Person holding drink and car keys

How to Fight a Drunk Driving Charge in California

Brownstein Law Group, P.C. Jan. 5, 2022

If you’ve been arrested for drunk driving, you can and should fight the charges. Being pulled over and charged with a DUI can be a harrowing experience, but just because you were charged doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted. If you’re unsure of your next steps or how to go about contesting your charges, call the Brownstein Law Group, P.C. today to schedule a consultation. Attorney Josh S. Brownstein works out of San Rafael, California but serves clients throughout the state including Marin County, San Francisco, Novato, and Petaluma.

Possible Penalties for a DUI in California

The penalties associated with DUI charges can be far reaching, and often have repercussions on your life long after fines have been paid or jail time has been served. Your actual penalties will depend on the severity of your charges including how many DUI convictions you’ve had in the past, and whether anyone was injured as a result of your actions.

A first DUI offense will often result in a fine, penalty assessments (other fees and taxes associated with your charge), and may include jail time. You will also have your license suspended and incur an informal probation. With a second and third offense you will typically see similar fines, but the probability of jail time increases greatly. In some cases, if it’s your second offense, you can have your jail time served through a jail-alternative work program or through house arrest. Like a first offense, you will also have your license suspended and be put on probation after a conviction.

For those facing a felony DUI charge (meaning someone was injured or killed, or this is your fourth or subsequent DUI), your penalties will be substantially more severe. This can include increased fines and jail time as well as additional charges such as manslaughter or second-degree murder.

Other Consequences of DUI

Beyond the penalties imposed by a judge, there are also a number of secondary consequences of receiving a DUI conviction that can add real strain and stress to your life. Because almost all DUI convictions require that your license be suspended, this makes it harder to obtain and hold a job and harder to go about your everyday life. Also, because a DUI conviction is public record, employers have the right to use the information they pull up in a background check to decide whether or not to hire you. Furthermore, many people with DUI convictions will also see their insurance premiums go up.

Your Defense Strategy

California takes DUI charges very seriously—as they should—and critical to any DUI defense is having a skilled criminal defense attorney working on your side. That said, everyone deserves to be represented in court by a knowledgeable lawyer who can fight on their behalf to ensure their rights are protected.

An officer needs probable cause to pull you over if they suspect you of driving under the influence, and this is a critical issue that must be argued in each case. Even if you were driving erratically, that doesn’t necessarily mean you were intoxicated. Not all bad driving equals a DUI, and the majority of traffic violations occur when a driver is sober. If an officer incorrectly assumes that your driving is connected to being drunk, this can be argued against by a good defense lawyer.

You may also be able to argue that the officer made an unlawful stop. If you can prove that the officer did not have probable cause to stop you, this can be used in your defense. If it can be proven that an officer had no reasonable suspicion, it is not legally permitted to pull you over. However, this defense should be explored in every case by an experienced attorney as part of a larger defense strategy.

Many people who are pulled over for DUIs will likely be asked to take one or more field sobriety tests and/or a chemical test. There are a number of defense strategies that can be used in reference to these tests, as it’s possible they were incorrectly administered by the officer or that other factors affected the results of the test. In the case of a field sobriety test these are often incorrectly administered—if this can be proven, then the results of the test cannot be used against you. Blood and urine tests can also be unreliable. In some cases, a test may not be property preserved which would lead to a falsely high reading, or the lab could make a mistake in its record keeping. Finally, breathalyzers are also very inaccurate, and other substances that you may have recently ingested can create false positives.

Experienced Guidance You Can Trust

Fighting a DUI is almost always worth the time and effort you put into it; you shouldn’t feel like your sentence has already been predetermined just because you were arrested. In many cases, there is reason to hope that your charges or penalties can be reduced and the ultimate impact on your life can be minimized. Those in the San Rafael, California area should reach out to Attorney Josh S. Brownstein today to start working on your defense strategy.