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Arrested for a DUI in California? Now what?

A DUI in California is not only a drunk driving law; it is also a drug driving law. A DUI refers to "driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs." California law does not distinguish between illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs. Any drug that impairs the ability to drive is illegal.

When getting arrested and accused of a DUI, two government agencies take separate actions against you, the California court specified on the ticket and the California DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). Either agency may suspend a driver's license.

A DUI is a criminal matter and is dealt with by the criminal court system and thus a case will be processed by criminal court procedures. A conviction for DUI will determine the penalty, which may include fines, time in jail, revocation or suspension of the driver's license, points on the driver's license, DUI classes, installation of an Ignition Interlock Device, storage fees for the impounded vehicle, filing an SR 22, and other related fees and court costs. If convicted of vehicular manslaughter the individual will be subject to time in prison.

DUI Court Process and Typical Stages

Every DUI case is unique and the facts of the case may vary for each defendant.

LibertyBell Law Group Attorneys are there for you from the time of arrest to outcome and beyond, even in getting any stains off your record.

Stopped by Police Officer

Most law enforcement officers, when looking for DUI drivers will look for certain signs such as speeding, weaving, not using turn signals, broken headlights or tail lights, expired registration tags, etc. Upon initial contact, the officer will likely ask to see the driver's license and registration. If he suspects impairment he will likely ask the individual to exit the vehicle and perform a variety of sobriety tests including a breath test.

The officer may test sobriety by asking a person to perform various field sobriety tests (FSTs), in addition to the breathalyzer test. FSTs may consist of the "Walk and Turn", "One Leg Stand", and the "Horizontal Gaze" and more. Top DUI lawyers in California know how to argue the unreliability and invalidity of these tests. No one is required by law to perform a FST.

If the officer suspects the individual is driving under the influence of drugs he can legally require the individual to take a blood or urine test. The individual can be subject to a longer driver's license suspension or revocation when refusing these tests. When refusing a chemical test usually the driver's license suspension lasts at least one year, if convicted.

If the person refused to take the chemical test, a second offense within 10 years may result in a 2 year revocation of the driver's license. If it's the third offense or more, a driver license revocation may last for 3 years.

Arrested for DUI

If the officer feels he has enough probable cause to believe the individual is driving under the Influence, he will place the individual under arrest. The individual will be taken down to the police station where a breath or blood test may be administered if refused at the scene. Once in custody the officer will read the individual his/her Miranda Rights.

At the time of arrest, the police officer may also have your car impounded, which is the removal and seizure of the vehicle the person was driving. Within two business days after impoundment, the person will received a notice, by certified mail, to inform the person that the auto was impounded and the information about the impounding agency.

At the time of the arrest, the police officer will also take the person's driver license. You will eventually get it back, but when you get it back and if you have to pay a reissue fine or file proof of financial responsibility will depend on the outcome of the case.


After being arrested for a DUI, the individual is brought into custody for "booking." During this process the police officers record pertinent information about the suspect, such as his or her name, personal address, age, and physical characteristics. At this point the individual will be searched, fingerprinted, questioned, and photographed. The individual is then placed in a holding cell until an arrangement for bail has been made or the person is eventually brought to court.

Most individuals are released if the arrest is a misdemeanor.

The individual is usually able to obtain a "pre-arraignment release" and is released either upon posting bail or on own recognizance. In California, courts and police stations may have vary on or have different procedures and processes. A person arrested for a DUI needs an experienced California DUI lawyer that knows the intricacies of the individual courts and police stations and knows how to expertly maneuver within them.

Getting out of jail, after booking:

  • Release with Bail - This requires a suspect to pay money and is on the condition that the suspect agrees to appear in all court appearances related to the charges. Usually a bondsman or bond agency is used if the person doesn't have the money to pay the full amount of bail.
  • Release on Own Recognizance - This method requires no money to be paid and only requires the person to promise to appear in all court appearances.

Served Subpoena for DUI Charge

The suspect (defendant) is given a subpoena that includes the charge, date, and California court of the arraignment hearing.


The arraignment is the first court appearance and hearing in the case. During the arraignment the defendant will be advised on the Constitutional rights, and be told the specific charges filed. The court may also set, modify, or exonerate bail. If the defendant was required to stay in jail because of the offense, the arraignment must occur within 48 hours, not including weekends or holidays. If the person was released or bailed out, in California, it is usual for the arraignment to occur weeks or months later.

In Misdemeanor DUI cases the defendant does not have to appear, our California DUI lawyers can make the appearance for the defendant.

At the arraignment, the defendant is informed of the charges against him or her and is given a chance to enter a plea. The defendant may enter a "guilty," "not guilty," or "no contest."


  • Guilty - a sentencing hearing is the next step in the criminal court process.
  • No Contest - it is almost the same as pleading guilty. The only significant difference is a plea of "no contest" can't be used in civil court proceedings.
  • Not Guilty - a pretrial or preliminary hearing is scheduled for the defendant.

A future date is also scheduled in court during the arraignment for a pre-trial, or preliminary hearing if it's a felony DUI case. The court process for a felony DUI consists of two arraignment hearings, one at the very start and a second after the preliminary hearing.

