You had a little too much to drink during a holiday party and got behind the wheel of your car. Before you knew it, you were pulled over and arrested by a police officer for driving under the influence.
As soon as you get out of jail and the dust settles, what should you do?
First of all, it’s vitally important to understand that, in California, an arrest for DUI creates two separate cases – a DMV case and a criminal case. Your offense puts your driving privilege at risk—and remember, this is a privilege granted by the state you live in. No one has an inherent right to drive.
Request a DMV hearing
In general, an arrest for a DUI means you must surrender your driver’s license to the arresting officer and, in return, you should receive a temporary (“administrative per se”) license (good for, in most cases, thirty (30) days). My advice is to talk to a lawyer immediately about the possibility of requesting a DMV hearing to appeal this action.
You have ten (10) days from the date of arrest to request that the DMV review your case and determine if a suspension is warranted. (And when the law says “10 days,” it means 10 days.) If you fail to make this request, your license will be suspended anywhere from four (4) months (typical for the first-time offender) to a complete revocation of your license. Requesting a hearing can delay the suspension of your license and require the DMV to further substantiate the suspension, so you want to review your options with a lawyer as quickly as possible.
An arrest for DUI also sets a criminal proceeding in motion. Generally speaking, in California, a DUI is usually charged as a misdemeanor. Certain circumstances can raise this to a felony, such as seriously injuring or even killing a pedestrian while driving under the influence. Being convicted of a DUI will result in one or more of the following:
- Substantial fines
- Required class attendance
- Public work service
- The requirement that you install and use an ignition-lock device (sort of a breathalyzer to start your car)
- Jail time
In San Diego, initial hearings or arraignments on DUI cases are typically set for 45-60 days after the arrest—giving you plenty of time to consult with an attorney about your options. You want to get clarification on your rights and explore any mitigating circumstances that might assist in your defense in court (or at least earn you a more favorable plea-bargain opportunity).
A lawyer can also let you know what to expect during the process and how this might affect the rest of your life.
My Best Advice – Don’t do it!
Considering the amount of time, stress and money a DUI conviction can cost you is, my best advice is—Don’t drive while intoxicated. You could end up spending as much as $10,000 to $20,000 in attorney fees, fines, license suspension, etc. A DUI conviction impacts your record for 10 years or longer.
Given all this, isn’t it preferable to hand over the car keys to a friend or family member who’s sober (or just call a taxi) and avoid all this mess?