Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is illegal in every state. In California, the penalties for DUI can be quite severe depending on the nature of the offense. California enforces many criminal statutes that effectively classify a criminal action as “wobblers,” meaning they can “wobble” between misdemeanor and felony levels depending on the details of the case. When it comes to felony DUI, the defendant faces some of the harshest penalties available for a motor vehicle infraction.
If you or a loved one are charged with felony DUI, it is easy to feel frustrated, uncertain, and confused about your legal options. As a result, it is imperative to understand the value of reliable legal counsel in this situation. The right Westminster felony DUI attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case, potentially helping you avoid the most severe penalties under California law.
At the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, APC, we understand what could be at stake for you and your family in the face of a felony DUI charge. We have years of experience providing robust criminal defense representation to clients in Westminster, CA and surrounding areas. We can put this experience to work for you in your felony DUI case.
The California criminal justice system uses the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) measurement system to determine whether a driver is guilty of DUI. The legal BAC limit is .08% for most drivers. However, a driver under the age of 21 may not operate a vehicle with any detectable BAC because it is illegal for people under 21 to consume alcohol in California. Even a .001% BAC reading could mean an arrest for DUI if the driver is under the age of 21.
The penalties for DUI in California fluctuate based on many factors, including whether the driver has a record of previous DUIs, the nature of the events leading to their arrest, and whether they caused an accident because of DUI. In California, the police may conduct a mandatory DUI chemical screening after a lawful arrest for DUI. However, contrary to popular belief, there is no implied consent law forpreliminary alcohol screenings, typically administered using breathalyzer equipment during traffic stops for suspected DUI. The only exceptions to this are drivers under the age of 21 and drivers currently on probation for a prior DUI conviction; neither may refuse a preliminary alcohol screening.
Every American citizen has two crucial rights when arrested: the right to remain silent, and the right to an attorney. The right to remain silent can effectively prevent a suspect from incriminating themselves, and the right to an attorney ensures the suspect has full access to their Constitutional rights as an American citizen. While some people may think that hiring an attorney for DUI is unnecessary and that they can simply secure legal counsel from a public defender free of charge, it is vital to consider this decision carefully.
Public defenders are capable and dedicated attorneys, but they cannot provide much to their clients in the way of individualized attention. Most public defenders handle many cases at a time and may only be able to work on your case for an extremely brief time each day. You will pay a bit more for private criminal defense representation, but the quality of the legal counsel you receive and the increased chance of avoiding conviction will make it well worth your investment.
Even if you have never been charged with DUI before, hiring legal counsel is essential if you want to be sure you avoid the worst possible penalties for conviction. Depending on how the prosecution chooses to handle your case, yourfirst DUI offense in Westminster, CAcould be prosecuted at the felony level. This demands the attention of an experienced Westminster felony DUI attorney. Experiencing the criminal justice system as a defendant for the first time will be a much more bearable experience when you have an experienced and reliable criminal defense attorney advocating on your behalf.
It is important to remember that California assigns penalties for DUI conviction on a scale based on the defendant’s record and the severity of the current offense. Your first DUI could lay the groundwork for more serious penalties in the future should you repeat your mistake. Hiring the right attorney not only reduces the chance of facing the worst possible penalties for conviction but can also help you put the situation into the proper perspective. Your attorney may help you avoid repeating your behavior in the future and incurring even worse penalties for conviction.
Before committing to any lawyer’s services, you must ensure they are the right fit for your case. Take advantage of consultation offers from reputable defense attorneys in your area, and ask each a few important questions so you can better determine whether they are right for you:
Take time to create a few more questions that are more specific to your situation. While you should not rush your decision regarding which lawyer to hire to represent you, it is important not to take too long, either. After your arrest and booking, you can expect a preliminary arraignment soon after, and you should have legal counsel on your side as soon as possible after arrest.
An experienced Westminster felony DUI attorney will evaluate many distinct factors when it comes to determining the best method of defending their client. First, it is typically best for the defense attorney to carefully review the conditions of their client’s arrest and booking. The attorney should determine whether the arresting officers properly established probable cause and upheld due process laws in handling the arrest. If the police were negligent in these obligations in any way, an attorney may have the case dismissed on procedural grounds.
