DUI FAQs

Arrested for DUI in Los Angeles County?  Browse our Frequently Asked Questions.

California DUI Laws

Definition of Driving Under the Influence

The following is a definition of Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs:-

A person is considered under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, drug, or combination of alcohol and drugs when his/her physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that he/she no longer has the ability to drive a vehicle with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence, under the same or similar circumstances.

The legal limit of blood alcohol content when driving in California

By California DUI laws, it is illegal for any person to operate:

  • A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
  • Any vehicle requiring a commercial driver license (with or without a commercial driver license issued to the driver), with a BAC of 0.04% or higher.
  • A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher, if the person is under age 21.
  • A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher at any age if the person is on DUI probation.

Can I be under the limit and still get a DUI?

Yes, you can be under the legal limit for blood alcohol content and still get charged with a DUI if, in the opinion of the arresting officer, your driving ability was impaired by your consumption of alcohol or drugs.  This is an ‘opinion’ crime.  Read more about being under the limit and still getting a DUI.

See also:-

Admin Per Se

California immediate driver license suspension law

In 1990, California implemented an immediate driver license suspension law for alcohol-impaired drivers, also referred to as an “Administrative Per Se (APS)” or “on-the-spot” license suspension law.

If you have been arrested for one of the following offenses, or you have refused a chemical test, the California Admin Per Se law requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to suspend or revoke your license upon arrest.

By DUI laws in California, it is illegal for any person to operate:

  • A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
  • Any vehicle requiring a commercial driver license (with or without a commercial driver license issued to the driver), with a BAC of 0.04% or higher.
  • A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher, if the person is under age 21.
  • A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher at any age if the person is on DUI probation for a prior DUI.

30-day Temporary License

After your arrest for DUI, your driver’s license is confiscated by the arresting officer, and you are issued with a 30-day temporary license.  This 30-day temporary license is intended to provide you with sufficient time to challenge the suspension through a DMV administrative review (DMV Hearing). You only have 10 days after your arrest to ask for a DMV Stay and Hearing to try to save your license.

Independent of the court

This suspension of your license by the DMV is called an “administrative action” and is independent of any court-imposed criminal penalties for conviction of your DUI offense.  Be aware that the DMV and the court are two separate institutions and have separate and independent powers over your license.

If your charges are dismissed by the court

APS Dismissal Hearing
If your charges are dismissed by the court for insufficient evidence or if you are, following arrest, never charged by the court for DUI, you may request an APS dismissal hearing to consider setting aside the associated APS suspension of your license.

See also:-

 

Can I be under the limit and still get a DUI?

Yes, your blood alcohol level may be under the .08 limit, but the police can still charge you with a DUI if the arresting police officer believed your driving was impaired due to your consumption of alcohol or drugs.  This is according to:-

California Vehicle Code VC 23152(a)

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

The DUI law in California has 2 parts:-

VC 23152(b) Driving with a level of .08 or higher –
If you take a blood or breath test and your result is .08 or higher you will be charged with violating this DUI law.

VC 23152(a) This part of the DUI law in California states that you are not allowed to drive under the influence of alcohol or drug or both.

Under the limit DUI

This is an opinion crime which means if the officer thinks in his opinion that you are under the influence of alcohol or a drug he can arrest you for a DUI in accordance with VC 23152(a). This law gives the officer the power to arrest you even if you have a breath or blood result under .08. If the officer feels you have been drinking and driving and he believes you are under the influence he can arrest you for a DUI. The officer will usually consider the following to form his opinion:

  • Your driving
  • Your physical symptoms (speech, eyes, breath, etc.)
  • And your performance on the Field Sobriety tests

Definition of  Driving Under the Influence

A person is considered under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, drug, or combination of alcohol and drugs when his/her physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that he/she no longer has the ability to drive a vehicle with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence, under the same or similar circumstances.

VC 23152(a)

If you blow a breath result under .08 you can still be charged with a DUI if the officer believes in his opinion you are under the influence of alcohol i.e. you are impaired by alcohol as this law allows people to be charged with a DUI even if they have a breath result under .08 such as .07 or .06.

If you refuse to take a breath or blood test you can still be charged with a DUI under this law (VC 23152(a)) if the officer believes in his opinion you are under the influence of alcohol and impaired.

If the officer suspects you have consumed a drug (the drug can be legal or illegal) and the drug has affected your ability to drive you can be charged with a DUI under this law (VC 23152(a)) if the officer believes in his opinion you are under the influence of a drug and impaired.

In summary, this law has given the police a lot of power as they can arrest and have someone charged with a DUI based simply on their opinion. If the officer thinks in his opinion you are under the influence of alcohol or a drug you can be charged with a DUI even if your breath or blood result is under .08 and you can be charged with a DUI even if you refused to take a breath or blood test.

Do I face jail time for DUI?

California DUI Laws

  1. On a first time DUI, you do not face any jail time unless there is an aggravating circumstance.
  2. On a second DUI, the law requires that you go to jail (local county jail) for a minimum of 96 hours.
  3. On a third DUI within 10 years, the law requires that you go jail for a minimum of 120 days.
  4. If you get a fourth DUI within 10 years, you face possible felony DUI charges and you can possibly be sentenced to state prison for a minimum of 16 months.

Our DUI law office has a very successful track record of obtaining alternatives to Los Angeles County Jail which allows people to keep working and stay out of jail.  Please call us immediately if you face any jail time in Los Angeles County for DUI, to discuss your alternatives on (310) 285-1516.

Read more about Jail Time for DUI

Criminal Record

By law in California, DUI – Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs is a criminal offense. It is more serious than most other traffic offenses. A conviction for a DUI will result in a criminal record.

When is a DUI a Felony in California?

In California, if you have 4 DUI’s within 10 years or you are involved in a serious accident and someone is hurt seriously you face a Felony DUI charge.

Read more about Misdemeanors, Felonies and penalties for DUI Felonies.

What is a plea bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement with the prosecutor in which you plead guilty or no contest to an agreed upon charge with an agreed upon punishment.

The prosecutor is the government lawyer who takes over your case from the police officer after you were arrested for DUI. The prosecutor determines the plea bargain offered to you.  Usually the offer is predictable if there are no aggravating circumstances.

Vehicle Code VC 23152

VC 23152(a)

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

VC 23152(b)

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

Note re VC 23152(a)

This law has given the police a lot of power as they can arrest and have someone charged with a DUI based simply on their opinion. If the officer thinks in his opinion you are under the influence of alcohol or a drug you can be charged with a DUI even if your breath or blood result is under .08 and you can be charged with a DUI even if you refused to take a breath or blood test.  See Can I be under the limit and still get a DUI? for more detail.

