Westminster DUI First Offense Attorney
Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is extremely dangerous and illegal in all 50 states. California state prosecutors tend to pursue conviction in DUI cases quite aggressively, and a DUI conviction on your record can lead to substantial legal penalties and long-lasting damage to your personal and professional life.
Have you or a loved one recently been arrested in Westminster for a first-time DUI? The criminal charge you face has the potential to negatively impact your life for years to come. It’s vital to understand the value of legal representation in this situation and how an experienced Westminster DUI first offense attorney can help you. Our firm can answer your DUI questions and help you better understand your current legal circumstances as we construct your defense.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann provide comprehensive and aggressive criminal defense representation. While some may assume that a first-time DUI will lead to relatively mild punishment, this is not necessarily true. Depending on the unique factors of your case, you could face fines, jail time, and long-term suspension of your driver’s license, among other penalties. Our team can provide the defense counsel you need to have your charges dismissed or reduced if possible.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
DUI arrests happen in many ways:
- Police may conduct a traffic stop if a driver is operating their vehicle erratically, swerving, or if they commit a moving violation. Once the police pull over the driver, if they detect any signs that the driver is under the influence of alcohol, they will likely begin DUI arrest procedures and look for evidence that establishes probable cause.
- Law enforcement often build DUI checkpoints in high-risk areas at certain times when DUI is more likely, such as after major sporting events or nighttime during a holiday weekend.
- Police might conduct a traffic stop after seeing a driver leave a bar or other establishment that serves alcohol with suspicion that the driver has been drinking.
These are just a few possible examples of how a driver can suddenly see police lights behind their vehicle and face DUI charges. If you have recently experienced a situation like this, a Westminster DUI first offense attorney can help you make sense of your legal options, challenge the prosecution’s evidence, and ultimately provide you with the best chance of avoiding the significant penalties that often follow DUI arrest.
The team at the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann understands how difficult it can be to handle a DUI arrest for the first time. We want to remind our Westminster, CA area clients and prospective clients of their rights and legal options following a first-time DUI arrest. This information can potentially help anyone in this situation avoid unjust penalties and minimize the long-term complications a DUI conviction can cause.
Can a Lawyer Get a DUI Reduced?
When a criminal defense attorney accepts a case, their ideal scenario is to have their client’s charges dropped completely and their case dismissed. This is possible under various conditions, from the police mishandling the case to due process violations or inadmissible evidence. When you hire a Westminster DUI first offense attorney, their first step in handling your case should be to assess the credibility of the evidence in play and to closely examine the circumstances of your arrest and booking.
First-time DUI offenders are more likely than repeat offenders to receive reduced sentences. In some cases, this may mean probation in lieu of jail time. In others, it is possible to plea down to a “wet reckless,” a lesser charge that does not come with the penalties of a first-time DUI. In California, your first DUI conviction qualifies as a misdemeanor charge unless you caused severe injuries or a fatality due to your impaired driving. It is not uncommon for individuals facing their first DUI arrests to feel uncertain about the legal penalties they face, their options for defense, and how to approach their legal proceedings.
It is very possible for a Westminster DUI first offense attorney to help their client get their charges reduced if the attorney can positively identify procedural missteps in their client’s arrest and booking processes. For example, if the arresting officer never read you your Miranda rights or never obtained probable cause to conduct your arrest in the first place, your attorney could leverage these facts to compel the court to drop your charges.
Unfortunately, immediate dismissal is not always an option for some DUI offenders. In this situation, your attorney is likely to challenge the evidence in play in your case. This can take many forms, including challenging the manner in which the police obtained your chemical test sample or questioning the authenticity and validity of your chemical test results. If the lab that handled your chemical test sample has a spotty record for accuracy, this can be enough to cast doubt on the admissibility of your chemical test results.
Important First Steps After a First-Time DUI Arrest
One of the most important things you must do after an arrest for DUI is to contact an experienced defense attorney. You stand the best chance of reducing your sentence or having your charges dropped when you have reliable defense counsel on your side. It is also wise to keep a few tips in mind during an encounter with the police, especially when it comes to preliminary alcohol screenings and California’s implied consent law for chemical testing for DUI.
It’s a common misconception that if a police officer pulls you over for suspected DUI and requests that you take a preliminary alcohol screening that you must agree to this screening. California’s implied consent law requires any driver who has been lawfully arrested for DUI to submit to a chemical test, but there is no legal obligation to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening during a traffic stop. The only exceptions to this rule include drivers under the age of 21 or drivers who are already on probation for DUI; these drivers must agree to preliminary alcohol screening if requested by a law enforcement officer.
California police may only conduct a lawful arrest for DUI if they are able to establish probable cause. For example, if the arresting officer observed that you ran a stop sign and detected a strong smell of alcohol once they approached your vehicle, these factors would likely satisfy the requirement of probable cause. Once arrested, the police may then compel you to submit to a chemical test via a breath analysis or a blood test. If these testing methods are unavailable, a urine sample is also acceptable. After an arrest, California’s implied consent law requires the arrested driver to submit to a chemical test.
DUI Conviction Penalties
Once a driver is arrested for DUI and submits their chemical test sample, the arresting officer must confiscate their driver’s license and provide them with a notice of suspension. This document essentially acts as a driver’s license for up to 30 days. The driver has the right to arrange a hearing with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within ten days to contest the administrative suspension of their license. This hearing provides the driver with their sole opportunity to argue against the suspension of their driver’s license, and the relatively short window in which they must prepare further proves how essential proper legal representation is in this situation.
