When you have been arrested for a DUI it does not mean that you have been convicted, or even charged. All it means is that officers have probable cause to believe you are in violation of California Vehicle Code §23152 or 23153. This means that they have enough evidence that there is more of a probability than not that you are intoxicated and operating a vehicle.
For a DUI, you have to have been intoxicated, either from drugs and/or alcohol, and operating a vehicle while under the influence. Once an arrest has been made, the Prosecutor’s office will have to review the evidence and determine if charges will be pressed against you. Oftentimes, you will get a court date to appear and will find that no charges have been filed, or no charges have been filed at that time.
If you are charged, this does not mean you have been convicted. You have rights that are protected by the Constitution and convictions made must follow the guidelines and protections given to you by the Constitution. You must voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently enter a guilty plea. This can only be after you have been explained your rights, the consequences, possible sentences, and the charges against you.
You can also be convicted if you have had the right to a full trial and have had the right to present evidence, and take testimony. After all of that, if the jury or a Judge finds that you were intoxicated beyond a reasonable doubt, and you were driving beyond a reasonable doubt, then you may be found guilty.
So in summary, you must first be arrested. This will happen when an officer believes there is probable cause that you are acting unlawfully. Then if the prosecutor believes the evidence is substantiated and strong enough, you may be charged with a DUI. It is only after a court of law determines you are guilty, or if you enter a guilty plea that you will be convicted. It is a good idea to speak to a Los Angeles DUI lawyer to help explain the process in more detail.
Let’s consider an example to illustrate the difference between an arrest, charge, and a conviction.
David is driving home from happy hour with his coworkers. He has had two beers in the span of an hour and feels that he is ok to drive as he also ate some appetizers. As he is driving home, he forgets to stop at a red light, before making a right turn. An officer is behind him and immediately pulls him over. When the officer approaches David, he smells of beer and is slightly slurring his words. He also looks tired and is nervous and agitated. The officer asks if David has been drinking and David responds that he was drinking a long time ago but is fine now. The officer asks David to step out of the vehicle and takes a field sobriety test. The reading is a .1. The officer arrests David and takes him into custody. The next day David is released with a citation notice asking him to appear 3 weeks later in Court.