Vehicle Code VC 23140

Vehicle Code VC 23140

It is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 years who has 0.05 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.  See UNDER 21 and arrested for drinking and driving.

Vehicle Code VC 23153

VC 23153(a)

(a) It is unlawful for any person, while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.

See Aggravated DUI for more about accident causing bodily injury.

VC 23153(b)

(b) It is unlawful for any person, while having 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.

See Aggravated DUI for more about accident causing bodily injury.

VC 14601.2 Driving on a suspended license due to a DUI

Did you get arrested for a DUI in California and then got caught driving on a suspended license and were issued a ticket for a violation of VC 14601.2 (driving on a suspended license due to a DUI)? This is a very serious charge as the California DUI law requires at a minimum:-

You must do everything you can to get your license reinstated and try to avoid this stiff punishment.  First, get informed, then call us (310) 285-1516 for help.

What is a Wet Reckless?

What is a Wet Reckless? A Wet Reckless is the nickname for the California Vehicle Code (VC) Section 23103 per VC 23013.5 charge of reckless driving involving alcohol.

If the prosecutor feels the DUI case against you has some weaknesses, for example:-

  • When your breath test or blood test result is close to .08
  • And if your driving and Field Sobriety Tests are not bad

… then the prosecutor might offer a plea bargain that is called a Wet Reckless.

A Wet Reckless is really a kinder, gentler DUI, a watered down DUI if you will.  It is a ‘prior’ on your record, which means if you get another DUI in the next 10 years it will be considered your second DUI because the Wet Reckless counts against you just like a first time DUI.

Read more about Wet Reckless and Dry Reckless and the differences between a Wet Reckless and DUI.

Under 21 DUI

Under 21 DUI California

When you are UNDER 21 and arrested for drinking and driving

California has zero tolerance laws for people who are under 21 and drive with any alcohol in their system.  If you took a breath test or blood test and your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) was .01 or more you face a one year license suspension from the DMV.

The court and DMV will attempt to suspend your license for one year. Even when you are under 21 you are still allowed to have a DMV hearing and a stay so make sure you call the DMV within 10 days to request a Hearing and a Stay to fight your suspension.

Critical Need Restricted License

Under the Zero tolerance law, however you can still apply to the court and the DMV for a critical need restricted license which would allow you to drive to school and to work only. Your chances of getting a critical need license from the DMV usually depend on whether public transit is inadequate and if you are helping support your family with your job.

See also DMV Fact Sheet

DUI Probation Violation

hand cuffs iconIf you are on probation for a prior DUI and you get a new DUI arrest you possibly face what is called a probation violation hearing. This means you must go in front of a judge regarding your old case (usually the judge who sentenced you on the prior DUI) who has the power to send you to jail for violating the terms of your probation such as the condition not to drink and drive with any measurable amount of alcohol. In these situations, your luck depends on what court you are in and which judge you are in front of because you can face significant jail time for probation violations.

Please call us (310) 285-1516 if you have a probation violation in Los Angeles to discuss the courthouse you are in and what judge you have to go in front of, and how we can help avoid jail time. Under new laws you are not allowed to drive with any alcohol in your body while you are on probation and you could now face a one year license suspension if you drink and drive while on probation.

DMV & License

10 days to call the DMV

You have only 10 days to call the DMV after your DUI arrest date to obtain a STAYand a HEARING otherwise your license is subject to automatic license suspension 30 days after your DUI arrest date.

You must call specific DMV offices and not your local DMV office where you are likely to be misinformed.

These 10 days include weekends. For example if you were arrested on January 5 you only have until January 15 to make a DMV hearing request. If you like you can contact our office (310) 285-1516 and we will obtain a stay and a DMV hearing for you.

See How to Request a DMV Hearing

When will my DMV Hearing take place?

Your DMV Hearing usually takes place 1-3 months after your arrest.

See also:-

How to save your license from suspension

Method 1: Get and win a DMV Hearing

You must request a Stay and a DMV Hearing within 10 days of your DUI arrest.  If you win your hearing, the DMV will not take any action against your license. However, you must be aware that the court still has the power to restrict, suspend or revoke your license depending on your case and if you have prior DUI’s.

The terrible thing about a DUI is the court and DMV have separate and independent powers over your license.  This can be very confusing; so be aware of this fact in determining what can happen to your license.

DUI law in california is so convoluted and the DMV will do everything possible to have you lose the DMV hearing. DMV hearings are very difficult to win and if you are convicted in court of a DUI, the DMV will then usually impose a suspension resulting from what happens in court.  So they try and get you both ways.

Read more in How to win a DMV Hearing.

Method 2: The Jury at your jury trial finds you not guilty

The other way to avoid a license suspension is if you have a jury trial in court:-

  • and the Jury finds you not guilty of all the DUI charges
  • and you did not refuse to take a chemical test (breath or blood)

then the DMV will return your license without suspending your license.

Read more about the benefits of Plea Bargain versus Jury Trial

How can I get a Restricted License?

To get a restricted license you will need to go to your local DMV office. The DMV will then look at your driver’s record to see if you have:-

  1. Enrolled in the approved DUI class
  2. Filed an SR-22 proof of insurance
  3. Served the appropriate suspension time
  4. Complied with all Ignition Interlock Requirements

If you meet all of these DMV requirements and are eligible for a restricted license, they will then issue you a restricted license after you pay them a DMV reissue fee of $125.

To see if you are eligible for a restricted license, see Restricted License

Negligent Operator & Restricted License

If the California DMV wants to suspend your license for being a negligent operator:-

  • You are still entitled to a DMV hearing
  • And you might be able to get a restricted drivers license if you drive a lot for work

So make sure you have a DMV hearing in these situations. You must request a DMV Hearing within 10 days of your DUI arrest.

Insurance Premiums & DUI, SR-22

SR-22 – Proof of car insurance

If your license gets suspended after your DUI arrest, at some point you are going to have to obtain an SR-22 from your insurance company to get your license back from the DMV.

An SR-22 is the only document that the California DMV will accept as proof you have car insurance.

You have to ask your insurance company for the SR-22 document, and it usually tips them off that you have a DUI, and your insurance company will do one of three things to you:

  • Cancel you
  • Increase your premiums
  • Or do nothing.

Higher Insurance Rates

A DUI on your driver’s license record in California can lead to much higher insurance rates.

How long will a DUI stay on my record in California?

10 YEARS

  • A misdemeanor DUI is on your criminal record and California DMV record for 10 years.
  • The ten year time period begins on your arrest date.
  • After 10 years, the courts and DMV cannot use that DUI against you.
  • A felony DUI is on your record for 10 years.

