I've been handling DUI cases in the San Fernando courthouse since 1994. There was a big earthquake, and many of the cases had to be moved to another building while they fixed the San Fernando courthouse, and these guys have handled hundreds of DUI cases since I've been practicing there.
So, I have a good feel for how they handle cases, what cases can be tried and won, and what cases you should consider taking a plea bargain, depending on their evidence against you.
Probably the most significant evidence they can have against you in the San Fernando court is your blood alcohol level. The higher the level, the more difficult it is to win the case and the more challenging it is to avoid jail time and other punishments that come along with a DUI case.
So, if you've got a case in San Fernando, you've probably been given a citation. If the case has been filed as a misdemeanor case, you'll start in Department M. That's the arraignment court.
They handle all the DUIs, and then ultimately, if you enter a not-guilty plea, your case will be moved into one of two trial courts — Department A or Department B. They handle all the trials, and if you're going to do a trial on a DUI in San Fernando, you've got to have a good angle. You've got to have a good argument, and you've got to be able to win. No reason to go to trial if you can't win.
Did Police Stop You Lawfully?
One of the factors you're going to be looking at in deciding whether to fight a case in San Fernando court is number one. Was the stop lawful? If they didn't lawfully stop you, you could file a Motion with the Judge. The Judge will decide whether or not it was an illegal stop.
If it was an illegal stop, the whole case could be thrown out. You never even get to trial. If it were a legal stop, the subsequent inquiry would be, what was your blood alcohol level? Was it a .08 or greater? Because if it was, then they can certainly make a run to convict you.
They'll have to call an expert. They'll have to prove when you were driving, and they're going to have to show that whatever they used — whether it was blood or breath — is an accurate test and was correctly administered against you.
Can It Be Proven You Couldn't Safely Operate a Motor Vehicle?
Another angle to get somebody for a DUI that people don't think about is if you have any alcohol in your system — even if you're under the .08 — they can go after you for a DUI if they can prove that you couldn't safely operate a motor vehicle.
The way they prove that is by having their police officers come in and testify that you failed the field sobriety tests, testify that your driving appeared unsafe to them, that you couldn't walk correctly, you had an unsteady gait and that you seemed to be dangerous to them based on the field sobriety tests.
Another way now I'm seeing people prosecuted for DUI's in the San Fernando courthouse is when people are smoking marijuana and driving and when people are taking prescription medications and driving.
People don't realize that you can't have anything in your system that affects your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. And this is a huge problem now with medical marijuana being legal and people being able to smoke marijuana.
People now realize that if you're smoking marijuana and driving and the police believe that you can't safely operate a motor vehicle, that puts you in a wrong position because they're going to test you.
They're going to see that there's THC in your system. Sometimes you could have smoked the day before, and there could be stuff in your system, so that's a real issue related to DUIs. With potentially the DUI law in San Fernando and across California being lowered to a .05 as they've done in Colorado, that's even more of a concern for people.
So, if you have a DUI in San Fernando, pick up the phone. Make the call. We'll not only help you with the criminal court, but we'll also help you with the DMV, who certainly can take your driver's license, restrict your driver's license, make you put an ignition interlock device in your car, and a host of other things that you don't want to be involved with.
You heard that you started in Department M in San Fernando for a misdemeanor case. You will begin in Department F for felony cases where you've injured somebody. That is the felony arraignment court.
You want to make sure that you've got an attorney that has experience in San Fernando, knows what it takes to win; knows what it takes to make the decision as far as whether you're going to fight the case or plea bargain it; knows the players; knows the tendencies of the judges and prosecutors in that courthouse, and knows how to get the best result for their client.