It is likely for a driver arrested for DUI to face two driver’s license suspensions: an administrative suspension from the DMV and suspension as a penalty for conviction. California state law allows these suspensions to overlap, and the total length of the driver’s suspension cannot last longer than whichever of the two suspensions is longer. For example, if the administrative suspension is one year and the penalty suspension is six months, the driver’s license can only remain suspended for one year as that is the longer of the two suspensions. First-time DUI offenders are typically provided the choice between a 12-month restricted license or a six-month ignition interlock device (IID) requirement following reinstatement of their driver’s license.
An IID is a small electronic device fitted with a breathalyzer system that is attached to the driver’s vehicle. The vehicle will not start until the driver blows into the breathalyzer. If the system detects any level of blood-alcohol concentration (BAC), the vehicle will not start and will effectively prevent the driver from operating the vehicle for several hours. If an IID is a condition of your sentence, you should know that you are expected to pay for the installation and maintenance of your IID device, further increasing the overall economic impact of your DUI conviction.
Reinstatement of Your Driver’s License
One of the most difficult aspects of a DUI conviction is enduring the driver’s license suspension included in your sentence. A judge will likely require you to complete specific education and safety courses or attend drug and alcohol counseling before you qualify to have your driver’s license reinstated. If you are required to complete such courses, you must pay for the cost of the courses out of your own pocket.
Many people arrested for DUI must drive to get to and from work and handle other day-to-day responsibilities. A restricted driver’s license can allow an individual to complete these tasks, but if you receive a restricted license after a first-time DUI conviction, it is vital that you follow the terms and conditions of your restricted driver’s license to avoid the penalties for noncompliance.
Will I Get Probation for a First DUI?
A first DUI conviction qualifies as a misdemeanor under California state law and generally leads to a probation sentence of three to five years. While on probation, you must not break the law in any way or drive with any amount of alcohol in your system. Additionally, you will be compelled to submit to a preliminary alcohol screening if a police officer pulls you over for suspected DUI. If you break the terms of your probation sentence, you could face severe legal penalties, including additional fines, increased driver’s license suspension, or even incarceration.
A first-time DUI offense will also lead to a fine, typically between $390 and $1,000. However, you will also receive penalty assessments depending on the circumstances of your arrest, such as your level of intoxication and whether you were cooperative with the arresting officers. Ultimately, the financial cost of your DUI conviction can total thousands of dollars in addition to license suspension, probation, and mandatory alcohol and driver safety courses.
How Can an Attorney Help Me?
It’s easy to feel hopeless following an arrest for DUI. However, taking full advantage of legal representation can potentially help you reduce the penalties you face. An experienced Westminster DUI first offense attorney can help their client build a solid defense while weakening the prosecution’s case.
California state law requires the police to allow anyone arrested for a crime to make three phone calls within three hours of booking. Depending on the nature of your DUI arrest, you may have the option of going home after the police complete their booking procedures, and you should place a call to a relative who can pick you up and take you home. However, make sure one of your phone calls is directed to a reliable and experienced DUI defense attorney. The sooner you secure legal representation, the better your chances are of fighting your charges.
Challenging Your Arrest
One of the most important things to remember during a first-time DUI arrest is the fact that the arresting officers must adhere to due process laws. This means they must establish probable cause to conduct a traffic stop and arrest in the first place. If the police arrest you, they must read you your Miranda rights during the arrest and ensure you fully understand those rights. If the police violated due process in any way during your arrest, your DUI defense attorney can indicate this misstep as justification for case dismissal.
Another important facet of first-time DUI defense is the physical evidence in play. If the police arrested you for DUI and required you to submit a chemical test sample, your attorney will analyze the conditions of your chemical test and the testing lab’s results. If your attorney can identify any compromising issues with the test or the facility that processed your test results, this can significantly weaken the prosecution’s case.
It is also necessary for your Westminster DUI first offense attorney to look for exculpatory evidence. Unfortunately, some police officers move too hastily in pursuing convictions for DUI offenses and either overlook or deliberately ignore evidence that proves the suspect’s innocence. Your attorney can potentially uncover evidence that contradicts the prosecution and increases your chances of securing a case dismissal or reduced charges.
When DUI Leads to Additional Charges
Even a first-time DUI offense has the potential to carry significant criminal penalties. This is especially true if the impaired driver caused property damage or an accident with another driver. In the event a DUI driver hurts or kills someone because of their impaired driving, it will be very difficult for them to fight the charges they face, and the potential penalties will likely eclipse the punishment for DUI by a substantial margin. For example, if you hit and killed a pedestrian while driving under the influence, you will likely face vehicular manslaughter charges in addition to your DUI charges.
Some first-time DUI offenses result in minimal to no harm to others, while others result from highly destructive or fatal accidents. In any of these situations, the person arrested for DUI must secure reliable defense representation as soon as possible.
Secure Defense Representation in Westminster, CA
If the police arrest you for DUI for the first time, it can be one of the most shocking and stressful experiences of your life, especially if you were not impaired and believe that the police violated your Constitutional rights. Even if you know you did break the law in some measure, this does not mean you should not defend yourself and do everything possible to avoid the significant penalties that a DUI conviction typically entails.
The most important step anyone in this position can take following their first-time DUI arrest is to secure legal counsel from a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your Westminster DUI first offense attorney can help you understand your situation more clearly and approach your DUI case with more confidence.
At the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, we know that a DUI arrest can be a life-changing experience that entails many negative effects, and our goal is to help our clients minimize their penalties and get their lives back on track following DUI arrests. We work closely with our clients to ensure we fully understand all facets of their cases to provide the most robust defense possible.
If you or a loved one were recently arrested for DUI, contact the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann as soon as possible to schedule a consultation with our team. We have the extensive experience and professional resources necessary for handling the most difficult DUI defense cases and can put our skills to work in your case.