DUI Cases – Driving Under the Influence
DUI cases vary greatly in severity, though for all it is important that you seek out legal assistance as soon as possible. We strongly recommend contacting us within the first week of being charged with DUI, especially because of DMV deadlines. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about DUI cases in Southern California and what you can expect:
What Counts as a ‘DUI Case’
In the state of California, the term “DUI” is used exclusively to describe driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol as well as drunk driving. While other states distinguish between the two (a DUI often being less severe), California courts do not. Instead, the differences in the severity of the cases come from the level of intoxication and the type of substance, as well as whether any damage that was caused or whether children were involved. For example, a driver who was pulled over during a routine DUI checkpoint and discovered to be over the legal alcohol limit will usually face significantly less severe charges than someone who was discovered to be intoxicated on illegal substances after they collided with another vehicle.
DUI cases may be elevated from a DUI charge to other types of offenses based on the circumstances. In California, drivers who kill somebody while under the influence may be prosecuted under murder or manslaughter charges. Likewise, a parent caught driving under the influence while their child is in the passenger seat may wind up facing additional child endangerment charges.
First-Time Offense vs. Multiple Offenses
As with all criminal cases, DUI cases come with their own set of automatic rules laid down by the state. Many people are surprised to learn that first-time offenses often come with strict penalties, which in California have increased in severity over time. There are essentially two factors to every DUI case: if/how you are going to be prosecuted and what the state DMV is going to do with your driver’s license and record. Both have become stricter over time as the population and the number of incidents have increased. We can help you navigate both sides of your DUI case, but it will start with recognizing if this is your first offense or a repeat incident.
It is worth noting that most DUI penalties are for misdemeanor offenses only. More serious offenses that involve injury or death are susceptible to being classified as a felony and will therefore come with more serious penalties. The DUI charge may also be classified as a felony if it is the fourth or more offense.
Do DUI Cases Go to Trial?
The law of the land is “innocent until proven guilty,” but in DUI cases the evidence may already feel stacked against you. However, that does not necessarily mean you are obligated to go to trial in every situation. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, a DUI case can be settled without going to trial.
We will gather as much evidence as possible in your favor to demonstrate that the DUI and the circumstances surrounding it were situational and not intentional on your part. While it can be challenging (though not impossible) to get charges completely dismissed, it is often feasible to get them reduced. In many cases, prosecutors are willing to offer reasonable settlement deals in order to avoid going to trial when they see evidence of minimum harm.
Even if the case does go to trial, that does not mean that you will automatically receive the most severe punishment. If a jury does convict you, penalties may still be minimal or the charges may be dismissed by the judge if there is enough evidence in your favor. It is important to sit down with your attorney as soon as possible to discuss ways you can build your character and take steps to reduce the impact of the DUI charges. For example: attending safe driving courses, AA meetings, child care classes, even participating in community service, etc. before the trial or before any meetings with the prosecution can help to significantly boost your case.
Determine Your Goals
The outcome of the DUI case will also depend largely on your personal goals. For example, some people want to do everything they can to stay out of jail. Others meanwhile want to be able to hold on to their driver’s license or avoid paying hefty fines. For some, keeping their record as clean as possible is of the utmost importance.
It’s crucial to be honest with your attorney about what you hope will happen with your DUI case. While it’s important to be realistic and understand that getting your charges dismissed is not possible in many cases, the truth is that you may be still be able to achieve a penalty you can accept. We will either be able to work towards the direction you want to go, or will explain to you why that might not be in your best interests (in which case we will explain your options further).
If you or a loved one is facing DUI charges, don’t wait to take action. Call the Law Offices of James Hallett today!