DUI in California: The DMV Process v. The Court Process


DUI in California - What to Expect by Orange County Criminal Defense


Whether you were pulled over for a traffic violation or the police were called to the scene upon an accident, one drink or a few resulted in a DUI, or Driving Under the Influence, typically a misdemeanor offense. Perhaps the law enforcement officer initially wrote you up for exhibiting the familiar “signs of intoxication,” such as slurred speech, the odor of alcohol on your breath, or bloodshot eyes, leading to the roadside field sobriety tests or the Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS), more commonly known as a breathalyzer.

If you are over the age of 21, and the breath test or a blood test revealed a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of over 0.08%, you may have been additionally charged with “driving with an excessive BAC” (California Vehicle Code 23152b VC). After the DUI tests, the booking, the release, whether allowed by bail or a set court date, and the formal charging of the DUI by the local prosecuting agency, the matters have been left in your hands.

Between various stages in both the DUI court procedures and dealings with the California DMV, a crime labeled as a “misdemeanor” has proven to be a complicated, step-riddled plot of confusion. However, with understandings of the differences in each process, you can navigate the aftermath of receiving a DUI with ease and peace of mind.

The DMV Process

First, it is critical to call the DMV immediately after your DUI arrest date, in order to obtain a stay and a hearing. This hearing is entirely different than the court date set for you upon your release. As specified by the pink piece of paper you received from the officer who confiscated your license at the time of your arrest, you have only 10 days to contact the DMV. If such action is not taken, the license is subject to automatic license suspension 30 days after the arrest date. Furthermore, the stay and the hearing will not only give you a chance to avoid license suspension, but also buy you more driving time. A stay allows you to continue driving after the expiration of the 30-day temporary license, granting you the right to drive until the date of your DMV hearing, which may be up to three months after your arrest.

During this initial call, it is likewise important to request a DMV hearing, which will give you the chance prevent the suspension of your license. At the same time, you should request the DMV to send your Police Report, which you will receive 10 days before the hearing.

For the hearing, it is best to have the assistance of an experienced DUI lawyer, hired for both the hearing and your state court case, to increase your chance of saving your license. Review your requested Police Report with your attorney, who may conduct the hearing on your behalf. Either you or your attorney must answer the following three questions:

  1. Did the officer reasonably believe that you were driving under the influence?
  2. Were you lawfully arrested?
  3. Was your BAC 0.08% or above?

Beyond these questions, the DMV hearing will prepare you and your attorney for your very separate, yet equally critical court trial.

The Court Process

 A DUI charge, despite undergoing the processes of the DMV, will also undergo the California criminal court process. Unlike the DMV hearing, the court trial handles a different set of repercussions as decided upon by the prosecutor, entirely separate from the suspension of a driver’s license.

The first step of the criminal proceedings is the arraignment, your primary opportunity to plead guilty, not guilty, or “no contest.” This pre-trail phase is your initial appearance before a judge. At the arraignment, the prosecutor will provide an “offer,” or the sentence recommended if you are to plead guilty.  In Orange County, California, you may be eligible for DUI court if you have suffered a prior DUI conviction in your past.

Upon pleading guilty, you will be sentenced and forced to carry out your offer, or probation terms. At this point, the case is considered closed. However, if you chose to plead not guilty, your lawyer may review the case with the prosecution’s evidence, and begin to build your defense. With the help of a defense attorney, you are in a more powerful seat, with the position to negotiate with the prosecution. Case investigation can include a cross-examination of the arresting officer, inspection of the PAS instrument, visiting the scene of the arrest or accident, any of which may lead to a “motion to suppress” key evidence that was unfairly obtained. If a sufficient amount of evidence in your favor is found, your attorney may plea-bargain, or negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the charge, and in certain cases, even get it dismissed.

If you have been arrested for a DUI, contact the Kenney Legal Defense Corporation immediately for help. Remember, you only have 10 days from the date of your arrest to schedule the DMV hearing, so it is imperative to hire an attorney immediately to assist you. So call (855) 505-5588 and talk with Karren Kenney, don’t mess with your freedom.


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