If the defendant or defendant's attorney fails to appear for the arraignment, the judge will most likely issue a bench warrant. A California bench warrant allows law enforcement to arrest the defendant and bring him to court. Failing to appear can result in a separate charge, as well. Though, sometimes the judge will reschedule the arraignment to give the defendant one more chance.

At the arraignment, a prosecutor may attempt to plea bargain with the defendant by communicating that if responsibility is accepted early the prosecutor will offer a better deal. However, this is not the case. During the arraignment may be the worst time to plea bargain as the defendant’s lawyer has not yet received all the case evidence from the prosecutor.

Plea Bargaining for a DUI

After one of our top DUI lawyers in California have gathered all the evidence, from the prosecutor and our own investigation, then our lawyers can have the upper hand to negotiate (plea bargain) or have the case dismissed.

Plea bargaining with prosecutors requires great skill, knowledge, and experience gained only by DUI lawyers who also know the individual characteristics of the prosecutor they are dealing with. LibertyBell Law Group’s California DUI lawyers have the expertise and a record of success with countless very happy clients.

Felony DUI Preliminary Hearing

In California, the purpose of the preliminary hearing is for the judge to decide is there is enough evidence for the DUI case to go to trial. The judge only decides if there is enough evidence, not whether a person is guilty or innocent. A preliminary hearing is very similar to a real trial. A misdemeanor DUI does not, under any circumstances, have a preliminary hearing in California.

If a plea bargain has not yet been accepted by the defendant, during a preliminary hearing, a prosecutor will try to prove the defendant is guilty of a DUI.

The judge will evaluate if the prosecutor's case meets the legal standard for probable cause. In other words, the prosecutor must have enough evidence to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty of a DUI.

The prosecutor and the defendant's DUI lawyer present their arguments to the judge at this time. Evidence may or may not be presented, including witnesses. The opposing side may also cross-examine the witnesses.

The judge may dismiss a case if he decides there is not enough probable cause.

It is always in the best interest of a defendant to have an experienced DUI lawyer for a preliminary hearing, and of course, beforehand. A felony DUI can result in serious time in jail or prison and hefty fines among many other penalties. Aside from the immediate consequences, you may also suffer the life-long difficulties of having a felony on your record.

A DUI lawyer can preserve evidence that is favorable to the defendant and also find and know the strengths of the case to argue effectively. The earlier a DUI lawyer can start working on a case the better it is for the defendant. Though there are a lot of formalities and criminal court processes and proceedings that happen in the court room, there is also a lot a DUI lawyer does behind the scenes. LibertyBell Law Group's DUI lawyers have their own experts for DUI cases who know how to find weaknesses in the evidence and the handling of the evidence. Our DUI lawyers also know how to shift the ground in the defendant's favor when communicating with the prosecutor and the district attorney's office right from the start, even before the arraignment.

Pre-Trial Motions

DUI lawyers use pre-trial motions to argue a case and shape the trial to the benefit of the defendant. Motions are used by DUI lawyers to weaken the case and possibly get it dismissed without ever going to trial. Filing a motion, in and of itself, does not mean it will succeed. Great skill is needed by an experienced DUI lawyer to file a successful motion. The DUI lawyers from LibertyBell Law Group have the expertise necessary and a history of winning pre-trial motions.

For DUI cases, the most common pre-trial motions include:

  • Discovery Motion - Requests that the prosecutor release all evidence.
  • Motion to Suppress - This type of motion asks the court to suppress evidence from a trial because it was either illegally obtained or improperly handled.
  • Motion to Strike Prior DUI/DWI Convictions - Asks the judge not to allow inclusion of any prior DUI or DWI convictions from the last ten years.
  • Pitchess Motion - Used to gain access to the personnel file of the police officer who arrested the defendant to evaluate the officer's prior conduct and professionalism. This motion is not easily granted, the DUI lawyer must convince the judge with specific facts as to why the lawyer should gain access.

Jury Trial

In California, most DUI lawyers are able to settle before a trial. LibertyBell Law Group's DUI lawyers have a reputation for getting the best results for their clients, without having to go to trial; saving your time, stress, and money.

However, if it's in the defendants favor to go to trial then our DUI lawyers will fight for you in trial.

A trial generally has these steps:

  • Jury selection
  • Opening statements
  • The prosecutor presents his case, including arguments, evidence, and witnesses
  • The DUI lawyer presents his case, including arguments, evidence,and witnesses
  • The prosecutor and the DUI lawyer can also both cross-examine witnesses
  • Closing statements
  • Verdict
  • Sentencing

The experienced DUI lawyers from LibertyBell Law Group will know the advantages and disadvantages of going to trial and can evaluate the uniqueness of your case, the evidence, and other various factors to determine what is best for the defendant.


If a defendant is convicted, either by a plea bargain or has been found guilty by a judge or jury, then the punishment for a DUI is determined at sentencing. In DUI cases, the most common penalties during sentencing include probation, large fines, driver license suspension or revocation, alcohol treatment programs, agree to submit to future chemical testing, and time in jail or prison.

We fight to get you the BEST RESULT

Recent Case Results

  • Charge
    2nd DUI (.12 BREATH)

    DUI Dismissed! No Jail!

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