When you're arrested for a DUI in Los Angeles, it's scary because your freedom is taken away from you for some time. You're taken to jail. Your license is typically taken away, and obviously, you're fearful that you could be facing jail time, probation, and a mark on your record that is very difficult to get off.
California Vehicle Code 23152 – Offenses Involving Alcohol and Drugs
So, one thing to consider is what type of charges you will be facing? I mean, in a typical DUI situation, the police book you for particular tasks, and they give it to the prosecutors — who are the lawyers who decide what charges will be filed. For example, on a first-time DUI, they're usually going to file a Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) and (b). There are two charges.
One says that you had alcohol in your system and couldn't safely operate a motor vehicle. That's what the field sobriety tests are supposed to determine — whether you can safely use a motor vehicle — depending on whether you pass or fail them.
The other charge is California Vehicle Code 23152(b), which says if you have a .08 or greater, it's presumed that you can't safely operate a motor vehicle. As you notice, everything has to do with safety and your danger level out on the road and protecting the community at large from people who drink alcohol and drive dangerously.
Type of Criminal Charges Will Depend On Various Factors
So, those are the charges you're going to be charged with. As far as what you're facing, it depends on many different factors: how high your blood alcohol level is; how your driving was; how you performed on the field sobriety test; what your criminal record looks like; what your driving record looks like.
So, other potential charges, which are kind of the subject of this article, are that you could get an infraction — some moving violation at the low end.
Because the police have to pull you over for something, they usually claim you're weaving or swerving on the road — some California Vehicle Code violation — running a stop sign. A lot of people are driving with no lights on. All kinds of different things. So, they could give you a traffic ticket. That would be great if you had been booked for a DUI, and that's all you end up with.
To get something like that, you're going to have to have a shallow blood alcohol level, and the prosecutors will have to perceive that they've got a problem with their case, and they might lose the whole thing. So, that's where I see them just trying to get something — not necessarily to safe face, but to show that they did something about it even though the blood alcohol level is not that high.
Non-Alcohol Related Speed Contest VC 23109
Going up from there, realistically in Los Angeles County, you're probably looking at a speed contest screeching your wheels out of a parking lot. That could be a California Vehicle Code 23109(a) speed contest, and that's not a DUI. It's not alcohol-related. It's a misdemeanor. It carries a couple of points on your record, but the punishment for that is a lot less than for a DUI.
So, in DUI-land in Los Angeles, that's a pretty good resolution if your attorney can get it. Usually, you're going to have to be in the .08 range to get something like that where the attorney can make the argument that the breath machine used to test my client has an error rate of .02. Your experts can say that, so you might as well give him a speed contest. You could lose the case in a trial.
Reckless Driving – California Vehicle Code 23103
Moving up from there, I would say reckless driving — and there's a dry reckless which has nothing to do with alcohol. You're just driving around the road recklessly. That would be a good result in a DUI, but another difficult one to get. The prosecutors don't like to give that again unless your blood alcohol level is so low that they might lose the case, or again, they have some glaring factual problem to prove the DUI against you.
The wet reckless is the next level up. That says you're driving recklessly, and you have alcohol in your system. That's not a full-fledged DUI. In my opinion, that's better than a DUI conviction, but it's still priorable. It could still be used against you if you were to pick up another DUI in the future. And then, of course, there's a regular DUI which are those coded sections mentioned above.
There's higher-level DUI's in my opinion, where you get a refusal allegation or where your blood alcohol level is higher than a .15. That would make the DUI more severe and bring potentially harsher penalties. Of course, you have a felony DUI with the mandatory minimum 90-day jail term if you get hit with that, and there are also multiple DUI's — your second, third, or fourth-time DUI — all of which carry more severe penalties than a first-time DUI.
DUI With Great Bodily Injury
There's also DUI with great bodily injury. If somebody gets hurt very badly during the DUI process, then that could be a three-year enhancement tacked onto the back of whatever you get for the DUI. So, there's a whole host of different things that can happen in a DUI.
That's why when people tell me I'll go in there and represent myself, it's just a DUI. There's not much I can do about it. Well, sometimes you can do something about it; sometimes you can't.
But with all those potential resolutions out there — and we haven't even talked about punishment yet — you're going to need to get an attorney who knows what they're doing, who is local to the court where your case is pending, and who knows how to get the best result for you and do damage control when it comes to a DUI in Los Angeles.