DUI Lawyer in Los Angeles
Interestingly enough, to be charged and convicted of a DUI case, you do not have to be drunk necessarily. People always say they were not drunk and do not understand why they were arrested. The critical language that the police, prosecutor, judge, and jury look at is whether or not you can safely operate a motor vehicle.
This standard does not necessarily mean you were drunk when you were driving. Most people who get caught for DUIs are not falling drunk.
This is why setting up a face-to-face meeting with a savvy attorney is essential from the outset of your DUI case. Setting up the map to success is crucial in a DUI case.
Field Sobriety Tests
Several factors are looked at by the police and prosecutors when deciding whether a person will be arrested and charged with a DUI in Los Angeles County.
One of the key factors is how the police claim you did on the field sobriety tests (FSTs). These are the many tests that law enforcement typically gives a person they suspect is driving under the influence immediately before arresting them.
These tests are supposed to be designed to assist the police in determining whether you were under the influence at the time of driving.
Unfortunately, it is my experience that these tests are very subjective and are subject to manipulation by the police. Every person who comes into my office who has taken the field sobriety test fails them, according to the police.
The reason that they must say that you failed them is to justify arresting you. If they do not have probable cause to arrest you, the whole case can later be thrown out.
Therefore they will always say you failed the tests and pick everything apart that you did during the tests. Other indicators that the police use to claim you were drunk driving or not safely operating a motor vehicle for purposes of a DUI is to evaluate how you were driving (where you are swerving or speeding or driving recklessly).
They will also describe how you walked and talked during their contact with you (whether your speech was slurred, your eyes dilated, or stumbling when you were walking, etc.).
If you were arrested for a DUI in LA County, the deck is stacked against you, and you need a lawyer who is local to the court where your case is pending and has traveled the path you are about to embark upon.
What Police Need To Prove When Making A DUI Arrest
In Los Angeles, there is more than one way to prove a DUI. Suppose they believe that you have alcohol in your system and can't safely operate a motor vehicle. In that case, they can charge you under California Vehicle Code 23152A, which doesn't have anything to do with what percentage of alcohol is in your blood.
They can arrest you if you test at a .08 or greater. There is a presumption in the law that you cannot safely operate a motor vehicle at that point.
Once you do the field sobriety tests and police conclude that you are under the influence of alcohol and cannot safely operate a motor vehicle, it will justify them placing you under arrest and bringing you into the station to do a blood or breath test to see if your blood alcohol level is a 0.08 or greater.
When Are You Considered Drunk for a DUI?
When it comes to DUIs, many clients come in and say look; I wasn't drunk. I don't understand why they arrested me, why I'm facing my license being taken away. The problem with that question and that thought process are that you don't have to be drunk to be convicted of a DUI.
The standard is whether you can safely operate a motor vehicle. So, many people who aren't drunk can't safely operate a motor vehicle. How you determine if someone can safely operate a motor vehicle depends on several factors.
The first and most important factor is, of course, your blood alcohol level. If you are a .08 or greater, it is presumed in the law that you cannot safely operate a motor vehicle.
In other words, if they can prove you blew a .08, for example, they've got their case because they've got a circumstance where you're .8 or greater.
However, the defense can try to counter that and say wait a minute, the machine you're using, the Intoxilyzer 3000, the breath machine they have you blow in at the police station, has an error rate of .02. So, therefore, the person could have been a .06.
So, that's why many times, especially in Los Angeles county, not some of the other counties, if you blow a .08 many times, the prosecutors, if you have a reasonable attorney, will give you a resolution that allows you to plead to something less than a DUI because of that issue with the breath machine.
Another measure of your ability to drive a motor vehicle is the field sobriety tests the officers try to give people. All those tests are supposedly designed to see whether or not you can operate a motor vehicle safely. In other words, if you can't pass those tests, the prosecutor's argument is that you shouldn't be driving because you can't safely operate a motor vehicle.
Another factor they look at when determining whether or not you're intoxicated to the point you can't safely operate a motor vehicle for purposes of a DUI in Los Angeles, especially, is how you're driving.
They argue that you can't safely operate a motor vehicle if you're driving around in a horrible reckless manner where you could kill somebody. If, on the other hand, you didn't turn your headlights on, and that's why the police pulled you over, you have the opposite argument.
But of course, it's not just one factor. It's a culmination of all the factors in determining whether or not you can safely operate a motor vehicle for purposes of DUI in California.
So, don't think you have to be drunk to get a DUI. Drunk is a situation where you're falling, you're staggering, and you're messed up. Most of the time, I think the vast majority of DUIs that are filed, 90% to 95% of people are not drunk. There's just intoxicated.
They've had drinks, two, three, or four drinks. That's why the police ask all those questions when they get their hands on you. They're already trying to build their case from the moment they pull you over.
