San Fernando Valley Criminal & DUI Defense Lawyers

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Using Rehabilitation as a Tool in DUI and Criminal Defense

I am a criminal defense attorney. I’m not a doctor, I’m not a therapist and I’m not a social worker. My job is very clear. I am tasked with doing everything possible to try and get criminal charges dismissed or reduced and to minimize any punishment my clients might be facing.

I do this in a variety of ways and by using a variety of different tools. Often, I am simply able to negotiate favorable settlements for my clients. Sometimes, there are legal reasons why we can get cases dismissed or reduced. On rare occasion we have jury trials to try and convince a group of 12 citizens that my client shouldn’t be punished. Every case is different and every set of facts is different. Every case requires the use of different tools in order to achieve the best results for my clients.

My practice has emphasized DUI as well as drug related crimes for over two decades. DUI is actually the single most prosecuted crime in the State of California. I handle over 50 DUI’s per year and anticipate that this will continue in the years to come. DUI is what is known as a “priorable” offense. This means that the punishment gets worse with every subsequent conviction. A first DUI is punishable by a maximum of six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The punishment normally also includes a period of probation, and a drinking driver education program. The second conviction within ten years is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine. The second DUI also carries with it a mandatory minimum punishment of 96 hours in jail, an 18 month alcohol school, greater fines and possibly more. A third DUI in 10 years carries with it a mandatory minimum 120 days in jail along with the other fun stuff.

The fourth offense in 10 years or a DUI causing injury can be filed as a felony. The fourth mandates 180 in jail but can carry up to three years. If one is on probation from a prior DUI, or some other criminal conviction, the punishments can be even stiffer.

The law allows the court to impose greater punishments when the blood alcohol level was excessively high, where there was a refusal to take a test for blood alcohol, or based upon injuries being caused by the drunk driver.

While a DUI case is pending, courts often set bail in high amounts to try and keep risky offenders off the streets. Courts might order defendants to attend AA meetings while their cases are pending. Courts can order the SCRAM device be attached to a defendant’s ankle in order to make sure the subject is not drinking AT ALL while there case is ongoing.

I have often told my clients that it’s better to tell the judge what we are doing then to try and convince them of something we would be potentially willing to do in the future. To that end, in the case of aggravated DUI offenders (multiple offense, High BAC, accident, kids in car, no license, on probation etc), I often suggest clients start doing AA meetings after they get out of jail and before they see the judge. I often suggest clients enroll in a state licensed drug/alcohol rehabilitation program before they ever see a judge.

The scenario goes something like this: Client gets arrested DUI. Client gets released from jail 12 hours later. Client hires me. Client has a court date sixty days after his arrest date. This window of time is an excellent opportunity to show the judge and the prosecutor good faith. This two month window is a great time to quit drinking, rack up scores of AA meetings and even check one’s self into a program.

Courts are very receptive to postponing court dates when they hear that clients voluntarily checked themselves into a treatment program. Even an outpatient treatment program can gain “points” although it is not given anywhere near the same value.

Let’s take an example that I dealt with yesterday in Ventura County. My client was arrested for a second DUI while still on probation from her first. She blew a .19 (double legal limit) and was driving from San Luis Obispo to her home in East Los Angeles County when she was arrested. If she were willing to do thirty to sixty days in residential treatment voluntarily, there is a very good chance that she could avoid any further jail time. At worst, I could probably get her electronic home confinement in lieu of county jail. Rather, she wants to stay out and work. She didn’t want to try and help herself or the administrative action on her nursing license by checking herself into a rehab facility.

The judge yesterday offered her 30 days in County jail. I could have done better of the client were willing to play ball. And, who knows, maybe she could have gotten some personal benefit from residing in a treatment facility for one to two months. It’s her choice. I hope she likes bologna sandwiches and spending 23 hours per day in a locked cell. And by the way, she will likely be losing her nursing license very soon.

The moral to the story is that I have many tools at my disposal for use in my work as a criminal defense attorney. Residential treatment is but one of the many effective ways to try and resolve DUI cases here is California. The benefit of treatment is that it is not simply an alternative to jail, it can be the key to an alternative lifestyle. It can be the key to staying out of jail in the future; to maintaining ones family; to maintaining gainful employment; to maintaining ones driving privilege and much, much more.

If you or someone close to you has been arrested or charged with a DUI or any other crime, call an experienced lawyer who can help.

Call me, attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or

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