GETTING CHARGED WITH driv- ing under the influence is never part of the plan when you go ut to dinner or visit a winery. Unfortunately, it does happen
— in fact, about one in 140 licensed drivers
in Marin County gets arrested on suspicion
of DUI in a year, according to the California
Department of Motor Vehicles.
What really happens after you see those
blue lights in the rearview mirror? What can
you do to minimize the damage a DUI charge
wreaks on your life? Veteran San Rafael attorney Paul Burglin, who literally wrote the book
on DUI defense — California Drunk Driving Law
— walked us through how to deal with a first-offense DUI case, step by step:
1YOU ARE PULLED OVER An officer who suspects you have been drinking will ask
a number of questions and ask you to perform
field sobriety tests, such as a horizontal gaze
nystagmus test (tracking a moving stimulus
with your eyes), walking a straight line heel-to-toe or balancing on one leg. What the officer
may not tell you is that you are not legally
required to submit to these tests, Burglin says.
“It’s a rare situation where the officer lets the
person go after conducting field sobriety tests,
so you’re probably better off declining to do
them, in terms of not incriminating yourself,”
the attorney advises. “Finally, you’ll likely
be asked to blow into a preliminary alcohol
screening (PAS) device, but not only do you
have the right to refuse it, the Vehicle Code
requires the officer to advise you of this right.”
2YOU ARE ARRESTED You will be taken to the police station to take a breath test, or
to the jail for a breath or blood test (there are
consequences for refusing post-arrest testing, including potential jail time and license
suspension). Either your car will be towed, or
if it is in an area where it can be left, the police
may lock it and leave it there. You are held in jail
overnight, or you may be allowed to call a sober
adult to pick you up.
3YOU ARE RELEASED Locals are generally released on their own recognizance while
those from outside the area will likely be asked
to post bail. You will be given a court date,
typically about three weeks hence. The police
will send your driver’s license to the DMV and
in its place give you an Order of Suspension and
Temporary License, which allows you to drive
for 30 days after the arrest.
4THIS IS WHEN YOU NEED TO CALL AN ATTORNEY THAT SPECIALIZES IN DUI The
legal proceedings you are about to embark on
are complicated, and lawyers know ways to
minimize the damage to your life. Most attorneys charge between $2,500–$7,000 to handle
all DMV and court proceedings without going
to a jury trial, and you can expect to pay an
additional $6,000–$7,000 plus the costs of any
expert witness(es) if your case goes to a jury
trial. If you can't afford to hire an attorney,
you can request at your court appearance to be
referred to the public defender's office, which
will evaluate your ability to pay.
5THE DMV DE TERMINES YOUR DRIVING PRIVI- LEGES You have 10 days post-arrest to request
a DMV administrative hearing to plead your case.
If the DMV upholds the suspension order, and if
you are over 21 and tested at 0.08 percent blood
alcohol concentration (BAC) or higher, your
license will be suspended for four months on a
first offense. You can convert this four-month sus-pension to a 30-day suspension and a five-month
restriction period where you are allowed to drive
to work and to the required educational program.
If you are under 21 and you tested at 0.01 percent
or higher — or if you refused to take a blood or
breath test when you were arrested — your license
will be suspended for a year. Suspension periods
are longer for repeat offenders.
6YOUR ATTORNEY REVIEWS THE EVIDENCE AND DEFENDS YOU IN COURT Your attorney
will study your test results and police report,
looking for opportunities to plead for reduced
charges or a dismissal. Even if you tested above
the legal limit, a conviction is not a foregone
conclusion. “He may file a ‘motion to suppress
evidence’ that challenges the legality of the initial detention, arrest or warrantless taking of a
chemical test sample,” Burglin says.
7YOU ARE SENTENCED The potential jail time for a first offense — up to six months — will
likely not initially be imposed, or will be substituted with community service or trash pickup
work. You will typically get three years of unsupervised probation. You will have to attend three
to nine months of a DUI program with classes
and counseling — costing you up to $1,221. First
offenders will also pay fines that total about
$1,973. Circumstances that could lead to increased
penalties and sanctions include having a child in
the car at the time of the offense, reckless driving,
an accident or having a BAC above 0.15 percent.
8YOUR ARREST GOES ON YOUR PERMA- NENT RECORD — BUT YOU CAN HAVE IT
EXPUNGED Typically, you can petition the court
for expungement of the criminal conviction
after you have served your sentence, including probation. Expungement does not erase
your criminal record, but “it demonstrates to a
potential employer that you have been deemed
rehabilitated,” Burglin says. Moreover, the
California Labor Code now prohibits employers from asking about expunged convictions.
9NEXT TIME, YOU CALL UBER Or Lyft. Or a cab. Or a sober designated-driver friend.
Or don’t drink. Do anything except risk a second offense, which could result in jail time,
$2,639 in fines and assessments, and having an Ignition-Interlock Device installed
on your car that requires a Breathalyzer test
every time you drive. “I always address the
issue of alcohol and/or drugs with each of my
clients,” says Burglin, a longtime Alcoholics
Anonymous member who has been sober for
more than 24 years. “If I suspect they have
a dependency problem, I encourage them to
get help and give them suggestions on where
to get it.” C.K.
The steps you’ll need to take
after seeing those blue lights
in your rearview mirror.