They smell alcohol. They look to see if you are weaving while you're driving. They'll ask you if you had any drinks tonight; if you say one or two, they always hear that.
They're going to get deeper into it, and they're going to do those field sobriety tests, and they may have you do that hand-held device called a PAS device.
That's a preliminary alcohol screening device. That way, they don't waste a trip to the police station or hospital to take your blood. If you blow a .02, they won't take you in.
Can Anything I Say In The Police Car Be Used Against?
A lot of people get excited about their Miranda rights. They don't realize that the police don't need to read anyone their Miranda rights many times. They don't need to do anything other than book you for a DUI and then let the prosecutors deal with it from there.
The Miranda rights come into play after they've decided to arrest you. You're in custody, and now they will ask you questions to get incriminating answers. If they don't read you your Miranda rights under those specific circumstances, then any statements you make that might incriminate you will not be able to be used against you.
I see people's Miranda rights being violated in DUI stops, but most of the time, the police have the evidence they need, regardless of your statements. Even if your statements get thrown out, if you got pulled over and your blood alcohol was double the legal limit, they have enough evidence.
When police pull you over, you're not necessarily in custody; you're being detained pending an investigation. Once they slap the cuffs on you and you're in control, any direct questions require your Miranda rights to be read. If they aren't and you answer those questions, those answers cannot be used against you in your DUI prosecution.
What is the Step-by-Step Process in a DUI Case?
When people get arrested for DUI and face jail time and the loss of their license, they're often in the dark and don't know what will happen with their case.
In other words, they're arrested, taken to jail, and they lose control of their situation. So it's my job to give you back control and explain precisely how the system works and the step-by-step process in a DUI.
First, you've been arrested. They've made you perform some field sobriety tests, and then they test you through a blood or breath test. All that information will be gathered and sent to the prosecutors. You probably got a citation to appear in court on a specific date, or you posted bail, and the bonds person gave you the court date and location.
Retain a Lawyer Immediately
At this point, your best move is to hire an attorney immediately. So I'll get you into my office. I'll explain everything to you and get all of your details, and I can usually, within about 15 minutes, give you a pretty good idea of what you're facing.
It's not going to be exact because I don't make the final decision on what the final resolution is going to be in your case. So I've got to speak to the prosecutor and judge and work out something for you if it's a scenario where we have to work out a deal versus a trial.
I'm going first to evaluate whether or not the prosecutors have good evidence against you so that we will go over the case step by step. I'll also get the police report to see what information they have provided.
The police are trained to try to get a conviction for a DUI, so they're going to put all of the stuff in the report that is negative towards you to try to help the prosecutors get the conviction. So, I must evaluate that to know what will happen moving forward.
When you appear at the arraignment, the initial court date, bail will be set in your case. We often get you released on your own recognizance where you don't have to pay any money. If your blood alcohol was high, at least in LA County, you will be ordered to do AA meetings to stay out of custody and note post bail.
Also, your attorney will be given all of the paperwork, videos, and whatever evidence they have in the case. If I don't get everything, I will file a motion or contact the prosecutor most of the time; this is the best way to get the information I need.
So, we are in a position to have all of the details before we decide exactly how to proceed with the case, enter a not-guilty plea, and we'll pick a new court date at that time.
Determining the Best Defense Strategy
I'll have a chance to review everything, meet with you, and get our game plan together. So, when we go back the next time:
- We'll either resolve the case,
- We could file a motion, or
- We might continue the case depending on the circumstances;
- We might even set the case for trial if they don't have the evidence to prove things against you.
This kind of gives you a thumbnail sketch of how DUIs work. There are other things we can do.
Possible DUI Defenses
We can get the information regarding the breath case to see if the machine that was used was calibrated correctly. Further, whether something else is there that we can use to help you. We can hire an expert under the right circumstances if it makes sense. We can do what's called a blood split.
If you took blood and it was close to the legal limit, we could have it tested by our expert. The list goes on. You don't do the same thing in every case, however. You've got to look at your exact scenario and make the right moves for you. I've been doing this for 30 years.
Call Our Law Firm for Help
Our lawyers handle 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th offenses, felony DUI, hit and run, refusals, DMV hearings, loss of driver's license, bail, and DUI death cases. DUI offenses are among the most common crimes police officers arrest Californians daily. Many people do not realize that a DUI is a crime that carries potentially severe consequences to the person's driving record, insurance rates, reputation, and freedom.
Need more information about DUI defense? Our attorneys focus heavily on DUI cases and serve all Los Angeles County courts.
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The Hedding Law Firm has defended hundreds of people over the years and knows the appropriate steps to take to assist you in protecting your rights and making the correct decisions in court and in dealing with the DMV.
We have knowledgeable DUI attorneys standing by to answer questions and set you up with a free face-to-face consultation. You will be educated on the system, and once you retain our firm, you will feel confident that you have professional advocates on your side.