What Happens When You Get a DUI in California?

When drivers are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) in California – with the influence being either alcohol or drugs – two legal proceedings are triggered. The first of these proceedings is criminal, whereby the alleged offender will be charged with a crime. In simple terms, the court will see whether the individual concerned committed an offense against the state by driving under the influence.

Second, an optional California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) administrative hearing may be held, whereby it will be decided whether the defendant will have their driver’s license taken away. The suspension of the defendant’s license is the only penalty the DMV hearing officer may impose. In other words, the DMV hearing is separate from the criminal case. Criminal penalties can only be imposed by a court of criminal law. In contrast, the driver’s license might be suspended by both the California DMV as well as by the court.

At Sterger Law Group, our attorney represents individuals at DUI criminal and administrative proceedings in Escondido. Schedule a consultation by calling (760) 280-7900 or submitting an online contact form today.

Is the DMV Hearing Automatic?

It is essential to state that a hearing at the DMV does not come automatically. Defendants who want to fight the automatic suspension of their driver’s license after being charged with a DUI offense must request a hearing within 10 days of their arrest. If a hearing is not requested, their driver’s license will be suspended for six months if the defendant is a first-time offender. Needless to say, the license will be suspended as well if the defendant loses their hearing.

How Does the DUI Criminal Process Work?

Unlike the Department of Motor Vehicles hearing, a criminal trial is not optional. In fact, attending the hearing is mandatory if the prosecutor decides to charge you. Once the official charge has been entered in the form of a complaint, the defendant and her or his attorney are expected to attend all proceedings, including the arraignment, during which the accused must plead guilty, not guilty or no contest.

It should also be mentioned that the criminal court can impose significant penalties on defendants in addition to suspending their driver’s licenses.

Amongst these penalties are:

  • A fine,
  • Probation, and/or
  • Jail time.

Moreover, while the Department of Motor Vehicles hearing cannot impact the criminal case, the criminal case can have a considerable bearing on the DMV hearing. This is because if the defendant is found not guilty in criminal court, the Department will usually allow the defendant to keep their driver’s license by reversing the suspension. However, for this to be done, the hearing officer must ascertain that the defendant was found not guilty based upon the facts at hand and because they did not commit a crime, and not because of technicalities such as the statute of limitations, for example.

Retaining Legal Representation Is Important

Given all that’s involved in a California DUI case, it is paramount for defendants charged with a DUI offense to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. The accused must act promptly to avoid administrative action that cannot be challenged after the ten-day window passes. While the administrative hearing is important, it is essential to prioritize the criminal case rather than the Department of Motor Vehicles hearing. This is especially true since the criminal case can potentially impact the DMV hearing, but not the other way around.

If you need legal assistance with DUI criminal and/or administrative proceedings, please contact our Escondido lawyer at Sterger Law Group by calling (760) 280-7900 today.