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Don’t Get Scammed By Your DUI Lawyer!

Continuously I consult with DUI clients who either have consulted with other lawyers and even have other lawyers that have sold them a false bill of goods.  DUI clients are ripe for getting scammed because they aren’t your “typical” criminal defendant.  I pride myself and my practice on being up front with people arrested or charged for DUI.  Don’t believe me?  Read below.  This is exactly what will in all likelihood happen after you are arrested for DUI.

First, you should understand that the maximum sentence on a first-time DUI is 6 months and jail and a $1,000 fine (plus penalties and assessments totaling approximately $5,000).  More importantly, however, this sentence is never imposed (but everyone who accepts a deal must be advised of this maximum sentence).  If you were arrested for a first-time DUI and there were no egregious facts such as a car accident with an injury, you are NOT going to jail.  Don’t let a lawyer scare you into believing that.  Further, even if you were to be sentenced to jail time, you will have the option to serve your time in city jail to avoid the doldrums of the Los Angeles County Jail.

 

The goal for any defense lawyer is to find that golden nugget that could get you completely out of your case.  This is an extreme rarity.  So on the other end of the spectrum of lawyers who scare you into thinking you will go to jail is the lawyer who promises you there is a strong chance your case will be dismissed.  That is a lie.  It is highly unlikely you will be the recipient of good fortune.  However, that does not mean it is impossible.  The most likely scenario that your case will be thrown out is if the officer who pulled you over did not have probably cause (or reasonable suspicion) to do so.  Meaning, he states that you were weaving, yet the officer’s DASH cam shows you were not.

So what does this mean for you?  Make sure your lawyer obtains ALL the discovery.  Any lawyer can take advantage of your naivete by telling you what anyone gets as part of the standard discovery package is “all there is.”  Trust me, it is not.  If there is a chance the officer is fudging the reason for your traffic stop, you MUST get the video of the stop recorded by his patrol car.  Also, your lawyer must get all calibration, accuracy, and maintenance records to be sure the device used to test your BAC was in compliance with Title 17.  Again, the chance of an error is slim, but your lawyer must check everything to ensure you are getting no only a great deal with him or her, but a great deal in court.

After obtaining all discovery and filing all necessary pre-trial motions, the decision will come to either accept a plea bargain or proceed to jury trial.  If a plea bargain is accepted, the following are typical court sentencing terms on a first-time DUI:

  1. Probation

All first-time DUI plea deals come with 36 months of “summary” probation.  This probation is called “summary” because it is informal and does not require anything affirmative on your part other than complying with all of your obligations.  Further, if you pick up a new case during this 36-month period, your penalties on that new case can be increased.\

  1. Fines and Alcohol Program

For DUI offenses, the statutory minimum sentence is a fine of $390 + penalties and assessments (approximately $1,800) and a three-month alcohol program (called the “AB 541”).  The higher your blood alcohol level is or more egregious the facts of your case are, the greater the penalties are increased.

  1. Additional Potential Penalties Depending on the Case

If BAC 0.08% to 0.14%

  • MADD Program – panel of speakers who have been affected by DUI crashes

If BAC 0.15% to 0.19%

  • MADD Program – panel of speakers who have been affected by DUI crashes
  • H.A.M. Program – visit to the hospital and morgue for a tour; 500-word essay required
  • 6-month AB 762 alcohol program instead in lieu of the 3-month AB 541
  • Additional AA meetings beyond those required for your alcohol program

If BAC 0.20% or greater

  • MADD Program – panel of speakers who have been affected by DUI crashes
  • H.A.M. Program – visit to the hospital and morgue for a tour; 500-word essay required
  • 9-month SB 1353 alcohol program instead in lieu of the 3-month AB 541
  • Additional AA meetings beyond those required for your alcohol program
  • Jail time (possible, but highly unlikely unless there is a traffic accident or someone is injured)
  • Community Service (feeding the homeless and non-labor intensive volunteer work; possible, but unlikely)
  • Community Labor / Cal Trans (high labor intensive work such as freeway trash pick-up; possible, but unlikely)
  1. Ignition Interlock Device

If you are convicted of DUI in court, you will be required to install an ignition interlock device in your car for 5 months.  This is a mandatory requirement for all DUI convictions in LA County.  The only exception would be if we earned a reduced charge to a “wet reckless” or something other than DUI.

In sum, if you were pulled over for a “typical” DUI and there were no egregious facts such as an accident with an injury, you are looking at a combination of the things above depending on your blood-alcohol level.  When you consult with a DUI lawyer, don’t let him convince you otherwise.  Don’t let him fool you into thinking there is an emergency requiring you to hire him so he can call the DMV and “halt your license suspension” (an 11-year old can do this if they have access to a phone Related: The “Emergency” to Call the DMV).

Do your homework before paying someone a lot of money to handle your case.  If you do, you will prevent yourself from being one of the many victims scammed by a DUI lawyer.