What happens when you get arrested for DUI

On this page, you will find:-

The DUI Arrest Process

What happens when you get a DUI?

When you get arrested for a DUI in Los Angeles County, the following things typically happen:-

 Starting each night from about 9 pm until about 4 am, the police become very focused on DUI enforcement and are actively patrolling streets and freeways on the lookout for any irregular driving, accidents, or vehicle code violations. Such things as weaving, swerving, driving without headlights on at night, almost striking another car or object, driving at a slow speed, following too closely, or drifting are examples of what are considered DUI driving indicators and will almost always result in you getting pulled over by the police.  A driver may be stopped if an officer possesses a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the motorist has violated a traffic law.

 If a police officer pulls you over for a suspected DUI, he will approach your car window and typically ask for your license and registration and then ask you if you have had anything to drink. Regardless of your answer, the police officer will be attempting to detect the odor of alcohol in the car. If the officer suspects you have been drinking or are under the influence of a drug, he will ask you to get out of the car in order to administer Field Sobriety Tests.

The officer will typically then ask you to do a number of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests to determine if you are impaired and under the influence of alcohol or a drug and unable to safely drive. The police officer will typically first administer the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN) which involves tracking the movement of your eyes. Next, the officer will then most likely have you do a walk-and-turn test which involves taking nine heel-to-toe steps on a straight line and turning around and doing nine more heel-to-toe steps on the same line. The third field sobriety test will usually be a one leg stand field sobriety test where you are asked to stand with one leg about 6 inches off the ground and you have to count out loud for 30 seconds while holding your leg up off the ground.  Some police officers might also have you do some additional field sobriety tests which are not standardized such as a finger to nose test where you are asked to touch your nose several times with typically your left index finger and then your right index finger while your eyes are closed. Another test the officer might have you do is the Romberg test where you are asked to stand and tilt your head back, close your eyes and then estimate when you think 30 seconds have elapsed.

 After you have completed these roadside field sobriety tests the officer will usually then bring out of his patrol car a small handheld portable breath device that is called a PAS (Preliminary Alcohol Screening) device in order to administer a PAS test. The officer will ask you to blow into this handheld device usually two times. Technically this PAS test is also considered a field sobriety test and the breath results will then give the officer an idea of what your blood alcohol level is, as this device will give the officer an idea if your level is over .08. Before blowing into this machine the police officer is required to give you a P.A.S. Admonition. The following is the PAS admonition that the CHP gives:

I am requesting that you take a preliminary alcohol screening test to further assist me in determining whether you are under the influence of alcohol. You may refuse to take this test; however, this is not an implied consent test and if arrested, you will be required to give a sample of your blood, breath or urine for the purpose of determining the actual alcoholic and drug content of your blood.”

 After you have blown into the handheld PAS device, the officer will then assess your driving:-

  • He will assess what the police call your objective symptoms (e.g. whether you have bloodshot watery eyes, slurred speech, odor of alcohol on your person, unsteady gait exiting from the car, etc.)
  • He will assess your field sobriety test performance
  • He will assess your breath results from the PAS test.

Based on the totality of these things, he will then form an opinion as to whether you have been driving under the influence of alcohol or a drug and are unable to safely drive your vehicle. If he has formed the opinion that you are under the influence of alcohol or a drug and he believes that he has probable cause that you drove a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or a drug, he will proceed to arrest you.

You will be handcuffed and taken to the police station or a hospital where you will be required to do a breath or blood test. You get to choose – either a breath or blood test, but it is mandatory for you to take a breath or blood test at the police station or a hospital if you have been arrested for a DUI.

A lot of people get confused at this point because they think they already gave the police officer a breath test on the roadside, so they refuse to provide another test at the police station. They are stressed and confused and don’t realize that the breath test at the roadside was an optional field sobriety test, while the chemical test at the police station or hospital for either blood or breath is mandatory under California law.

If you Refuse or fail to complete the blood or breath test at the police station or hospital, your driver’s license will most likely be suspended for one year. If The police officer writes “Refusal” on your report that is sent to the DMV, the DMV will attempt to suspend your license for one year with no chance of you getting a restricted license for any driving at all during that year. (Read more about Refusals.)

Getting pulled over by a police officer and having to go through getting pulled over, performing field sobriety tests, then getting handcuffed which is usually very painful and then being transported to the police station or hospital for a breath or blood test and then placed in a jail cell is a very stressful and traumatic experience.

You will also have to go through a booking process at the police station where the police will take your fingerprint and photo and check to see if you have any outstanding warrants. Regardless of whether you gave the blood or breath test, or refused, you will usually be held in jail for 10 hours in a cell. You will be treated like any other criminal, even though in some instances your only crime is having a few drinks with dinner.

Your driver’s license will probably be confiscated in accordance with the Admin Per Se law.

When you are released from jail after 10 hours in a cell, the police officer will give you back your property, but not your driver’s license, and will give you:-

  • A ticket or Notice to Appear which includes your charges and the date, time and location of your arraignment hearing (your first court date in front of a judge).
  • A pink piece of paper which is a 30-day temporary license and a notice of suspension.

Sometimes if you are arrested for a DUI, your car will be towed and impounded.

You will want to get your car out of impound as soon as possible to avoid the fees that are charged each day.

You now have 10 days to contact the DMV and ask for a stay and a hearing to buy yourself more time to drive and a chance at avoiding a license suspension.

The DMV may automatically send you some notices by mail:-

  1. An Order of Suspension or Revocation notice regarding your driver’s license
  2. A DUI IID Insert or an Order of Installment of an Ignition Interlock Device.  This notice provides you with information about the IID pilot program and driver license reinstatement requirements.

After your DUI arrest, you will also get anywhere from 15 to 100 letters from private DUI attorneys advertising their services for DUI defense.

The DUI Process – what happens after you get a DUI

After being arrested for DUI, you face two major hurdles ahead:-

  1. Your DMV Hearing to try to save your license
  2. Your DUI Court hearing

These are two separate events in separate institutions. The court and the DMV have separate and independent powers to suspend your license. Learn more about the DUI Process.

What to do after DUI arrest

Your DUI arrest was no doubt a traumatic and confusing experience.  After this happens you need to get informed about your rights and the consequences of a DUI. You also need to prepare for your two major hurdles ahead – your DMV Hearing to try to protect your license, and your Court case.

6 essential tasks

To prepare for these two events – your DMV Hearing and your Court Hearing – you must complete 6 essential tasks.  The first task is urgent.  You must call the DMV within 10 days of your arrest to ask for a Stay and a Hearing, otherwise, your license is subject to automatic suspension at the end of 30 days.

Get informed.  Knowledge is Power.  Know your rights, know the law, know the consequences.

Browse our FAQ for more information about the DMV and your license, DUI Laws in California, DUI Penalties, DUI Process, Police, and what to do.


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