If you were arrested for DUI while visiting California, you face the same DUI penalties as a state resident would. However, the process can be more complicated, and it will affect your right to drive in your home state (and nationwide). It’s very important to find a good Los Angeles DUI lawyer and fight your case.
There are two major parts to fighting your case: protecting your driver’s license from the California DMV, and defending against the criminal charges.
Keeping Your Driver’s License
When a Californian is arrested for DUI, their driver’s license will be suspended by the DMV before they even go to court. As an out of state driver you face a similar process, but you have advantages and disadvantages compared to a local. Here is how the process works:
- Upon arrest, police would take away a California driver’s license and replace it with a temporary one (valid for 30 days). They cannot take away your out of state driver’s license.
- Instead, police will warn you that your privilege to drive in California will be suspended in 30 days. You get to keep your license.
- Your home state will be notified of your DUI charge. The DMV in your state may choose to suspend your license just like California would.
- Both residents and non-residents can fight the suspension. The process is the same for both. You have to file a request for a hearing with the DMV. You have only 10 days from the date of your arrest to file this request.
Requesting the DMV hearing gives you a huge advantage. The DMV may not be able to schedule a hearing for months, and cannot take action against your license before then. By the date of the hearing you may have already resolved your case in court, making the hearing moot. But if you miss the 10 day deadline, there is no do-over.
You do not have to be in California for the DMV hearing. Your California DUI attorney can handle the hearing for you.
Fighting the DUI Charge
The criminal process is completely separate from the DMV process. You will need to defend yourself against the DUI charge in the California court system. If you are convicted you will face penalties based on California law. These penalties include potential jail time, a suspended driver’s license, mandatory DUI school and thousands of dollars in fines, even for a first time offense.
If you’re convicted of your California DUI, you will likely face consequences in both states. California will expect you to carry out all aspects of your sentence, and your home state will cooperate. Your license will be suspended in your home state, and you will not be able to get it back until California confirms that you have met the conditions.
Do I Have to Be Present in California During the Proceedings?
No, for most aspects of your California DUI case you do not have to be present. This includes:
- The DMV hearing. You can do this yourself by phone, but it’s better to have your lawyer attend in person. You do not have to go with your lawyer when they do this.
- Evidence collection. Your DUI attorney can gather evidence about your case without your presence.
- The most important thing a DUI lawyer does is put pressure on the prosecuting attorney to drop the charges or give you an out. Your lawyer does not need you present for this—in fact, defendants rarely are.
- Initial court hearings. Generally, your lawyer can appear on your behalf at preliminary court hearings, such as the arraignment. However, if you don’t have a lawyer you will need to appear in person at these hearings!
The only part of the process you need to attend is the trial. Your lawyer can request that you be excused from appearing, but this is not a good idea. Juries are more sympathetic when they can see the accused person. Fortunately, many California DUI cases are resolved without ever going to trial.
Should I Still Have a California DUI Attorney?
Yes. Although you are not required to have a lawyer, a DUI lawyer substantially improves the process for you when you are from out of state. For example:
- They can take care of many aspects of your case so you don’t have to travel back to California.
- They know how to negotiate a deal that favors you. This could mean not having to come to trial, and getting reduced penalties. It could even mean having the charges dropped.
Your attorney must be licensed to practice law in the state of California. It’s best to shop for attorneys locally. But the DUI legal community is very tight knit. If you do need help with the process back in your home state, your California lawyer may be able to recommend a top local attorney in your area.
We can help you find a California DUI lawyer who has experience with out-of-state cases. We will match you to a top local attorney who offers a FREE consultation. Simply fill out the form to the right and get your free consultation today.