Well-intentioned and upstanding people can find themselves in unfortunate situations. As humans, we inevitably make mistakes (and, hopefully, learn from them). Unfortunately, one spur-of-the-moment lapse in judgment can upend someone’s life in an instant. A festive evening of celebration can end in a criminal charge when a California law enforcement officer pulls you over and arrests you for driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (known as a DUI offense). The consequences of a DUI conviction in Palmdale or Lancaster can be devastating, including potential imprisonment, costly fines, the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license, and other significant penalties that may limit your housing and employment options in the future. If law enforcement has arrested you for a DUI-related offense, it’s essential to contact a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. By working with a seasoned DUI defense lawyer, you can maximize your chances of securing the best outcome possible, given the case’s specifics. This post will explore what DUI offenses are under California law, the types of evidence prosecutors may use to build their case against you, and the strategies your DUI defense attorney can use to keep your future and freedom as bright as possible.
What Does Under the Influence Mean Under California Law?
Every state has implemented criminal penalties for operating motor vehicles while impaired or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Imbibing or ingesting substances that impair the brain and body’s ability to drive a car, truck, motorcycle, or other motor vehicle puts the driver (and other drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians) at increased risk of injury or death. An impaired driver may not be able to recognize potential hazards or stop their car in time to avoid a collision. Under California law, the term “driving under the influence” means that you operated a vehicle while having alcohol or other substances in your system at the time. Under current California laws, it is illegal to drive if you have a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 0.08 percent if you are over 21 years old. If you are under 21 years of age or if you are currently on DUI probation, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.01 percent or higher. When a law enforcement officer pulls you over for a suspected DUI, they may measure your BAC using a breath, blood, or urine test. If you refuse to submit testing, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will automatically suspend or revoke your driving privileges.
Understanding California’s Penalties For DUI Convictions
The nature and severity of the penalty you could face for a DUI conviction depends on several factors, such as whether you have previous DUI convictions, whether the accident caused injury to another or involved the loss of life, and other relevant details. In general, most first-time DUI offenders (whose incidents did not involve injuries or property damage) face a misdemeanor charge. If you’re convicted of a misdemeanor DUI offense, you will likely face probation and fines instead of considerable jail time. However, aggravating factors before or at the time of your arrest can lead to more severe charges. For example, those who were previously convicted of reckless driving within the preceding ten years may face an enhanced penalty that includes a jail sentence lasting between 90 days and one year, as well as a fine of up to $1,000. Intoxicated driving with a minor in the vehicle, causing an accident involving physical harm or death to another, or acting belligerently toward arresting officers may result in felony charges, punishable by years in prison and fines of up to $5,000. The court will determine the exact terms of your sentence, so it’s best to discuss the specific details of your case with your criminal defense attorney to better understand what to expect as your case moves forward.
Types of Evidence Used in DUI Cases
It’s up to the prosecutors to present evidence that proves you violated California’s DUI laws. State prosecutors will likely use several different types of evidence to build their case against you. First, they will usually examine the testimony provided by the arresting officer and use their statements to establish that you were too intoxicated and impaired to operate your vehicle safely. For instance, the officer may attest that you were slurring your words, stumbling when you walked or smelled strongly of alcohol at the time of your arrest. Prosecutors can also use chemical test results (including breath, blood, and urine test results) to measure your BAC level and establish that alcohol or other substances were present in your system at the time of the incident. Other types of evidence that prosecutors may use to strengthen their case against you include eyewitness testimony, police reports, surveillance footage, statements that you made at the time of your arrest, or any other documents or details that could point toward your guilt.
How a Trusted Palmdale DUI Defense Lawyer Can Help
At this point, you may be wondering, “Should I get a lawyer for my first DUI?” Although hiring an attorney is not required, taking this step is highly recommended to ensure that your legal rights are protected at every stage of the criminal justice process. When you hire a certified criminal law specialist to serve as your attorney, you can trust that he will get to work assessing and challenging the prosecution’s evidence. For instance, your lawyer can look for errors in the arresting officer’s testimony, as it’s not unheard of for police officers to get things wrong. Eyewitness testimony may be inaccurate or downright unreliable, and your attorney can examine their statements for contradictions and question their credibility. Your lawyer can also dispute the accuracy and reliability of the chemical test results, as these measurements are not error-proof. Whatever the specifics of your case may be, you can trust that your dedicated and knowledgeable DUI defense attorney will work tirelessly to defend your freedom and enforce your rights.
If you or a loved one is facing DUI charges in Palmdale or Lancaster, the Law Offices of David M. Wallin is here to help uphold your rights and defend your future. As a former Deputy District Attorney, David Wallin is deeply familiar with every aspect of the California criminal justice process. Call (661) 267-1313 today to schedule your free initial consultation with a dedicated and experienced criminal defense lawyer.