Warning

Presently a DUI conviction will be on your record for 10 years starting from your arrest date.

However, there are efforts in the California legislature to make a DUI stay on your record for a lifetime and to be used against you for your whole life. This means if you got a DUI 20 years ago and get arrested for another DUI it will be your second DUI and you will face additional punishment.

Expect the worse and expect the California DUI laws to change in the future and make your DUI stay on your record for 15 years or longer if not for a lifetime.

This is my second DUI

California is ridiculously tough on people who get a DUI within 10 years of another DUI.

You must realize that, on a second DUI, California Law wants to :-

  • Put you in jail for 96 hours
  • And SUSPEND your license for one year without driving at all; no driving, not even to work, on a second DUI.

See also DUI Penalties and Laws FAQ

Points on my license

A DUI on your DMV driver’s record in California results in 2 points on your license.

If you get a total of:-

  • 4 points in a year
  • 6 points in 2 years
  • or 8 points in 3 years

– then the DMV will try to suspend your license for 6 months for being a negligent operator, a driver with too many points.

Learn more about DUI points on your license

DUI Refusal

dui refusal

 Refusal Alert!

If you refused to take a breath test or blood test at the police station when you were arrested for DUI, even if you tried blowing into the breath machine, you face a one-year suspension of your license with absolutely no chance of getting a restricted license to drive to work during this suspension. If you have prior DUIs then you face a longer suspension also with no chance of getting a restricted license:-

  • A 2-year revocation is imposed for a second offense (within 10 years)
  • A 3-year revocation is imposed for a third or subsequent offense (within 10 years).

You must win your DMV hearing in all refusal cases to get your license back and avoid this strict punishment. The courts have no power over your license in refusal cases which means even if you go to trial and win, it will not affect your license status. You must win your DMV hearing to get your license back.

Please note, a refusal to take a mandatory chemical test at the police station is different from a DUI checkpoint refusal to breathe into the handheld breathalyzer device at the roadside which is an optional field sobriety test. See breath machines FAQ.

Implied consent law

California law says that anyone with a California license driving in the state of California has given their implied consent to taking a chemical test if a police officer suspects they have been drinking and driving.  If a police officer requests that you take a breath or blood test at the police station to determine your blood alcohol level, then you must take a test.

This means that if you are pulled over by a police officer and he thinks you have been drinking alcohol you get to choose but you must either take a breath test at the police station or submit to a blood test and give a sample of your blood to determine how much alcohol is inside your body. If a breath or blood test is not available, you must provide a urine sample. By having a license you have already consented to take this chemical test. (Unfortunately, no one knows about or understands this implied consent law.  See California Veh Code 23612).

Consequences of a refusal

If a police officer pulls you over and suspects you have been drinking and driving, and he says you must take a breath or blood test and you refuse to take a breath or blood test you face some very serious punishment for refusing to take a chemical test. By refusing to take a test, you face:-

  • A one-year license suspension of your license with no chance for a restricted license to drive to work. That’s one year of no driving at all!
  • In court, you also face greater punishment such as a 9-month DUI class instead of a 3-month DUI class normally ordered for a first-time DUI
  • You possibly face 48 hours in jail for not taking a chemical test.

There have been cases where people have tried blowing into the breath machine and when no result is obtained, officers sometimes get impatient, accusing you of not blowing hard enough, and they say that you have refused to take a test without telling you that you face a 1-year license suspension and a minimum of 48 hours in jail from the court for refusing to take a test.

How to save your license

If the officer accuses you of refusing to take a test, the only way to save your license from being suspended for one year is to request a DMV hearing and to win this DMV hearing. You are entitled to a DMV hearing even if you refused to take a test. In a refusal case, the DMV has complete control of your license. This means even if you have a jury trial for your DUI and the jury finds you not guilty of the DUI it will not change the outcome of the DMV hearing concerning your refusal to take a test.

If you are being charged with a Refusal of a test by a police officer, you are facing a one-year suspension of your license and additional punishment in court.  It is imperative that you immediately request a DMV hearing to try and save your license from being suspended for one year.

Control of your license

The courts have no power over your license in refusal cases. The DMV hearing completely controls what happens to your license in a refusal case: if you win the DMV hearing your license will be returned and will not be suspended for one year. If you lose the hearing your license will be suspended for one year and you are not eligible for any restricted license that would allow you to drive to work. It is a one-year hard suspension allowing no driving at all not even to work.

So Refusal cases are very serious and you must get a DMV hearing to fight these allegations.

Traffic School

You cannot go to traffic school for a DUI in California nor can you do diversion or deferred entry of judgment for a DUI. (Please note if you are a Military Veteran and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder you might be able to do a diversion program for a DUI.) However, you can do traffic school for traffic tickets.

You always want to be conscious of DMV points, as a DUI puts two DMV points on your license record. If you get charged with a DUI and a Hit and Run, or a DUI and Driving on a Suspended License, you are facing four DMV points from these charges – as a Hit and Run is a two DMV point violation. Driving on a Suspended License also puts two DMV points on your record.

If you get four DMV points in a twelve month period, the DMV will send you a letter stating that your license will be suspended for six months for being a Negligent Operator. You always want to avoid additional DMV points going on your record from traffic tickets so it is always a good idea when you get a traffic ticket for a moving violation like speeding to consider fighting the ticket or requesting traffic school. Remember you can do traffic school once every 18 months to keep a DMV point off your record.

Penalties – License Suspension

Penalties -License Suspension

If you lose your DMV Hearing and there was not a refusal, you face the following license suspensions:

First Time DUI

– the DMV will suspend your license for a minimum of one month. After this one month suspension of your license, if you:-

  1. Enroll in an alcohol class
  2. File proof of insurance (SR-22, proof of financial responsibility)
  3. And pay a DMV license reissue fee of $125

… then you are eligible to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) and obtain an IID-restricted driver license with unlimited driving privileges.  This applies to convictions in the four IID pilot counties of Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento and Tulare which occurred on or after July 1, 2010.

In summary, on a first time DUI in Los Angeles County, you cannot drive for 30 days if you lose your DMV hearing but after 30 days you can get an IID-restricted license with unlimited driving privileges.

Second Time DUI within 10 years

– the DMV will suspend your license for two years if you lose your DMV hearing.  NO DRIVING AT ALL IS ALLOWED FOR THE FIRST 90 DAYS. YOU ARE NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO DRIVE TO WORK.

People cannot believe the DMV will not allow a restricted license during this 90-day period but the law is brutal and merciless on second DUIs and your license will be suspended for two years – WITH NO DRIVING ALLOWED AT ALL for 90 DAYS by the DMV for a second time DUI.

