Being arrested for driving under the influence can happen to virtually anyone because the violation does not require a criminal intent. It can happen to generally well-intending and “good” people. To be arrested, it is legally enough that the driver was determined by the officer to be either “unsafe to drive” by virtue of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a combination of both (Vehicle Code section 23152(a) & 23152 (f)), or is found to be driving with an alcohol level of .08 or more (Vehicle Code section 23152(b)).
Whether the driver states that he/she “felt fine” to drive is of little to no consequence in a D.U.I. investigation. Yet, the majority of drivers who have their “night out” ruined by the sight of flashing red and blue lights will often be faced with an experienced officer, asking many questions (confusing to some), requesting the driver to perform field sobriety tests (that may be difficult to perform under even perfect circumstances), and ultimately, told to blow into a breath-testing device or provide a blood sample (and the driver is unsure if it is the right thing to do).
Simply put, a D.U.I. investigation can be nerve-wracking and intimidating because during the investigation the officer is not required to explain the reasoning behind his/her actions, nor does the driver have the right to speak with an attorney, let alone have one present, during the investigation.
In most cases, someone who is convicted for driving-under-the-influence can expect to receive a period of probation, fines, and mandatory attendance in a licensed alcohol school program (usually a minimum of three months), among other penalties. In some jurisdictions/counties of California, even jail time may be required. And, it is important to recognize that there are penalties that may be imposed in addition to those imposed by the criminal court.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles will seek to suspend the driving privileges of anyone convicted for D.U.I., or who is subject to the penalties of an administrative per se hearing (APS) conducted by the various Driver Safety Units of the D.M.V (discussed below). Additionally, for those D.U.I. driver’s who are undocumented (not in the country legally) or are in the United States on a work or travel visa, or seeking naturalization, there are immigration consequences that must be discussed. Finally, although a conviction for driving-under-the-influence is not legally considered a crime of moral turpitude, as many other criminal violations are classified, it may/can reflect on one’s ability to exercise proper judgement elsewhere. No matter how hard an individual may try, negative public perceptions of someone convicted of DUI may be difficult to overcome in both the short and long-term.
Given that the state of California law imposes very strict handling of DUI offenders, it is extremely important to discuss every aspect of your case with an experienced attorney, who is familiar with all the nuances of a D.U.I. investigation and who can identify the potential defenses and strategies (discussed below) that may exist in your case. It is also important to have an attorney at your side who understands the policies/practices of the local court and, if possible, who has developed a positive and professional relationship with the prosecutor’s office.