Every day, people get pulled over for DUIs in Laguna Beach. California DUIs are complicated and, if not approached with care and caution, can lead to severe consequences for the defendant. But it does not have to be that way if you get charged with a DUI.
The right legal professional can help you defend yourself and navigate this complex process with the most up-to-date information on your side, leading to lighter penalties or even the complete dismissal of your charges. If you have been arrested for DUI, it is time to speak with a Laguna Beach DUI lawyer.
Plea Bargains in a DUI Case
When you are charged with DUI in Laguna Beach, CA, or anywhere in the state, you have three options:
- Pleading guilty
- Pleading not guilty
- Pleading no contest
Most of the time, a DUI lawyer will advise you against ever pleading guilty. However, you will also almost always be offered a plea bargain, which means agreeing to plead Guilty or No Contest to a charge and receiving a specific sentence in return. There are pros and cons to doing this, and you will need to carefully weigh each option with your lawyer before deciding.
Accepting a Plea Bargain
If you accept a plea bargain, you will receive whatever sentence you and the judge agreed upon, and your case is finished. This can bring a defendant peace of mind because it ends the whole ordeal, including the costs of going to trial, and you will know exactly what your sentence is.
However, accepting a plea bargain also leaves you with a DUI charge (or whatever charge was agreed upon) on your criminal record. In addition, your car insurance rates will probably increase as a result. You will also have to serve out a particular sentence.
Declining a Plea Bargain
If you do not take a plea bargain, you will go to trial and face 12 jury members. The trial is typically held within 45 days, but sometimes it is longer. This also involves several days in court.
The pros of declining the plea bargain and going to trial can be significant. Instead of succumbing to the DUI charge, you can win your case. The DUI would stay off your record, you would get your driver’s license back, and you will not face any penalties.
That said, it is not guaranteed you will win the trial, which is why it is so vital to work with a DUI lawyer in Laguna Beach. Before deciding on a plea bargain, you should consider the pros and cons of your case with your lawyer. They will help you determine whether a plea bargain has a clear advantage for you over going to trial.
What if Someone Was Killed in Your DUI Accident?
How your DUI attorney in Laguna Beach, CA, can protect you depends on the crime you were charged with, as each has its own penalties. If someone is killed in a DUI accident, a few different laws may be used against you.
DUI Vehicular Manslaughter (Misdemeanor)
DUI vehicular manslaughter can either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If it is considered a misdemeanor, the consequences are slightly lighter than a felony:
- Up to one year of jail time
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Having your license suspended or revoked
- Mandatory alcohol or drug treatment programs
DUI Vehicular Manslaughter (Felony)
If the DUI manslaughter is determined a felony, the maximum sentence and penalties are:
- Either 16 months, two years, or four years in state prison
- If other victims were seriously hurt in the accident, an additional 3-6 years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Other DUI penalties similar to a misdemeanor
Gross DUI Vehicular Manslaughter
If reckless driving was involved in the DUI death, such as speeding excessively or driving on the wrong side of the road, it can be charged as a DUI “gross” vehicular manslaughter. This charge is much more serious than the above two, and the penalties are:
- Four, six, or ten years in state prison, OR
- If you already have any vehicular manslaughter convictions or have two or more DUI convictions, your prison sentence increases to 15 years to life
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- Other DUI penalties listed above
DUI Murder or “Watson” Murder
If you have a previous DUI on your record and you were also given a “Watson advisement,” you can be charged with murder. A Watson advisement is a formal warning you must sign after being convicted of a DUI that shows you understand driving under the influence can hurt or kill people.
You can also face a murder charge if you previously completed DUI school. DUI murder charges are:
- 15 years to a lifetime in state prison
- Fines of up to $10,000
These charges are severe and require an experienced DUI lawyer to help you face them. If anyone was killed or even hurt while you were driving under the influence, you should contact a Laguna Beach DUI attorney as soon as possible and not plead guilty unless your lawyer advises you to.
What You Can Expect to Happen at Your DMV APS Hearing
You must contact the DMV to request an APS hearing within ten days of your arrest. If you, or your Laguna Beach DUI attorney, do not do this within the set deadline, you will automatically forfeit your right to a hearing, and your license will be suspended.
Your lawyer can make defense arguments to attack evidentiary and procedural issues such as:
- Whether the police officer had reasonable suspicion to stop you
- Whether there was probable cause to arrest you
- Whether the results of the blood or breath test were properly collected
- Whether the officer or a witness observed you in control of the vehicle
- Whether the officer correctly completed the DS-367 form properly
If you prevail in your APS hearing, the DMV will set aside your license suspension, like an acquittal in criminal court.
What Your Laguna Beach DUI Lawyer Can Do After Your Arrest
With an experienced legal professional, you will have someone to strategize before your trial with plea bargain negotiations and your trial to win in court. A DUI attorney will look for things like:
- Gaps and vague points in the prosecution’s evidence
- Violation of your rights during your arrest
- Problems with the arresting police officer’s testimony
Your attorney will use strategies like these to reduce your penalty severities even if you are convicted. A DUI attorney in Laguna Beach, CA, can speak to the DMV, court, and police department on your behalf to influence your hearing, potentially impacting your case.
The Penalties of a Laguna Beach DUI
If you are accused of drunk driving, your DUI lawyer in Laguna Beach, CA, will carefully review the potential penalties you will face. Generally, first-time offenders may be looked on more favorably than those with multiple DUI convictions on their record.
For example, if this is your first offense, you can spend up to six months in jail and pay up to $1,000 in fines. However, habitual offenders can expect to spend several years in jail or prison if their DUI involves death or injury to another.
In addition to the potential for incarceration and fines, you will likely have your driver’s license suspended or revoked. You might be ordered to participate in a MADD or VIP program, complete a drug or alcohol treatment program, and be placed on formal or informal probation.
Furthermore, your professional license could be suspended or revoked, impacting your ability to earn a living and provide for your family. With the risk of severe penalties, clearing your name of the allegations against you is crucial. Your DUI attorney can go over your potential defenses after having reviewed the circumstances of your case.
Ways to Defend Yourself and Protect Your Future After a DUI in Laguna Beach
You can rely on your DUI attorney in Laguna Beach, CA, to help you determine which defenses will most likely produce a favorable outcome after your arrest. In some instances, entering a pretrial diversion program may be better than bringing your case to court.
However, pretrial diversion is only available for individuals with prior DUI convictions who did not cause severe bottle injury or death in a drunk driving accident. If you do not qualify for pretrial diversion, some of the new potential defenses that may be available include:
- Mistake of fact
- Issues with breathalyzer test results
- Unlawful police stop
- Illegal search and seizure
- Lab mistakes
- Health conditions elevating your BAC levels
Speak with a Laguna Beach DUI Lawyer Today
A DUI charge is no time to try and handle life alone. You need legal help from someone who has spent their life dedicated to the law – and using it to defend their clients. A reputable DUI lawyer in Laguna Beach will be able to advise you on the best next steps in your case so that you can move on with your life as soon as possible.
We can connect you with the top attorneys who take DUI cases throughout the Greater Los Angeles Area. Our main goal is to help you protect yourself and ensure each decision going forward is best for your future.
Call us or fill out our confidential contact form today. We will get you in touch with the right person for the job who can offer you a free case evaluation to get started.