Being pulled over by police and detained for suspicion of DUI is a stressful and disturbing situation. Often, police will shine bright lights in drivers’ faces seeking to disorient them, making it harder for the driver to think and formulate a reasoned response to questioning. Further, the agility and attention tests officers administer to assess for signs of impairment can be difficult for anyone to pass, intoxicated or sober, and studies have shown them to be unreliable. But, the real concern most people have when facing DUI charges focuses on repercussions: what will this cost me and what other possible penalties will I face? When assessing the long- and short-term costs and consequences of a DUI charge, it is important to consider some less obvious sources of additional expenses and legal matters that can complicate what seems like a straightforward process. Understanding the full spectrum of possible penalties this charge brings can help individuals accused of this offense make more informed choices about how to respond to these charges.
Even for first time offenders, California imposes fairly tough penalties on those who plead or are found guilty by a jury or bench trial. Judges can sentence offenders to up to six months in the county jail and three to five years of summary or informal probation. While most people envision probation as a supervised process involving regular meetings with a probation officer, summary probation does not require such meetings or check-ins with the probation department, as it is used for those not considered a danger to community. However, courts often mandate progress meetings to ensure the sentence conditions set by the judge are being followed. Note that receiving summary probation does not mean the judge cannot also sentence the offender to jail time. Fines can range from $390 to $1,000, and with separate automatic assessments enforced by each jurisdiction, that number typically climbs to $1,500 to $2,000 by the time a sentence is completed. In addition, completion of a three- or nine-month drug treatment program may be assigned. The length of program depends on the blood alcohol measurement taken at the time of the arrest. These programs are not free, and the fees range from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the duration. Of all the penalties given for DUI offenses, the one with the most far-reaching consequences is the automatic suspension of the individual’s driver’s license for six months. This suspension is disruptive for both the person facing the DUI charge and his/her family. While it is possible to petition for a restricted license, which permits driving to and from work and to DUI school that goes into effect after 30 days, there is an another option. The automatic suspension can we postponed by making a request to the DMV for an administrative hearing. At the hearing, it is possible to avoid the license suspension completely, which is where representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney is key. If an attorney represents a DUI client at the DMV hearing, it is much more likely the license suspension could be set aside.
It is important to note that a license suspension is automatically increased to one year if the accused refuses to take a chemical test when stopped by police on suspicion of DUI. Individuals charged with DUI could also face the installation of an interlock device that functions similar to a breathalyzer, and requires the driver to blow into it before the car will start. If alcohol is detected by the device, the ignition remains locked. These devices are part of the standard sentence imposed on offenders in Los Angeles County, and also may be required if the driver has a blood alcohol level above 0.15%, previous moving violations, or the chemical test was refused. There is a charge to rent these devices, so that is another cost that should be factored into the overall consequence of a DUI conviction.
Given the wide range of penalties a judge can sentence a defendant, it is important to secure representation from a criminal defense attorney as soon after an arrest for DUI as possible. The earlier in the process a lawyer is brought in defend you, the better the chance they have of securing the best evidence and mounting the most effective defense. The Los Angeles Manshoory Law Group, APC understands serious effects of a DUI conviction and will fight to get you the best possible results. Contact us for a free consultation.