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BlogDo You Need a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer for a First-Time DUI?

Many Californians – even after consuming a significant amount of alcohol – rationalize that they will be “okay” driving home from the bar or party. This is especially common when it is late at night, the person is tired, and he or she is anxious to get home. The driver may even figure that given the late hour, police officers will not be out patrolling. This can be a serious mistake and error in judgment and can result in a first-time California DUI charge or conviction.

A driver may drive “buzzed” literally tens of times without ever being caught. However, there is a first time for everything – including a California DUI conviction.

If you have been charged with your first DUI, time is of the essence. At The Law Offices of David S. Chesley, our team of DUI defense lawyers in Los Angeles can make sure that your rights are safeguarded during every stage of the game. We may also be able to represent you at legal proceedings, including at trial, helping you to obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

If you are facing DUI charges for the first time, you should contact the Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of David S. Chesley. To schedule a free consultation with an attorney, call us today at 800-755-5174 or send us an email through our online contact form.

California DUI Laws

Driving under the influence – or DUI – is a serious criminal charge in California and the rest of the country. The California legislature has recognized the dangerousness of drunk driving, and consequently, the penalties for a DUI conviction can be severe.

In order to find you guilty and/or convict you of a DUI in California, the prosecuting attorney must be able to prove the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Similarly, the burden falls upon you – the defendant – to prove the validity of any legal defense(s) to your criminal DUI charge.

Pursuant to California’s drunk driving laws, a driver over 21 may not operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. Greater restrictions apply for minors who are under the age of 18 and commercial vehicle drivers, including commercial truck drivers. If a police officer pulls a driver over and their BAC exceeds the legal limit, the officer can arrest the driver for DUI.

Consequences fora First-Time DUI

If you have never sustained a drunk driving charge before, the penalties imposed for your first drunk driving conviction can range from minor to severe. The penalties imposed depend mainly upon the totality of circumstances, including the amount of alcohol that was in your system at the time you were arrested. Some of the other factors which are used to determine the penalties for a first-time DUI offender include the following:

  • The reason why the driver was initially pulled over
  • Whether the drunk driver caused a motor vehicle accident in which he or she injured other drivers or passengers
  • Whether the drunk driver cooperated with the police officer who made the arrest or whether the driver was belligerent
  • The actual BAC of the driver at the time of his or her arrest
  • Whether the drunk driver had a minor in the vehicle with him or her at the time of the arrest

Potential Penalties

In most cases, the State of California will charge a first-time DUI as a misdemeanor. Although they are less serious than felonies, a misdemeanor conviction can still carry high monetary fines and even the possibility of jail time.

As an alternative to fines or jail time for a first-time DUI offense, you may have the option of completing a period of probation. An experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can argue for a period of probation, as opposed to fines and jail time, on your behalf.

A diversionary program involving probation allows an offender time to rehabilitate himself or herself without the black mark of a conviction. An individual who successfully completes a diversionary program can honestly state that he or she has never been convicted of DUI if that question ever arises in the future.

The terms of a defendant’s probation vary significantly and are decided by judges on a case-by-case basis. In general, the probationary terms depend upon the seriousness of the offense and the danger that the driver poses to other motorists on the roadway. Some common conditions of probation in California DUI cases include:

  • That the driver not sustain any further alcohol-related charges during the period of probation
  • That the driver complete an alcohol education class lasting for a number of weeks
  • That the driver’s license be suspended during the probationary period and that the driver not be allowed to operate a motor vehicle during the probationary period
  • That the driver install an ignition interlock device on his or her vehicle for a specified period of time

An ignition interlock device will measure the alcohol level on a driver’s breath. Prior to starting the car, the driver must breathe into the device. If the device detects alcohol, it will not allow the vehicle to start.

Defenses to a California DUI Charge

In the alternative, or in addition to, arguing for a period of probation following a first-time DUI charge, a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney may be able to assert a legal defense that could result in a complete dismissal of your DUI charge. Some common defenses that could potentially result in a dismissal of your DUI charge include the following:

  • Constitutional Violation – The Constitution of the United States prohibits against unreasonable searches and seizures. If your lawyer can show that the initial traffic stop was random or otherwise unlawful, the DUI evidence which was later obtained may be suppressed, resulting in a dismissal of your DUI charge.
  • Malfunctioning Equipment – Breathalyzer machines and other DUI testing equipment are not infallible and can sometimes produce inaccurate readings. If your lawyer can show that the breathalyzer machine used to collect your breath sample was not functioning properly at the time, your DUI case could be subject to dismissal.
  • Failing to Follow Protocols and Procedures – When officers arrest someone for a DUI, there are certain procedures and protocols which they must follow. If officers refuse or fail to follow even one of these rules or protocols, your DUI case could be subject to dismissal.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Today to Review Your Legal Options

Although most first-time DUI’s care charged as misdemeanors, a conviction can still land you in jail or subject you to a large monetary fine. Consequently, you should never attempt to represent yourself at a DUI hearing or trial, as the judge could theoretically make you go forward with your case without legal representation.

At The Law Offices of David S. Chesley, our legal team understands the hassle, stress, and inconvenience associated with a DUI charge. Upon a thorough review of your case, we can present you with various legal options and make a recommendation for proceeding forward.

To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, please call us today at 1-800-755-5174, or contact us online.