San Diego DUI Attorney
THE RIGHT DECISION FOR DUI DEFENSE
From the moment we open our eyes in the morning, life presents us with choices, and we make thousands of decisions each and every day. Unfortunately, it only takes one decision, just a single, momentary lapse in judgment, to turn your world upside down. Driving under the influence (DUI) accounts for well-over one hundred thousand arrests in California every year, and a DUI conviction carries serious penalties. For a successful defense, you will need the help of a skilled and experienced attorney who can navigate through the complexity of DUI law.
At the law firm of George H. Ramos, Jr. & Associates, our experienced San Diego DUI attorney has significant knowledge of prosecutorial guidelines and practices in DUI Court and can take an aggressive, highly pro-active approach to mounting your defense immediately. A thorough understanding of the complex and scientific nature of DUI law provides Attorney George H. Ramos, Jr. with the ability to dissect the prosecution’s case, pinpoint technical and procedural weaknesses, and aggressively defend against breathalyzer tests/breath tests, field sobriety tests, blood tests, and more.
By now, you are well aware of the power of a single decision. This time, make the right decision and contact George H. Ramos, Jr. & Associates today.
CALIFORNIA DUI LAW
Driving under the influence is one of the leading offenses in number of California arrests every year. In 2013, San Diego was one of four California counties that had over 10,000 DUI arrests each, along with Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino, accounting for 45.5% of all DUI arrests in the state of California.
A significant number of DUI arrests are the result of a violation of one of California’s DUI per se laws. These laws place measurable limits on the amount of alcohol that may be legally consumed by drivers, based on blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) levels. Pursuant to Vehicle Code section 23152(b), it is unlawful for any person with a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater to drive a vehicle. Section 23152(d) lowers the statutory limit for commercial vehicle drivers, who may face DUI charges for driving with a BAC of as little as 0.04 percent. However, BAC levels are not the only basis for DUI charges.
Despite having a BAC under the statutory limit, a driver may still be arrested for a DUI for driving under the influence of any alcoholic beverage, drug, or combination of the two, if his or her mental or physical abilities are so impaired that he or she is no longer able to drive a vehicle with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances. This includes not only illegal drugs and legal drugs with alcoholic ingredients, but also over-the-counter medicine and legally prescribed medications.
Under California law, a first-time misdemeanor DUI offense is punishable with a maximum sentence of up to six months in county jail, a maximum fine of $1000, and probation for a period of three to five years. Additionally, individuals will be required to participate in a three, six, or nine month court-approved alcohol and drug education program. The court may also order community service, the installation of an ignition interlock device, and/or attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. A four-month license suspension may also be imposed by the DMV.
Multiple DUI offenses within a ten-year period will result in increased penalties. A second DUI offense is punishable with a maximum jail sentence of one year, a maximum fine of $1000, three to five years of probation, and either an 18-month or 30-month mandatory DUI program. A third offense carries a mandatory minimum of 120 days to a maximum of one year in county jail and will require the completion of a 30-month DUI program. The DMV will also take separate administrative and disciplinary action that may result in at least a one-year license suspension for a second offense and a three-year license suspension for the third offense.
UNDERAGE DUI OFFENSES
In 1994, California adopted a zero-tolerance policy concerning underage drinking and driving. Pursuant to this policy, additional laws were enacted to supplement standard DUI laws for drivers under 21 years of age.
Typically, roadside preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) tests are voluntary for adults. However, any driver under the age of 21 lawfully detained on suspicion of alcohol consumption is required to submit to a roadside PAS test, or other chemical test that measures BAC levels. Refusal or failure to complete a PAS or other chemical test results in an automatic one-year suspension of driving privileges for the first offense, but may result in up to three years of revocation for multiple offenses within a ten-year period.
In addition to required roadside testing, under California’s Zero Tolerance law, driving with a BAC of 0.01 percent or more constitutes a civil offense for individuals under the age of 21 and will result in automatic DMV suspension of a driver’s license, unless the driver takes immediate action. First time offenders face a one-year license suspension that will automatically take effect, unless the driver makes a hearing request within 10 days of when the Suspension Order is issued.
Drivers under the age of 21 can also be charged with an infraction for driving with a BAC of 0.05 percent or higher, pursuant to Vehicle Code section 23140. While an infraction does not result in jail time, first-time offenders face a one-year license suspension, fines, and, for those 18 years of age or older, required participation in an alcohol education program for a minimum of three months.
STAGES OF A DUI INVESTIGATION
The law enforcement procedures during the course of a DUI investigation can be broken down into three separate stages: the initial traffic stop; the investigatory DUI detention; and the DUI arrest. Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, people have a right to be secure in their persons, houses, automobiles, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Each individual stage of a DUI investigation is considered an independent seizure, lawful only upon the officer’s ability to meet a specific standard of reasonable suspicion or probable cause. The standard that must be met increases as the case progresses through the stages.
THE TRAFFIC STOP
In California, most DUI cases begin with either a traffic stop or sobriety checkpoint. Requiring the lowest standard, a traffic stop is a lawful seizure if it is based on articulable facts which support a reasonable suspicion to believe a law has been violated. In most cases, a traffic stop conducted pursuant to an officer’s direct observation of a vehicle code violation is deemed lawful. This remains the case even when the violation is clearly a pretext for a DUI investigation.
