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What to Expect When Arrested for DUI in San Francisco, California

Novato California DUI Process Attorney

Marin County, CA Lawyer Explains the DUI Process

Being pulled over for DUI is an unsettling experience for most people. If you are stopped by the police, they already suspect that you are guilty, and all subsequent actions they take are directed toward proving your guilt. There are several phases of the California DUI process, beginning with the initial stop. Here is an overview of the process and what to expect with a DUI arrest:

The Initial Traffic Stop, Arrest and Booking

When you are stopped for drunk driving, the first thing the officer is likely to do after requesting your driver's license, registration, and insurance is to ask you to step out of your car, answer a number of questions, perform various field sobriety tests (FSTs), and request that you blow into a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) device. Unless you are on DUI probation or being investigated for underage drinking, the PAS test is voluntary. The FST exercises are also voluntary. The officer may imply that agreeing to take these tests will make things easier for you. The truth is, the results of these tests rarely prove your innocence and are most often used to build a case against you. For this reason, it is arguably best to politely decline to take them (I say "arguably" only because a refusal will likely lead to an arrest).

If, after you have taken (or refused to take) the PAS and FST, the officer decides that there is probable cause to believe you are guilty of a crime, you will be arrested and taken to the police station to be booked and to undergo a chemical test. California DUI laws include two main sections that you could be charged under:

  • CA Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) allows the officer to book you for suspected DUI even if your blood alcohol content (BAC) level is under the per se legal limit of .08 percent or your BAC level is unknown.
  • If a test result indicates you were driving with a breath-alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 percent or higher, you can also be booked under CA Vehicle Code Section 23152(b).

If you refuse to submit to a chemical test after being arrested, the DMV will seek to suspend your license for at least one full year.

If there are no aggravated circumstances around your arrest, such as an accident resulting in death or serious injury, you will likely be released after approximately four hours and the posting of bail, if required.

The DMV Administrative Hearing

The California DUI process includes two separate legal proceedings: the administrative hearing at the DMV and the court proceeding. The court determines the criminal penalties, and the DMV determines whether or not the motorist should retain driving privileges. After your arrest, you have 10 days to request a DMV administrative hearing to avoid an automatic driver's license suspension at the end of 30 days. During your hearing, you can represent yourself, or you can be represented by private counsel. Unlike the court proceeding, the DMV does not appoint a public defender for you even if you are qualified based on low income.

The DUI Court Process

Your first appearance in court is known as the arraignment. During the arraignment, the prosecution lodges a criminal complaint, and the defendant enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no-contest. Sometimes, entry of a plea is postponed for strategic reasons. After the arraignment, the next court appearance is typically the pre-trial settlement conference hearing. By this time, your attorney should have reviewed most of the discovery and formulated a DUI defense strategy for you. If appropriate, your attorney will begin negotiations with the prosecution regarding the proper disposition of the case.

If no agreement is reached, there may be another pre-trial hearing, and eventually a jury trial. There might also be a motion and hearing to suppress evidence based on one or more violations of your constitutional rights. If you are convicted, you are subject to some tough penalties such as fines, possible imprisonment, DUI school, community service, installation of a breath-alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID), and other sanctions. The severity of the penalties depends on how many prior DUI convictions you have and the other circumstances of the case.

Contact a Skilled San Francisco, California DUI Lawyer

Your DUI arrest is public information, and you are likely to be bombarded with letters and flyers in your mailbox that make unrealistic promises regarding your case. At Burglin Law Offices, P.C., we decline to invade your privacy in this manner. Your case is your business, and if you seek representation by Paul Burglin, everything will remain strictly confidential.

Attorney Paul Burglin co-authors California Drunk Driving Law, a two-volume treatise commonly referred to by other lawyers as "the Bible of DUI defense." Paul Burglin knows the ins and outs of the California DUI process, and he is the "go to" attorney for DMV hearing officers, judges, and prosecutors when someone close to them is charged with DUI.

Paul Burglin's clientele comes mostly from referrals generated by a highly successful track record. He does not accept everyone as a client, because DUI cases require the proper time and attention to ensure the best result possible. For a consultation with attorney Paul Burglin, contact our office today at 415-729-7300. We serve clients throughout the Bay Area, including Marin County, Tiburon, Sausalito, Mill Valley, Larkspur, San Rafael, Novato, San Anselmo and Fairfax. We also handle locals and tourists cited in the wine country of Sonoma and Napa, as well as those cited in San Francisco, Oakland, and Martinez.
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