Friday, May 22, 2015

What Can I Expect At My First Court Appearance?

The first Court appearance on a DUI case is called an arraignment.  The purpose of this Court date is to allow the person accused, in legal terms a "defendant", to enter a plea to the charges filed by the local prosecutor.  The charges are contained in a document that is called a "complaint" and it is filed with the court that is closest to where the arrest took place.

The possible pleas that could be entered are guilty, not guilty and no contest.  If you have hired a lawyer to fight the case he or she will probably recommend pleading not guilty.  Why is this the best option?  We'll, in most cases the attorney will want to review all of the evidence such as the official police report, the breath or blood test records and any other evidence the state has.  In many cases, when the evidence is investigated there may be errors that occurred such as violations of the state regulations pertaining to testing or there may be a violation of your constitutional rights such as some illegality surrounding the arrest or the reason the officer pulled you over in the first place.

Once I plead not guilty does this mean I have to go to trial?  No, a defendant can change their plea at any time and most cases are resolved prior to a jury trial.  The attorney can often develop arguments and defenses that will allow them to negotiate a favorable deal such as a reduction of the charge or a reduction in the possible sentence imposed.  For example, in many drunk driving cases a key issue is the lawfulness of the initial stop, the attorney will want to carefully review the reports to determine if a motion to dismiss is appropriate based on a violation of the 4th Amendment.

Why can't my attorney get to see all of the evidence before the arraignment and be able to resolve the case at that stage?  Although in many cases counsel will receive some reports before the first a Court date, under California law a defendant is not entitled to full disclosure of the evidence until he or she is "arraigned" therefore although some reports may be acquired prior to the initial appearance, the DA does not have to provide everything until the arraignment.  Even at that stage some evidence may not be available.  For example, a blood result may not be reported by the laboratory for sometimes 60-90 days.  It is obviously prudent to wait for the results of that test before deciding whether to plead guilty or no contest.

What will be the next step after the arraignment ?  A subsequent Court date will be scheduled, usually called a pretrial, or it's possible that the arraignment will be continued to allow the attorney to review the discovery provided by the DA.  You will be contacted at a future date to discuss the case and go over your options.

Do I need to be there at the first appearance?  Generally no.  Unless the case is a felony, the law allows for attorneys to appear on behalf of their clients unless the judge orders it.  What are the circumstances where a judge can order a personal appearance?  When public safety requires the judge to set bail or impose conditions of the defendant's release.  For instance, if the accused has prior DUI convictions or is on probation then a judge can set bail an remand a defendant.  The judge can also require the defendant to attend AA meetings or enroll in an alcohol education program as a condition of his or her release.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Getting A Restricted License After A Second DUI In California

The mandatory suspension for a second dui in California is 1-2 years, however there is a way to obtain an early reinstatement of your driving privilege via an IID restriction.  What is this?  Well, it is a method to get a license after 90 days if your DUI involved alcohol, no drugs, and you were not on probation, took a chemical test and meet certain conditions.  Here is what you will need to do:

  1. Get enrolled in the SB 38 18 month DUI program.  The classes must be started after the arrest date of the current case.  Sometimes the offender will start the school early, that is ok as long as you file the enrollment certificate with the DMV after the court conviction. Click here for a full list of DUI Schools in California
  2. Make sure you have an SR-22 filed with the DMV.  An SR22 is nothing more than an official proof that you have the minimum required proof of insurance mandated by the DMV.  You cannot simply send in the little card you got from the insurance company, that will not be sufficient.  The proof must be sent in by the insurance company in order to comply with CA law.  Many insurance brokers can provide an SR22 even if you do not currently own a car or if you do and want additional coverage.
  3. Install an ignition interlock in the car you will be driving.  This IID is mandatory and must be installed even if you do not own a car.  This allows you to drive anywhere you want as long as it is installed.  There is no restrictions for employment only or any other limitations.  For more information about this, go to our IID Facts Page.
  4. You must pay a re-issue fee to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.  This fee  ranges from $140 to $240 dollars and must be submitted in order to receive your original license.
  5. Ensure you have no outstanding tickets or "holds" on your license such as tickets you never paid or any FTA or failure to appear, back due child support, etc.
  6. Make sure you understand that you will receive two letters from the DMV regarding the court and administrative disposition.  The first letter will often be from the local driver safety office which states the suspension is fir one year, how ever this will be superseded by the mandatory action flowing from the court conviction which will state the suspension is for two years.  The court action trumps the APS sentence and the time for the 90 days starts when the court conviction takes place, not sooner.  If you have any questions regarding the process contact Matthew