Do I Need An Attorney For a First Offense DUI?

In the past twenty five years of handling driving under the influence (DUI) cases is Los Angeles I am asked all the time by potential clients whether I think they need an attorney.  My answer is always yes because if someone is charged with a DUI, then they are potentially facing jail time, loss of their driving privileges and a mark on their criminal record.  It makes no sense that someone charged with a DUI would not want to do everything they can to protect themselves and avoid as many of the potential consequences of a DUI as possible.

My attitude when it comes to a DUI is that, if you have to do it, do it once, do it right and never do it again!  In my opinion, the way to do it right is to have a seasoned DUI defense attorney represent you and exhaust every legal avenue for you.  If you have a solid attorney, then they will do everything they can to get you the best result, and you will know that you did everything you could to end up with a result you can live with.  There is nothing worse than looking back on a situation and being angry that you did not do everything you could to get the best result.

First DUI Offense Has Best Chance Of Dismissal

First offense DUI’s are probably your best opportunity to attempt to get the DUI dismissed and end up with a lesser charge.  If you have a prior DUI and pick up a new one, the prosecutors are a lot less likely to give you any kind of break.  In other words, the prosecutors and judges will be more inclined to give you a break on a first offense than if you have a criminal record for DUI’s or any other crimes.  Also, if you are close to the legal limit, then a local savvy DUI defense attorney will be in a good position to really do something to help you.

One big thing that I believe makes a difference related to a first time DUI and having an attorney relates to convenience and peace of mind.  Many people get very anxious and embarrassed when it comes to going to court and dealing with a scary situation like defending a DUI.  The horrible anxiety and worry can be significantly alleviated when you know you have a DUI attorney, who knows what they are doing, guiding you through the process.  Once you know what your are realistically facing, you can then rest a little easier knowing that it is not the end of the world and at least your attorney will do damage control for you and the pressure is off you to get a result or figure out how to resolve your case.

Understand the DUI Process in Los Angeles

I have always noticed in my own life that when I do not understand something that could affect my life in a serious way, I do not feel right until I have educated myself and know that I am doing what I can to make things right.  To me, a DUI involves the exact same mental process and feelings.  You must put the pieces in motion that make sure that you are properly represented and that your interests are protected.  There is nothing worse than being punished and you do not understand why or feel like the punishment is too harsh for what you did.  This is where your attorney comes in to strike a balance between what you did and how the judge and prosecutor view you and your actions.

When I meet with clients I make sure that I make it clear from the beginning that they are best served if they tell me the truth and nothing but the truth.  I am sure you have heard this old adage before, but it could not be more true for purposes of meeting with your attorney and laying the ground work for their representation of you.  If you put a spin on what  you did and / or leave out important details that the judge and prosecutor know about and will likely use against you, you do yourself a disservice and you put your attorney behind the eight ball from the very beginning of the case.  Especially since everything you say is protected by the attorney client privilege.

Every DUI Case is Unique

Another important point to take a hold of as it relates to DUI’s is that they are not all created equal.  In other words, there are those DUI cases that fall at the low end of the spectrum because the person arrested did not have a very high blood alcohol level and was not driving dangerously. And, of course there are those scenarios that fall at the high end of the spectrum, where things like high speed, dangerous driving, high blood alcohol level and an accident are involved, that cause the case to fall into an area where the consequences can be extremely serious.

In either of these scenarios or something in between, having a local skilled attorney on your team is going to give you the best chance of not getting slammed by the judge and prosecutor.  They are looking out for the public and if they perceive you as a legitimate danger to the public at large, they are going to come down on you like a ton of bricks and nothing or no one can stop them except for your attorney.  Having the right attorney on your team can mean the difference between suffering the most severe consequences available to the judge and being given a break that can have a huge impact on your life.

Can You Challenge DUI Breathalyzer Results?

In Los Angeles County there are thousands of dui cases filed every year. One of the biggest factors that prosecutors, judges and juries look at, in deciding a dui case, is what the person’s breath results were after their arrest. There are a myriad of ways to challenge the breath results, depending on the facts of your particular case.  Your breath results are the starting point in all dui cases, because they determine the seriousness of the case and how dangerous you are viewed by the prosecutor and judge.

