San Fernando Valley Criminal & DUI Defense Lawyers
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I will briefly lay out the scenario: you go out with friends, have a few drinks and think you are alright to drive home. It’s only a few miles and you’ve only had a few drinks. Then it happens. You see the lights in your rear view mirror and you feel that sick feeling in your stomach because you know you are going to jail. The officer asks you a few investigatory questions, has you step out of the car and the rest is history.
If you are lucky, the officer will agree to park your car and lock it so your car does not get impounded. Impounded fees, towing and storage will run in excess of three hundred dollars. That cost will skyrocket if you had a suspended driver’s license and your car is held in impound for thirty days.
After the arrest, the officer will usually give you a temporary driver’s license and notice of suspension. This notice will inform you of the automatic driver’s license suspension that will begin in thirty days. When your license gets suspended your insurance carrier will likely increase your rates.
The officer takes you to jail and if you are lucky you will get released with a ticket to appear in court. If not, you may have to post bail. Bail is increased for a lot of reasons: prior convictions, driving on a suspended license, traffic collision, and high blood alcohol. If you need to call a bail bondsman, his services normally cost ten percent of the bail amount.
After you are released from jail, you will have a date to appear in court. The next expense might be hiring a lawyer. A competent DUI lawyer will likely cost between $2,500 and $7,500 for a first offense in a local court. The cost could be significantly more if there are aggravating circumstances (see above), or if your lawyer has to travel to a distant courthouse. Do not worry. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, the public defender is available at little or no charge to indigent defendants. Please note that although there are many talented public defenders in the state, they normally consider the DMV hearing to be civil matter and do not handle these hearings for their clients. Nor will public defenders handle the process of getting their client’s validly licensed at the end of the court and DMV proceedings.
After you go to court, your attorney conveys a settlement offer to you. If you are convicted of DUI, you will be placed on probation for three years, pay a fine and you will have to attend a state mandated alcohol education program. In Los Angeles County, probation is unsupervised and there is no fee. In other counties probation services can be very costly. The fine did not sound so bad in court, $390.00 plus a penalty assessment, plus other mandatory fees. At the end of the day your paperwork says you owe $1,800.00 in fines or more. Then you go to over to sign up for the first offender alcohol program. The mandatory program which takes about two hours a week for three months (you can’t get your license back if don’t finish it) costs around $600.00. Longer schools cost even more.
Just when you think you are getting close to the end of your misery, you go home and open the mail. It’s the order of suspension from DMV. Your license has been suspended for four months (longer for multiple offenses). Not to worry, you will still be able to drive to work, right? Wrong. You can get a restricted license which allows you to drive to and from work and the alcohol program, but not for another thirty days. And of course, there is a fee for that too. And, in order to get your license back you also need to have your insurance carrier file and maintain proof of insurance with the DMV for three years.
Hopefully you make it through thirty days without getting caught behind the wheel. If you are caught driving on a suspended license your car will be impounded for thirty days, you will get charged with another misdemeanor offense and possibly a violation of your DUI probation. Driving on a suspended license carries up to a year in jail and hefty fines. Some offenses carry mandatory jail time.
A few months goes by, you have finished the alcohol program, paid off your fine and are feeling back to normal because you have a real driver’s license in your pocket. Not so fast there is more bad news comes. Your insurance policy is up for renewal and your carrier found out about your DUI. You’ve been cancelled by your carrier and you need to find new insurance. You start to look around for insurance and wonder how long you will have to pay these horrific rates. The answer is likely to be at least three years.
This is what you will likely face for a first offense DUI in Los Angeles County. Other counties vary. Please remember, DUI is what we call a priorable offense, meaning that it gets worse if you get a second or subsequent DUI. Second DUI’s within ten years carry mandatory jail time, one year license revocations (no restricted license), lengthier probation terms and usually higher fines.
A recent pilot project in Los Angeles County just added another stumbling block for you. When you go back to DMV to get your restricted license, they will ask you for proof of installation of the IID. What’s that you ask? For every Los Angeles County DUI conviction after July 1, 2010, DMV is requiring installation of an approved Ignition Interlock device before they re-issue your driver’s license. You will have to pay to have it installed, calibrated and then keep in on for at least 5 months. This is the thing you have to blow into before you can start your car. I hear it’s a great conversation piece on a date. What’s that you say, you don’t want to put one on your car? No problem there right? Wrong. No IID equals no license reissuance.
The moral to the story is that we should all plan ahead. For the cost of a DUI, we can easily afford to take a taxi if we go out drinking. These days it is cheap and easy to call Uber or some other ride sharing program. Please set up the app on your smart phone. Maybe even treat yourself to a limousine once in a while. It will be a lot of fun and a lot cheaper than a DUI.
Mr. Vallens is a DUI defense lawyer in Southern California. He is licensed to practice before the California Supreme Court (all courts in California) as well as The United States Supreme Court, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California and The U.S. Court of Military Appeals. Mr. Vallens has been practicing criminal & DUI defense for over 18 years. Contact him directly or call (818) 783-5700.