had not yet taken effect, and had not entered his bloodstream. So, in argument, Don was not intoxicated at the time he was driving his vehicle.
This is a difficult defense, but one that can prove to be extremely successful. To determine if your case has the right facts to support such a defense would be the job of a legal professional who deals with DUIs everyday.