First and foremost, it is universally accept by all experts who testify in DUI cases that the breath machine that is used by the police is not one hundred percent accurate.  The machines that are being used across Los Angeles in DUI cases have a .02 error rate.  And, in a close case, this can be utilized by the defense to either win the case or negotiate a more favorable deal for our client.

Factors for Best Chance of Success

Further, in my experience, the cases that have the best chance of being successful are the ones where the reading is close to the legal limit and the client has passed some of the field sobriety tests.  The cases where the person was way over the legal limit have less chance for success because the breath machine does not have that high of an error rate and the people in this category usually have other signs that they were too intoxicated to drive.

Another area of attack, when it comes to breath results, relates to when the breath was taken, in relation to when the defendant was seen driving the subject motor vehicle.  The key to remember here is that it is not what the person’s blood alcohol level was at the time of the test that matters.  It is what the person’s blood alcohol level was at the time of driving that is what is relevant for purposes of finding someone guilty of a DUI.

Hence, unless a potential expert is able to extrapolate backwards from the time of taking the person’s breath, to the time the person was driving, the prosecution’s case is dead in the water.  The further away from the time of driving that the breath is taken, the more difficult it will be to figure out what the person’s blood alcohol level was at the time of driving.  Figuring out when a person was driving a car in a dui case is a common issue that comes up all the time.  The more difficult it is for the prosecutors to prove when the subject defendant was driving, the easier the case is to be negotiated or dismissed outright.

DUI Defense Strategy

The police know that one of the key jobs they have in a DUI cases is to be able to pinpoint when the person was driving the car.  The types of strategies I see them employing, in order to establish the time of the driving, are:  1)  Asking the person outright when they were driving;  2) They will ask witnesses to figure out when the person was driving (this is especially applicable in an accident related DUI case; and 3)  They will also look at the circumstances surrounding them coming into contact with the person in order to establish the time of driving.

Breath results, related to DUI cases in Los Angeles, are certainly not an exact science and are subject to attack by savvy DUI defense attorneys. However, these breath results are relied upon by prosecutors, judges and even juries to convict thousands of people each year for driving under the influence of alcohol related offenses.  The best way to test the breath results is to make sure that you have a seasoned DUI defense attorney by your side at all times!

Reviewing Your Drunk Driving Case

One thing that I will do with the client, once we know the breath result, is to ask them questions about the night of their arrest that will give me an indication as to what their blood alcohol level was, based on their height and weight for example.  The first questions relate to what they drank and how much.  Another area that makes sense to inquire about relates to what food they ate within a few hours of drinking alcohol and driving.  Of course the time of the drinking and the time of driving are necessary pieces of the puzzle in order to adequately quantify where their blood alcohol level should be.

One critical piece of information we are usually missing in calculating what a particular person’s blood alcohol level should be at the time of driving relates to how the subject person’s body processes alcohol. Different people process alcohol in different ways and there are many different factors that can influence this calculation.  This is where an expert on the defense side can come in handy.

As you can see from the above, there are many different issues that weigh on what will influence what a person’s blood alcohol level truly was at the time they decided to operate a motor vehicle.  Some of this is a guessing game on the part of so called experts.  While other aspects of the testing that law enforcement officers do on people they arrest for DUI cases, is based in sound common sense and science.  There are always two sides to an argument.  The key for you is to determine if you are going to come out on the winning end of the argument.  If you are, then it may be time to go to trial.  If, on the other hand, you are going to lose the case, based on available information, then it is time for your criminal defense attorney to negotiate on your behalf.

Call A Los Angeles DUI Lawyer

The best way to make these important determinations is to sit down with someone who has been down the road you are about to travel and knows how to make the right decisions for their clients.  When I meet with clients for the first time, I have a goal of getting everything out on the table and making sure that when we leave the meeting we have a plan in place moving forward, based on the information we have and my experience of handling thousands of cases just like your’s.