After 90 days of no driving at all and installation of an ignition interlock device, you might be eligible for an IID-restricted license which would allow you to drive for work-related reasons.  The DMV will notify you if and when you are eligible to apply for a restricted license.

Note: The 90-day no-driving period applies if you were convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol only.  If you were convicted of driving under the influence of any drug or the combined influence of any drug and an alcoholic beverage, the period of no driving at all before you might be eligible for a restricted license is 12 months.

Third Time DUI within 10 years

– the DMV and the Court will attempt to revoke your license for three years so you cannot drive at all. After six months of no driving at all, you might be eligible for an IID-restricted license which would allow you to drive for work-related reasons, subject to certain conditions including, among other things:-

Note: The 6-month no-driving period applies if you were convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol only.  If you were convicted of driving under the influence of any drug or the combined influence of any drug and an alcoholic beverage, the period of no driving at all before you might be eligible for a restricted license is 12 months.

The DMV will notify you if and when you are eligible to apply for an IID-restricted license.

Admin Per Se

California immediate driver license suspension law

In 1990, California implemented an immediate driver license suspension law for alcohol-impaired drivers, also referred to as an “Administrative Per Se (APS)” or “on-the-spot” license suspension law.

If you have been arrested for one of the following offenses, or you have refused a chemical test, the California Admin Per Se law requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to suspend or revoke your license upon arrest.

By DUI laws in California, it is illegal for any person to operate:

  • A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
  • Any vehicle requiring a commercial driver license (with or without a commercial driver license issued to the driver), with a BAC of 0.04% or higher.
  • A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher, if the person is under age 21.
  • A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher at any age if the person is on DUI probation for a prior DUI.

30-day Temporary License

After your arrest for DUI, your driver’s license is confiscated by the arresting officer, and you are issued with a 30-day temporary license.  This 30-day temporary license is intended to provide you with sufficient time to challenge the suspension through a DMV administrative review (DMV Hearing). You only have 10 days after your arrest to ask for a DMV Stay and Hearing to try to save your license.

Independent of the court

This suspension of your license by the DMV is called an “administrative action” and is independent of any court-imposed criminal penalties for conviction of your DUI offense.  Be aware that the DMV and the court are two separate institutions and have separate and independent powers over your license.

If your charges are dismissed by the court

APS Dismissal Hearing
If your charges are dismissed by the court for insufficient evidence or if you are, following arrest, never charged by the court for DUI, you may request an APS dismissal hearing to consider setting aside the associated APS suspension of your license.

See also:-

 

DUI Attorney

Should I hire my own DUI attorney?

Can a private DUI attorney help with my defense?

Whether it is worth hiring a DUI attorney is something you need to think about. Call us at (310) 285-1516 to help you answer this question. We will go over with you the advantages and disadvantages of representing yourself, using the public defender or hiring your own DUI attorney.

Here are some examples of how a private DUI attorney can potentially help you with your DUI defense:

  • Assess the case and counsel you on your options.
  • Try to protect you from any additional punishment.
  • Go to court for you so you do not have to go, and appear in court in front of the judge on your behalf.
  • Handle your DMV hearing for you and help you with your license.
  • Conduct Investigation and Discovery in the case to determine how trustworthy and strong the Government’s evidence is against you, and evaluate the police officer’s arrest of you.
  • Help decide if you want to go to trial or work out a plea bargain with the prosecutor.
  • Negotiate a plea bargain for you.
  • Help obtain alternatives to jail.
  • Represent you in a jury trial.

DUI Penalties

Penalties – License Suspension

Penalties -License Suspension

If you lose your DMV Hearing and there was not a refusal, you face the following license suspensions:

First Time DUI

– the DMV will suspend your license for a minimum of one month. After this one month suspension of your license, if you:-

  1. Enroll in an alcohol class
  2. File proof of insurance (SR-22, proof of financial responsibility)
  3. And pay a DMV license reissue fee of $125

… then you are eligible to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) and obtain an IID-restricted driver license with unlimited driving privileges.  This applies to convictions in the four IID pilot counties of Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento and Tulare which occurred on or after July 1, 2010.

In summary, on a first time DUI in Los Angeles County, you cannot drive for 30 days if you lose your DMV hearing but after 30 days you can get an IID-restricted license with unlimited driving privileges.

Second Time DUI within 10 years

– the DMV will suspend your license for two years if you lose your DMV hearing.  NO DRIVING AT ALL IS ALLOWED FOR THE FIRST 90 DAYS. YOU ARE NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO DRIVE TO WORK.

People cannot believe the DMV will not allow a restricted license during this 90-day period but the law is brutal and merciless on second DUIs and your license will be suspended for two years – WITH NO DRIVING ALLOWED AT ALL for 90 DAYS by the DMV for a second time DUI.

After 90 days of no driving at all and installation of an ignition interlock device, you might be eligible for an IID-restricted license which would allow you to drive for work-related reasons.  The DMV will notify you if and when you are eligible to apply for a restricted license.

Note: The 90-day no-driving period applies if you were convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol only.  If you were convicted of driving under the influence of any drug or the combined influence of any drug and an alcoholic beverage, the period of no driving at all before you might be eligible for a restricted license is 12 months.

Third Time DUI within 10 years

– the DMV and the Court will attempt to revoke your license for three years so you cannot drive at all. After six months of no driving at all, you might be eligible for an IID-restricted license which would allow you to drive for work-related reasons, subject to certain conditions including, among other things:-

Note: The 6-month no-driving period applies if you were convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol only.  If you were convicted of driving under the influence of any drug or the combined influence of any drug and an alcoholic beverage, the period of no driving at all before you might be eligible for a restricted license is 12 months.

The DMV will notify you if and when you are eligible to apply for an IID-restricted license.

How long will a DUI stay on my record in California?

10 YEARS

  • A misdemeanor DUI is on your criminal record and California DMV record for 10 years.
  • The ten year time period begins on your arrest date.
  • After 10 years, the courts and DMV cannot use that DUI against you.
  • A felony DUI is on your record for 10 years.

Warning

Presently a DUI conviction will be on your record for 10 years starting from your arrest date.

However, there are efforts in the California legislature to make a DUI stay on your record for a lifetime and to be used against you for your whole life. This means if you got a DUI 20 years ago and get arrested for another DUI it will be your second DUI and you will face additional punishment.

Expect the worse and expect the California DUI laws to change in the future and make your DUI stay on your record for 15 years or longer if not for a lifetime.

This is my second DUI

California is ridiculously tough on people who get a DUI within 10 years of another DUI.

