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The DUI Process in California


In California, the DUI process usually begins when a person is either pulled over for a traffic violation or involved in a collision, or when a person enters a DUI checkpoint. By far, the most common beginning of the DUI process occurs when an officer pulls the suspect over. During this traffic stop, the officer will assess if the suspect is showing objective symptoms of intoxication: slurred speech, watery eyes, and/or the smell of alcohol. Once the officer detects any of these signs, they will initiate a DUI investigation.

Typically, the suspect will be asked to step out of the vehicle, and the officer will administer a series of field sobriety tests (FST). You have the right to refuse to participate in the tests, however an officer is not required to inform you of that. You can find more information about a DUI arrest from the California DMV.

The most common FST is a preliminary alcohol screening device (a breathalyzer) that provides a person’s unofficial blood alcohol content once you blow into the machine. This test is administered to determine whether the officer has sufficient probable cause to arrest you for a DUI. In most cases, if you fail this test, authorities will place you under arrest and take you in for a chemical test. As an official DUI suspect, this test is legally required and is ultimately more credible when determining the BAC level. The DUI suspect will then be booked into jail with the possibility of bail.

Stages of a DUI Case

The stages of any DUI case vary slightly depending on the defendant’s criminal history and the particular circumstances of the case. Once you’ve been booked, the attending officer obtains personal information about you, files a report, and continues the process. A bail hearing must take place to determine whether the suspect can be released on bail.

The defendant is then formally read his charges in a courtroom by a judge. The judge will require the defendant to plead guilty or not guilty. If beneficial for the case, a defendant can make a plea bargain with the prosecution for a lighter sentence. If the defendant does not enter a plea bargain, his case will go to trial. DUI cases can sometimes be complex. If you are facing DUI charges, it is wise to request an attorney to assist you at every stage of your case.

Before the trial, the defendant’s attorney can bring up various motions trying to exclude damaging evidence from being presented during trial. These typically include BAC testing results and incriminating statements made during the arrest, and more. The actual trial consists of:

  • A jury
  • Opening statements by the defendant’s attorney and the prosecution
  • Testimonies from witnesses (including officers)
  • Jury deliberations
  •  A verdict

If convicted, the DUI offender can serve time in jail, pay fines, or be required to complete community service among other penalties. The defendant may also be able to submit a request to get the DUI charges appealed if found eligible.

When facing a DUI charge, you do not have to do it alone. The Law Offices of Taylor and Taylor can offer you the legal counsel needed to navigate your case successfully.

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