The defense attorney should also evaluate the strength of the prosecution’s case. Are they basing their felony charge purely on the suspect’s chemical test, or did the suspect cause an accident resulting in injury or death to someone else? In California, DUI offenses are only prosecuted at the felony level if the suspect hurt or killed someone due to driving while intoxicated, or if they were previously convicted of three or more prior DUI offenses within ten years. A suspect will also face felony DUI charges if they were previously convicted of a felony DUI. It is possible that your defense attorney may cite inconsistencies that would allow your charges to be reduced to misdemeanor level.
Your Westminster felony DUI attorney must assess many different variables to dismantle the prosecution’s case:
Every DUI case is unique and will proceed differently depending on the specifics of the case. Your Westminster felony DUI attorney should be able to provide you with a general breakdown of the challenges and opportunities you face as well as an honest assessment of your potential results.
As your attorney reviews the details of your case, they may discover mitigating factors that could lead to your charges being reduced to misdemeanor level or even dropped entirely. Some of the most cited mitigating factors in a felony DUI case include:
It is equally important for your attorney to identify any aggravating factors in your case that are likely to work against you. While mitigating factors potentially reduce the severity of your charges, aggravating factors increase the potential penalties you face. For example, if you are charged with felony DUI simply because you have a prior conviction of felony DUI, you are much more likely to find mitigating factors to have your DUI charge reduced than you would be if you were charged with felony DUI after killing another motorist.
In any criminal case, it benefits both prosecution and defense to seek a speedy resolution to the case. After felony DUI charges, the prosecution may be willing to reduce your charges to the misdemeanor level in exchange for a guilty plea. This will usually result in swifter court proceedings and a lighter sentence. However, if you are convinced of your innocence or believe the police engaged in any type of misconduct in handling your case, it may suit your interests to pursue a trial instead. Doing so will be result in more extensive legal fees, but if you have confidence in your Westminster felony DUI attorney and believe the police and/or the prosecution have mishandled your case, choosing a trial may be the wisest decision you make.
When it comes to plea bargaining, you should expect your Westminster felony DUI attorney to explain how this process unfolds and what you can expect from the prosecution. Your options for plea bargaining may be limited depending on the unique circumstances that exist within your case.
If you are uncertain whether official misconduct could result in reduced charges, it is vital that you take plea bargaining very seriously as your felony DUI case proceeds. California upholds strict penalties for felony convictions. If convicted of felony DUI, you are likely to face a wide range of penalties including:
These penalties can be quite severe, and they may escalate based on the seriousness of a DUI offense. For example, if you were arrested at a DUI checkpoint, the penalties are likely to be less severe than had you been arrested after causing a serious accident. Penalties also escalate when a defendant has a record of prior DUI convictions. If you want to avoid the worst of these penalties and increase your chances of either minimizing your sentence or avoiding conviction altogether, it is vital to hire an experienced and reliable Westminster felony DUI attorney as soon as possible after your arrest.
It is important to remember that if you are charged with felony DUI because you caused an accident, you will likely face a civil action from the other driver. If you killed someone because of DUI, their surviving loved ones could file a wrongful death claim against you. In general, if your DUI involved any type of harm to another person, you will have a challenging time getting your charges reduced. In addition, the judge may add restitution to the victim to your penalties, and you could also face civil litigation from the victim or the victim’s family.
If you or a loved one are arrested for felony DUI in the Westminster, CA area, it is vital to secure legal counsel as soon as possible to determine your best available defenses. An experienced Westminster felony DUI attorney should be swift in reviewing all the evidence available to determine if there are potential grounds to have your case dismissed, such as due process violations from the police or procedural missteps from the prosecution. If your attorney discovers any such factors, they should seek to have your charges dismissed as quickly as possible so you can put the situation behind you and get on with your life.
However, if you know you made a mistake and the prosecution has a solid case against you, do not despair. When you work with an experienced legal team like the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, APC, you have a much better chance of avoiding conviction or, at the very least, minimizing your penalty with skilled counsel on your side.
When you choose the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, APC to pursue your case, you can rest assured we will access the full range of our resources and experience as we help you navigate the legal proceedings ahead. We understand how daunting it can be to face any type of felony charge, especially one like felony DUI that has the potential to interfere with your life for months or even years to come. Thus, we strive for case dismissal whenever possible and move to have our client’s charges and potential penalties reduced as extensively as California law allows.
We understand that if you have been arrested and now face felony DUI charges, it can feel like the criminal justice system is working against you or that you are alone in your fight. Remember, you have the right to secure legal counsel. If you find yourself in this situation,contact the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, APCand schedule a consultation with an experienced, compassionate Westminster, CA felony DUI attorney who can guide you to the best possible result for your case.