You must realize that, on a second DUI, California Law wants to :-

  • Put you in jail for 96 hours
  • And SUSPEND your license for one year without driving at all; no driving, not even to work, on a second DUI.

See also DUI Penalties and Laws FAQ

Do I face jail time for DUI?

California DUI Laws

  1. On a first time DUI, you do not face any jail time unless there is an aggravating circumstance.
  2. On a second DUI, the law requires that you go to jail (local county jail) for a minimum of 96 hours.
  3. On a third DUI within 10 years, the law requires that you go jail for a minimum of 120 days.
  4. If you get a fourth DUI within 10 years, you face possible felony DUI charges and you can possibly be sentenced to state prison for a minimum of 16 months.

Our DUI law office has a very successful track record of obtaining alternatives to Los Angeles County Jail which allows people to keep working and stay out of jail.  Please call us immediately if you face any jail time in Los Angeles County for DUI, to discuss your alternatives on (310) 285-1516.

Read more about Jail Time for DUI

Ignition Interlock Device
ignition interlock device

Woman in car blowing into Ignition Interlock Device

What is an IID?

An Ignition Interlock Device or IID is similar to a breathalyzer that is wired to your vehicle’s ignition.  It requires you to provide a breath sample before the engine will start. If the device detects alcohol on your breath, the engine will not start. As you drive, the device will beep periodically to request additional breath samples to ensure continued absence of alcohol in your system.

The Ignition Interlock Device Pilot program has been effective in Los Angeles County since 1 July 2010. Under the requirements of the program, you are required to install an IID for a minimum period of 5 months if this is your first DUI in 10 years.

IID Restriction Terms

During your IID restriction period, you cannot drive vehicles that are not equipped with a functioning IID. The term of the IID restriction period is based on the initial DUI offense and the number of DUI related offenses you have within the prior 10 years, as specified below:

Number of
Offenses
Within 10 Years
IID Restriction Period
for Conviction of
VC 23152
IID Restriction Period for
Conviction of VC 23153 or
California Penal Code 191.5(b)
15 months12 months
212 months24 months
324 months36 months
4 or more36 months48 months

A senate bill was passed in September 2016 which will modify these restrictions (the 5 month restriction period will become 6 months), but the bill will not take effect until January 1, 2019.

Read more about Ignition Interlock Devices

Misdemeanors and Felony DUIs

Misdemeanor DUI

Most DUI’s are filed as misdemeanors.

How long is a Misdemeanor DUI on your record?

  • A misdemeanor DUI is on your criminal and DMV record for 10 years.
  • After 10 years, the courts and DMV cannot use that DUI against you.
  • The ten year time period begins on your arrest date.

Felony DUI

Penalties for Felony DUI

A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor and carries much higher penalties.  In California, if you have 4 DUI’s within 10 years or you are involved in a serious accident and someone is hurt seriously you face a Felony DUI charge. You can be charged with a felony DUI even if a passenger in your car is hurt seriously.

Do you face jail time in California for a Felony DUI? – Yes.  Felony DUIs are very serious because you face the following penalties:-

  • a minimum state prison sentence of 16 months
  • and parole after your sentence.

How long is a Felony DUI on your record?

  • A felony DUI is on your record for 10 years.

Warning Presently a DUI conviction will be on your record for 10 years starting from your arrest date. However, there are efforts in the California legislature to make a DUI stay on your record for a lifetime and to be used against you for your whole life. This means if you got a DUI 20 years ago and get arrested for another DUI it will be your second DUI and you will face additional punishment. Expect the worse and expect the California DUI laws to change in the future and make your DUI stay on your record for 15 years or longer if not for a lifetime.

This is my second DUI

California is ridiculously tough on people who get a DUI within 10 years of another DUI.

You must realize that, on a second DUI, California Law wants to :-

  • Put you in jail for 96 hours
  • And SUSPEND your license for one year without driving at all; no driving, not even to work, on a second DUI.
How much does a DUI Cost?

Fixed DUI Costs

  • Court Fine – minimum fine of approximately $2,000; If you want, the judge may allow you to do Cal Trans, Community Service, or Jail time instead of paying the fine.
  • 3 month Alcohol Class – minimum cost of approximately $600 (more expensive if you have to take 6, 9 or 18 month class –  See DUI Education).
  • Ignition Interlock devices cost about $60 to $80 per month, with an installation fee of $70 to $150.
  • DMV license Reissue Fee – approximately $180.

In all, a minimum of about $2,780 in Fixed DUI Costs.

Additional Potential DUI Costs

  • DUI Insurance Rates Increase – Your insurance premiums could go up over time.
  • DUI Attorney fees.
  • Accident fees if you are involved in an accident. You might have to pay for the damage you caused and also pay for ambulance, police or fireman services if emergency services are called to the accident scene. You face restitution payments to the victim and also a bill from the LAPD or the CHP for their time arresting you.
  • Other potential DUI costs can include fees for impoundment, and an ignition interlock device.
Points on my license

A DUI on your DMV driver’s record in California results in 2 points on your license.

If you get a total of:-

  • 4 points in a year
  • 6 points in 2 years
  • or 8 points in 3 years

– then the DMV will try to suspend your license for 6 months for being a negligent operator, a driver with too many points.

Learn more about DUI points on your license

DUI Refusal

dui refusal

 Refusal Alert!

If you refused to take a breath test or blood test at the police station when you were arrested for DUI, even if you tried blowing into the breath machine, you face a one-year suspension of your license with absolutely no chance of getting a restricted license to drive to work during this suspension. If you have prior DUIs then you face a longer suspension also with no chance of getting a restricted license:-

  • A 2-year revocation is imposed for a second offense (within 10 years)
  • A 3-year revocation is imposed for a third or subsequent offense (within 10 years).

You must win your DMV hearing in all refusal cases to get your license back and avoid this strict punishment. The courts have no power over your license in refusal cases which means even if you go to trial and win, it will not affect your license status. You must win your DMV hearing to get your license back.

Please note, a refusal to take a mandatory chemical test at the police station is different from a DUI checkpoint refusal to breathe into the handheld breathalyzer device at the roadside which is an optional field sobriety test. See breath machines FAQ.

Implied consent law

California law says that anyone with a California license driving in the state of California has given their implied consent to taking a chemical test if a police officer suspects they have been drinking and driving.  If a police officer requests that you take a breath or blood test at the police station to determine your blood alcohol level, then you must take a test.