Absent a moving or non-moving violation warranting the traffic stop, an officer may not stop a vehicle for the sole purpose of checking the driver’s sobriety, unless that officer has articulable, reasonable suspicion to believe the individual is driving under the influence. To meet this standard, officers typically report observations of driving conduct, such as swerving or weaving, which can be considered indicative of driver intoxication.
In some cases, traffic stops are based on driving conduct that is arguably insubstantial, and/or police report descriptions of the indicative conduct are vague. If the facts suggest an insufficient basis for the stop, Attorney George H. Ramos, Jr. will immediately file a suppression motion and force the prosecution to prove reasonable suspicion existed to justify the stop. If the court finds that the initial traffic stop was an unconstitutional seizure, then all DUI evidence obtained after the stop will be excluded, resulting in the dismissal of the case.
THE INVESTIGATORY DUI DETENTION
Following the initial traffic stop, if an officer detains the driver for a DUI investigation, his investigative detention is considered an independent seizure. Before an officer may begin the DUI investigation, a lawful seizure requires the existence of some specific articulable facts that would lead a reasonable officer to believe that the individual is, in fact, driving under the influence.
Signs of intoxication sufficient to support a DUI investigative detention include: the smell of alcohol in the vehicle or on the driver’s breath; red, watery, or glossy eyes; slurred speech; disorientation; and/or the presence of alcohol in the vehicle. If the basis for an investigative detention is insufficient, a motion can again be filed to exclude all evidence obtained as a result of the detention.
Once the officer believes there are sufficient grounds justifying the investigatory detention, the interrogation will begin immediately. You will be asked multiple questions about the location and time of consumption, as well as questions concerning the exact type of substance that was consumed. Additionally, as part of the investigatory detention, you will be asked to submit to a voluntary preliminary alcohol screening test, which is a miniature handheld breath test.
In most cases, individuals are also asked to perform a series of field sobriety tests theoretically designed to test balance, coordination, and divided attention. Unfortunately, passing some of these exercises would prove problematic for even sober individuals, so it is important to note that these tests are not legally required. Any individual may decline to take a field sobriety test without fear of adverse legal repercussions. If you believe you might fail, it is strongly advised that you decline, as your performance can be considered in the determination of whether there is probable cause to make a DUI arrest.
THE DUI ARREST
Upon conclusion of the investigative detention, an officer must have probable cause to make a DUI arrest. This standard is the highest and requires the officer to have, within his or her knowledge, reasonably trustworthy facts and circumstances sufficient to warrant a reasonably prudent person to believe that the suspect has committed or is committing a crime. Essentially, the officer must be able to articulate the exact reasons why he or she believes you were driving under the influence.
In determining whether probable cause exists to justify the DUI arrest, officers will consider many factors including:
- The officer’s observations;
- Your statements to the officer;
- Your performance on the Field Sobriety Tests;
- The results of any preliminary alcohol screening test; and
- The length of time you were detained during the traffic stop.
After officially being placed under arrest, drivers are required to submit to an evidentiary chemical test pursuant to California’s implied consent law. Refusal to submit to testing will result in an automatic one-year license suspension and extended jail time. Once the individual is transported to the police station, he or she will be given the option to choose between a blood or breath test. If a breath test results in 0.08 percent or higher or a blood sample is taken for later analysis, your driver’s license will be automatically suspended and confiscated.
If there is any indication that the officer lacked probable cause to make the DUI arrest, then Attorney George H. Ramos, Jr. will immediately file a suppression motion on your behalf. An arrest that is not supported by sufficient probable cause is considered an unconstitutional seizure. The prosecution must prove that the officer had sufficient probable cause, or all evidence obtained as a result of the arrest will be excluded from the case.
DUI COURT PROCEEDINGS
DUI offenses typically result in two separate cases. The first is an administrative license suspension hearing conducted by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). After a license is confiscated, a driver is issued a Notice of Suspension that also serves at a temporary license, valid for 30 day. Drivers have ten days from the date the notice was issued to contact the DMV and request a hearing or automatic license suspension will occur once the temporary license expires. Failure to make the request within the ten-day period is considered a waiver of your right to a hearing. An experienced DMV hearings attorney, George H. Ramos, Jr. aggressively represents clients at these hearing to protect their driving privileges.
The second case is the criminal proceeding. In California, most individuals arrested for a DUI with a BAC exceeding 0.08 percent are charged with two misdemeanor crimes: driving under the influence of alcohol (and/or drugs) and driving with a blood-alcohol level above 0.08 percent. An individual may be convicted of both offenses; however, he or she can only be punished for one and the penalties are the same.
DUI cases can take up to several months to resolve, with most typically involving multiple court dates. These cases involve a number of issues. Not only must specific standards be met for a lawful traffic stop, investigatory detention, and DUI arrest, but the methods and procedures used in obtaining a driver’s BAC level raise a number of technical issues as well.
Attorney George H. Ramos, Jr.’s experience and attentiveness to every detail provides him with the ability to identify any insufficiencies or weaknesses that can be used as a catapult to launch your defense. Under most circumstances, your presence is not required at every hearing, and, instead, Attorney George H. Ramos, Jr. can personally appear on your behalf. He will collect evidence, file motions, and negotiate with the judge and prosecutor to provide you with the aggressive defense you need to secure a reduction in charges or even a dismissal of the case.
AGGRESSIVE, EFFECTIVE DUI DEFENSE
Life is full of tough choices; this is not one of them. DUI charges require aggressive, experienced representation for an effective and successful defense. If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with driving under the influence, contact the law firm of George H. Ramos, Jr. & Associates today.