When you have been arrested for DUI, you may feel you just have to pay the fines and accept the jail time. However, California is very tough on drunk driving and imposes severe penalties even for first-time offenders. Instead of facing these, you can try to win your DUI case without ever going to trial.
A “motion to dismiss” can get rid of a DUI arrest in many instances where a driver is charged illegally or was arrested without probable cause. To find out if this strategy can work for you, you need the help of a qualified Los Angeles DUI attorney.
Circumstances for Dismissing a DUI
There are certain circumstances in which you might have legal grounds to argue that you should not be facing a DUI charge at all. California law allows you to file a “motion to set aside” or “motion to dismiss” with the court. This motion is a formal request for the judge to consider throwing out the case.
This request works best for these two situations:
- The way you were charged with DUI at your preliminary hearing was illegal.
- There was no probable cause to charge you with DUI in the first place.
Both of these circumstances involve complicated legal points, but either one (or both together) can save you from a DUI.
You Were Charged Illegally
Following your arrest, you will be given a preliminary hearing during which you are formally charged with DUI and any other criminal offenses. This hearing can take place the next day, or it may happen weeks later. Hearings must be conducted in a specific way that provides you with substantial rights under the law.
When any of these constitutional rights are violated or denied, the charge is considered illegal. The most common rights violations related to the preliminary hearing are:
- You were denied the right to be represented at the hearing by an attorney,
- No one ever advised you that you had the right to be represented by an attorney,
- You were denied the right to have your hearing conducted in “one session” or
- You were not given your right to present witnesses, confront witnesses, or cross-examine witnesses.
No Probable Cause
Probable cause means that there are rational grounds to believe that a DUI was committed, as well as rational grounds to believe you are the one that committed it. This is not the same as a question of whether you are guilty or innocent. It is much simpler than that; arguing that there is no probable cause is similar to arguing that the entire charge is preposterous.
Here are two examples of how a probable cause challenge could work:
- No DUI: Police observed you stumble out of a bar and get into your car. You started the engine, but then fell asleep in the driver’s seat without moving the vehicle. Police tapped on the window, woke you up, and charged you with DUI. If you had driven, there would be rational grounds for a DUI charge and it would be worth fighting it out in court. However, since you never actually drove anywhere, you did not actually drive under the influence. You could move to dismiss the DUI charge, and your motion should succeed.
- No sentence enhancement: After you were arrested for DUI, police told you they would need a blood sample to test you for drugs. You refused. Police then charged you with refusing the blood draw (a “sentence enhancement” that makes the penalties for DUI worse). However, police never advised you that refusing the test is illegal, which they are required to do. You could file a motion to dismiss the refusal charge, and it should be granted. You will still have to face the DUI charge itself, but the refusal charge is off the table.
Does a Dismissal Work for All Charges?
Whether a dismissal can work for all the charges you face depends on the details of your situation. Many DUI defendants are arrested for other offenses as well, such as possession of drugs, driving on a suspended license, or an open container violation. You can attempt a motion to dismiss all of the charges, but only if there are circumstances that affect all of them.
If the problem is that you were denied your right to a lawyer, for example, then all of the charges are illegal and should be dismissed. However, if the problem is that the “open container” was actually in the trunk, not the car, then you could get that specific charge dismissed, but not the others. Some more of the common reasons that a judge may dismiss a case include:
- Important evidence against you was suppressed, making a conviction unlikely.
- The prosecutor agrees to drop the charges.
- Your constitutional rights have been violated in some way.
A Dismissal Does Not Always Equal a Win
It may seem that if you successfully get a charge dismissed, you should win your case. However, this is definitely a situation where the answer to the question “do I win?” is “it depends.” If the only charge against you is DUI, and the charge is dismissed because of no probable cause, then your case is essentially over.
There is no realistic way for the prosecutor to move forward. You will have the arrest on your record but no conviction, and you will face no penalties. In situations where you are accused of several offenses, if you are successful in getting only one of them dismissed, the prosecutor will likely still proceed with the other charges. This usually reduces your fines and penalties but is not considered a total win.
Another situation you could face is when the prosecutor decides to file the same charges a second time. For example, if you argue that you were not advised of your right to a lawyer the first time, they may charge you with DUI again and make sure you are advised of your rights in the second instance. You can still file a motion to dismiss this second charge, but if it is dismissed twice, that is the end of it. The prosecutor is not allowed to file that charge against you again.
A Motion to Dismiss Is a Powerful Strategy
While filing a motion to dismiss a charge for DUI does not always work, it does represent one of the most powerful strategies you and your lawyer can use. You still win in most situations, even when it removes only some of the charges. You could avoid excessive fines, stay out of jail, and escape having a DUI on your driving record.
Walking free with no DUI hanging over your head can make life much easier, especially if your work or school penalizes people with DUI convictions. One of the best attributes of a motion to dismiss filing is that it does not harm your case in any way. It is a very common practice used by top California DUI lawyers when there are any legal grounds to do so.
Additionally, there is no downside to asking the judge to dismiss a charge. Even if the request fails, you will not face any prejudice or punishment for attempting to remove charges.
Alternatives to Filing a Motion to Dismiss
If a motion to dismiss is not an option your lawyer chooses, there are other approaches that could tilt the case in your favor. Some of these filings include:
- Motion for discovery: If the prosecuting attorney does not share evidence with your lawyer, this motion can force them to do so. This could reveal facts that cast doubt on your guilt and help you win the case.
- Motion to suppress: This is filed when you believe certain evidence, such as a confession or breathalyzer test, was obtained illegally or incorrectly by the police, thereby violating your rights. This can include failing to read you the Miranda warning.
- Pitchess motion: This is used when you believe you were falsely arrested, racially profiled, harassed, or the police planted evidence, among other situations. You can request a review of the officer’s file to determine if they have a history of those behaviors.
A recent law, California Senate Bill 1421 eliminated the need to file Pitchess motions in some instances. It opens police personnel records to the public in cases where an officer has a history of certain behaviors: they discharged their weapon toward someone, committed sexual assault, used excessive force resulting in death or grievous bodily injury, or committed a dishonest act (false reporting or perjury). In these situations, your lawyer can request the officer’s records for review without a formal legal action.
Hire an Experienced California DUI Lawyer Today
When you need help understanding how to defend yourself against DUI with a motion to dismiss, it is crucial to know how to minimize the penalties you face. An experienced Los Angeles DUI attorney can guide you through the legal process. Contact us today using our online form for your free consultation.