This means that if you are pulled over by a police officer and he thinks you have been drinking alcohol you get to choose but you must either take a breath test at the police station or submit to a blood test and give a sample of your blood to determine how much alcohol is inside your body. If a breath or blood test is not available, you must provide a urine sample. By having a license you have already consented to take this chemical test. (Unfortunately, no one knows about or understands this implied consent law.  See California Veh Code 23612).

Consequences of a refusal

If a police officer pulls you over and suspects you have been drinking and driving, and he says you must take a breath or blood test and you refuse to take a breath or blood test you face some very serious punishment for refusing to take a chemical test. By refusing to take a test, you face:-

  • A one-year license suspension of your license with no chance for a restricted license to drive to work. That’s one year of no driving at all!
  • In court, you also face greater punishment such as a 9-month DUI class instead of a 3-month DUI class normally ordered for a first-time DUI
  • You possibly face 48 hours in jail for not taking a chemical test.

There have been cases where people have tried blowing into the breath machine and when no result is obtained, officers sometimes get impatient, accusing you of not blowing hard enough, and they say that you have refused to take a test without telling you that you face a 1-year license suspension and a minimum of 48 hours in jail from the court for refusing to take a test.

How to save your license

If the officer accuses you of refusing to take a test, the only way to save your license from being suspended for one year is to request a DMV hearing and to win this DMV hearing. You are entitled to a DMV hearing even if you refused to take a test. In a refusal case, the DMV has complete control of your license. This means even if you have a jury trial for your DUI and the jury finds you not guilty of the DUI it will not change the outcome of the DMV hearing concerning your refusal to take a test.

If you are being charged with a Refusal of a test by a police officer, you are facing a one-year suspension of your license and additional punishment in court.  It is imperative that you immediately request a DMV hearing to try and save your license from being suspended for one year.

Control of your license

The courts have no power over your license in refusal cases. The DMV hearing completely controls what happens to your license in a refusal case: if you win the DMV hearing your license will be returned and will not be suspended for one year. If you lose the hearing your license will be suspended for one year and you are not eligible for any restricted license that would allow you to drive to work. It is a one-year hard suspension allowing no driving at all not even to work.

So Refusal cases are very serious and you must get a DMV hearing to fight these allegations.

What is an Aggravated DUI

FAQ: What is an Aggravated DUI?

An Aggravated DUI is a DUI charge which involves:-

  • Another offense in addition to driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Or another factor such as an extremely high level of blood alcohol.

Such circumstances surrounding your DUI are called “Aggravating Circumstances”.

A conviction for Aggravated DUI can result in far more serious penalties than a regular drunk driving charge.

Learn more about Aggravated DUI & Aggravating Circumstances

DUI Education Programs

When you are convicted of a DUI offense in Los Angeles County, the court may order you to complete an Alcohol and Drug Education and Counseling program provided by a state-licensed service provider.

To enroll in one of these programs, you must be referred, either by the court or the DMV.

Read more about DUI Drug and Alcohol Education Programs

DUI Process

10 days to call the DMV

You have only 10 days to call the DMV after your DUI arrest date to obtain a STAYand a HEARING otherwise your license is subject to automatic license suspension 30 days after your DUI arrest date.

You must call specific DMV offices and not your local DMV office where you are likely to be misinformed.

These 10 days include weekends. For example if you were arrested on January 5 you only have until January 15 to make a DMV hearing request. If you like you can contact our office (310) 285-1516 and we will obtain a stay and a DMV hearing for you.

See How to Request a DMV Hearing

Should I hire my own DUI attorney?

Can a private DUI attorney help with my defense?

Whether it is worth hiring a DUI attorney is something you need to think about. Call us at (310) 285-1516 to help you answer this question. We will go over with you the advantages and disadvantages of representing yourself, using the public defender or hiring your own DUI attorney.

Here are some examples of how a private DUI attorney can potentially help you with your DUI defense:

  • Assess the case and counsel you on your options.
  • Try to protect you from any additional punishment.
  • Go to court for you so you do not have to go, and appear in court in front of the judge on your behalf.
  • Handle your DMV hearing for you and help you with your license.
  • Conduct Investigation and Discovery in the case to determine how trustworthy and strong the Government’s evidence is against you, and evaluate the police officer’s arrest of you.
  • Help decide if you want to go to trial or work out a plea bargain with the prosecutor.
  • Negotiate a plea bargain for you.
  • Help obtain alternatives to jail.
  • Represent you in a jury trial.
Two major hurdles ahead

There are two major hurdles you have to face as a consequence of your DUI arrest in Los Angeles County:

  1. DMV Hearing:
    You must request, then attend, a DMV Hearing. A Stay and a Hearing buy you more time to drive and a chance at avoiding a license suspension.
  2. Court Hearing:
    You must go to court to face criminal charges for DUI or drunk driving.

These are two separate events, in separate institutions.

Read more about the DMV Hearing and your Court Hearing

What is a plea bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement with the prosecutor in which you plead guilty or no contest to an agreed upon charge with an agreed upon punishment.

The prosecutor is the government lawyer who takes over your case from the police officer after you were arrested for DUI. The prosecutor determines the plea bargain offered to you.  Usually the offer is predictable if there are no aggravating circumstances.

What is an arraignment?

An Arraignment is a fancy word for your first court date in front of a judge.  If you were arrested for a DUI, you are normally given a ticket by the police officer and at the bottom of the ticket
is a court date and the address of the court you have to go to on this date.  This court date listed on the bottom of your ticket is your arraignment or first court date in front of the Judge.

Read more about what happens at your arraignment for DUI.

When will my DMV Hearing take place?

Your DMV Hearing usually takes place 1-3 months after your arrest.

See also:-

Police

Can I be under the limit and still get a DUI?

Yes, your blood alcohol level may be under the .08 limit, but the police can still charge you with a DUI if the arresting police officer believed your driving was impaired due to your consumption of alcohol or drugs.  This is according to:-

California Vehicle Code VC 23152(a)

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

The DUI law in California has 2 parts:-

VC 23152(b) Driving with a level of .08 or higher –
If you take a blood or breath test and your result is .08 or higher you will be charged with violating this DUI law.

VC 23152(a) This part of the DUI law in California states that you are not allowed to drive under the influence of alcohol or drug or both.

Under the limit DUI

This is an opinion crime which means if the officer thinks in his opinion that you are under the influence of alcohol or a drug he can arrest you for a DUI in accordance with VC 23152(a). This law gives the officer the power to arrest you even if you have a breath or blood result under .08. If the officer feels you have been drinking and driving and he believes you are under the influence he can arrest you for a DUI. The officer will usually consider the following to form his opinion:

  • Your driving
  • Your physical symptoms (speech, eyes, breath, etc.)
  • And your performance on the Field Sobriety tests

Definition of  Driving Under the Influence

A person is considered under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, drug, or combination of alcohol and drugs when his/her physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that he/she no longer has the ability to drive a vehicle with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence, under the same or similar circumstances.

VC 23152(a)

If you blow a breath result under .08 you can still be charged with a DUI if the officer believes in his opinion you are under the influence of alcohol i.e. you are impaired by alcohol as this law allows people to be charged with a DUI even if they have a breath result under .08 such as .07 or .06.

If you refuse to take a breath or blood test you can still be charged with a DUI under this law (VC 23152(a)) if the officer believes in his opinion you are under the influence of alcohol and impaired.

If the officer suspects you have consumed a drug (the drug can be legal or illegal) and the drug has affected your ability to drive you can be charged with a DUI under this law (VC 23152(a)) if the officer believes in his opinion you are under the influence of a drug and impaired.

In summary, this law has given the police a lot of power as they can arrest and have someone charged with a DUI based simply on their opinion. If the officer thinks in his opinion you are under the influence of alcohol or a drug you can be charged with a DUI even if your breath or blood result is under .08 and you can be charged with a DUI even if you refused to take a breath or blood test.

How do I get a copy of my Police Report?

It is usually difficult to get your police report from the police before your court date.

Your Police Report is available :-

  • On your first court date. This court date is listed at the bottom of the ticket you were given.
  • If you request a DMV hearing, you can request the DMV to send the Police Report to you approximately 10 days before the DMV Hearing.
  • If you were involved in an accident and California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers arrested you, you can obtain your accident report from the CHP station listed on the bottom of your pink temporary license that was given to you.

About your Police Report

The Police Report usually includes the OFFICER’S STATEMENT which is a special document sent to the DMV with very important information in it:

  • Breath Machine print out of your breath alcohol results
  • Information on your driving
  • Information on Field Sobriety Test Performance

Read more about Obtaining and reviewing a copy of your Police Report

Breath machines
What’s the difference between the breath machine I blew into at the side of the road and the breath machine I blew into at the police station?

Preliminary Alcohol Screen device (PAS device)

hand held breath machineUsually after you have done some field sobriety tests after you got pulled over, the officer will bring out a handheld breath device that he will get you to blow into. This handheld breath machine is called a preliminary alcohol screening device (PAS device for short). Under the law it is described as a field sobriety test which the officer can use to detect the presence of alcohol in you.

Under the law, blowing into this device is supposed to be optional; the officer must tell you that you can refuse this test, unfortunately officers usually never tell you it is optional to blow into this device and they will make you blow into it. After you blow into it; they almost always will not tell you your results.

Breath machines at the police station

breath machineThe results of the PAS device at the scene of your arrest are not as accurate as the breath machines at the police station that you might have blown into. Prosecutors give more weight to the breath results from the machines at the police stations. However, if the breath results from the PAS device are lower than your breath results from the machine at the police station, you can argue that your blood alcohol rose after driving and you potentially have a rising blood alcohol defense, especially if your results are near .08.

BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration)

Drinking alcohol affects your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC).

By DUI laws in California, it is illegal for any person to operate:

  • A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
  • Any vehicle requiring a commercial driver license (with or without a commercial driver license issued to the driver), with a BAC of 0.04% or higher.
  • A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher, if the person is under age 21.
  • A motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.01% or higher at any age if the person is on DUI probation.

See BAC Calculator to estimate the concentration of Alcohol in your blood based on how much you have been drinking.

The Officer never read me my rights

California DUI & Miranda rights

The law requires that you be informed of the following rights when you are in custodial interrogation:-

  • Your right to remain silent
  • Your right to an attorney
  • And what you say can be possibly be used against you in court.

These are your Miranda Rights.

This basically means that when you are handcuffed and the officer is asking questions that can possibly incriminate you he must inform you of your Miranda Rights listed above.

If the officer is asking you questions while you are in your car or before he has handcuffed you, this is usually considered an Investigative Interview and he does not have to tell you your Miranda Rights.

Failure to read your rights

Unfortunately, officers rarely read people their Miranda Rights in DUI arrests, and their failure to read you your rights does not prevent your breath or blood results from being used against you. A violation of your Miranda Rights can only result in excluding statements you made to the officer only if a Judge believes you were in custodial interrogation and you did not waive your rights. The officer’s failure to read you your rights will not affect your DUI case except in rare cases.

DUI Refusal

dui refusal

 Refusal Alert!

If you refused to take a breath test or blood test at the police station when you were arrested for DUI, even if you tried blowing into the breath machine, you face a one-year suspension of your license with absolutely no chance of getting a restricted license to drive to work during this suspension. If you have prior DUIs then you face a longer suspension also with no chance of getting a restricted license:-

  • A 2-year revocation is imposed for a second offense (within 10 years)
  • A 3-year revocation is imposed for a third or subsequent offense (within 10 years).

You must win your DMV hearing in all refusal cases to get your license back and avoid this strict punishment. The courts have no power over your license in refusal cases which means even if you go to trial and win, it will not affect your license status. You must win your DMV hearing to get your license back.

Please note, a refusal to take a mandatory chemical test at the police station is different from a DUI checkpoint refusal to breathe into the handheld breathalyzer device at the roadside which is an optional field sobriety test. See breath machines FAQ.

Implied consent law

California law says that anyone with a California license driving in the state of California has given their implied consent to taking a chemical test if a police officer suspects they have been drinking and driving.  If a police officer requests that you take a breath or blood test at the police station to determine your blood alcohol level, then you must take a test.

This means that if you are pulled over by a police officer and he thinks you have been drinking alcohol you get to choose but you must either take a breath test at the police station or submit to a blood test and give a sample of your blood to determine how much alcohol is inside your body. If a breath or blood test is not available, you must provide a urine sample. By having a license you have already consented to take this chemical test. (Unfortunately, no one knows about or understands this implied consent law.  See California Veh Code 23612).

Consequences of a refusal

If a police officer pulls you over and suspects you have been drinking and driving, and he says you must take a breath or blood test and you refuse to take a breath or blood test you face some very serious punishment for refusing to take a chemical test. By refusing to take a test, you face:-

  • A one-year license suspension of your license with no chance for a restricted license to drive to work. That’s one year of no driving at all!
  • In court, you also face greater punishment such as a 9-month DUI class instead of a 3-month DUI class normally ordered for a first-time DUI
  • You possibly face 48 hours in jail for not taking a chemical test.

There have been cases where people have tried blowing into the breath machine and when no result is obtained, officers sometimes get impatient, accusing you of not blowing hard enough, and they say that you have refused to take a test without telling you that you face a 1-year license suspension and a minimum of 48 hours in jail from the court for refusing to take a test.

How to save your license

If the officer accuses you of refusing to take a test, the only way to save your license from being suspended for one year is to request a DMV hearing and to win this DMV hearing. You are entitled to a DMV hearing even if you refused to take a test. In a refusal case, the DMV has complete control of your license. This means even if you have a jury trial for your DUI and the jury finds you not guilty of the DUI it will not change the outcome of the DMV hearing concerning your refusal to take a test.

If you are being charged with a Refusal of a test by a police officer, you are facing a one-year suspension of your license and additional punishment in court.  It is imperative that you immediately request a DMV hearing to try and save your license from being suspended for one year.

Control of your license

The courts have no power over your license in refusal cases. The DMV hearing completely controls what happens to your license in a refusal case: if you win the DMV hearing your license will be returned and will not be suspended for one year. If you lose the hearing your license will be suspended for one year and you are not eligible for any restricted license that would allow you to drive to work. It is a one-year hard suspension allowing no driving at all not even to work.

So Refusal cases are very serious and you must get a DMV hearing to fight these allegations.

Field Sobriety Tests

Definition: The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) is a battery of 3 tests performed by a police officer during a traffic stop in order to determine if a person suspected of impaired driving is intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. The 3 tests that make up the SFST are the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk-and-turn, and the one-leg stand tests. Developed in the 1970s, these tests are claimed to be scientifically validated, and are admissible as evidence in court in a majority of states including California.

Other sobriety tests which have not been standardized by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) can be included by the police officer, such as finger-to-nose, alphabet recitation,  DUI Rhomberg balance test (eyes-closed, head tilted back, estimate passage of 30 seconds), etc.

The intended purpose of the tests

The tests are intended to help officers make decisions about whether or not to arrest suspected impaired drivers.  However, in reality, the police often use these tests for the purpose of providing “evidence” to support the officer’s opinion of intoxication.

The tests are optional

California drivers are not legally required to take a Field Sobriety Test.  Taking the test is optional and you can politely tell the officer, “No thank you, I do not want to take the test”. However, the arresting police officer is unlikely to inform you of this fact.

How reliable are these tests?

Evidence of reliability

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sponsored research beginning in 1979 that lead to the development of the Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST). The tests were designed to help officers make arrest decisions at and above the 0.10 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

Since then, many states, including California, have lowered their BAC limits to .08 percent and further studies have been conducted to validate the tests.  See footnote for some detail. As a result, police and court officials have confidence in these tests.

Evidence of unreliability and invalidity

While police like using the tests, some critics say the tests are unreliable. Dr Sturgeon Cole, a retired professor from Clemson University, says the tests are designed to fail.  He is concerned that “There are no norms and there is no average score.  We have no idea what an average person can do on one leg doing heel to toe.”  He also says that even when conducted correctly, the tests give officers an indication of intoxication which is only 26% better than chance (or randomly guessing). After studying these tests for decades, he is convinced they are neither valid nor reliable.

See www.duistopped.us/field%20sobriety%20tests%20are%20they%20designed%20for%20failure.pdf for details of a study titled “FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS: ARE THEY DESIGNED FOR FAILURE?” In this study, it was found that “Even without [any] alcohol, the number of errors made by individuals performing the field sobriety tests was sufficient for officers to judge that the [completely sober] individuals had had too much to drink.”

Whatever your opinion on the reliability of the tests, bear in mind that the 3 tests comprising the Standardized Field Sobriety Test are considered reliable by judges and are admissible as evidence in court in California.

The following 40-second CNN video shows some live Field Sobriety Tests being performed including doing an eye test (following the light with their eyes) walking the line, and standing on one foot.

 

See also:-

Footnote:

In 2006, Anacapa Sciences, Inc. of Santa Barbara, California was commissioned to conduct a study to validate the accuracy of the SFST battery to discriminate above or below 0.08 and above and below 0.04 percent blood alcohol concentrations. (BAC of 0.04 is the national standard for Commercial Driver License holders).  Their study was based on the collection of data by seven experienced officers of the San Diego Police Department’s alcohol enforcement unit.  As documented on this NHTSA page, the results were as follows:

  • Overall, officers’ decisions were correct in more than 91% of the cases at the 0.08% BAC level
  • At 0.04 BAC or above, the officers’ estimates were accurate in 80 percent of cases overall

Excluded from this report were BAC levels below 0.04.

 

What to do

What are the 6 essential tasks?

There are six essential tasks you must complete to prepare yourself for what you face after getting a DUI in Los Angeles County.  See our homepage for a summary of the six tasks.

10 days to call the DMV

You have only 10 days to call the DMV after your DUI arrest date to obtain a STAYand a HEARING otherwise your license is subject to automatic license suspension 30 days after your DUI arrest date.

You must call specific DMV offices and not your local DMV office where you are likely to be misinformed.

These 10 days include weekends. For example if you were arrested on January 5 you only have until January 15 to make a DMV hearing request. If you like you can contact our office (310) 285-1516 and we will obtain a stay and a DMV hearing for you.

See How to Request a DMV Hearing

Should I hire my own DUI attorney?

Can a private DUI attorney help with my defense?

Whether it is worth hiring a DUI attorney is something you need to think about. Call us at (310) 285-1516 to help you answer this question. We will go over with you the advantages and disadvantages of representing yourself, using the public defender or hiring your own DUI attorney.

Here are some examples of how a private DUI attorney can potentially help you with your DUI defense:

  • Assess the case and counsel you on your options.
  • Try to protect you from any additional punishment.
  • Go to court for you so you do not have to go, and appear in court in front of the judge on your behalf.
  • Handle your DMV hearing for you and help you with your license.
  • Conduct Investigation and Discovery in the case to determine how trustworthy and strong the Government’s evidence is against you, and evaluate the police officer’s arrest of you.
  • Help decide if you want to go to trial or work out a plea bargain with the prosecutor.
  • Negotiate a plea bargain for you.
  • Help obtain alternatives to jail.
  • Represent you in a jury trial.
How can I contact you (speak with a DUI lawyer)?

Phone:

(310) 285-1516 during business hours Mon-Fri
SE HABLA ESPANOL

After Hours DUI Attorney Hotline

After-hours Hotline: Call (310) 864-5446 to speak directly to a Los Angeles DUI Attorney after 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends for free consultations regarding your case.
SE HABLA ESPANOL

For assistance with ALL your DUI problems, and for a Free Legal Consultation with a Los Angeles DUI attorney, please call us at the above numbers.

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Free Legal Consultation with a Los Angeles DUI Attorney(310) 285-1516