DUIs are no laughing matter in Orange County. Driving under the influence is more serious than a simple traffic violation; it’s treated as a criminal offense. And with California DUI penalties becoming stricter than they were in the past, you can’t afford to go without proper legal defense in a DUI case.
Legal costs might seem like a lot, especially if you’re worried that your situation can’t improve. But we have seen countless DUI defendants come out of their cases with lighter charges, less extreme penalties, or even being cleared of all charges. A Laguna Niguel DUI attorney can help you too.
What Happens When You Get Your First DUI in California?
After your first DUI in California, you may be worried about the repercussions of your arrest. The good news is that your first offense is, in general, punished less severely than subsequent offenses. However, depending on your circumstances and your representation, your charge may still be steep.
After your first DUI, you may face consequences like:
- Driver’s license suspension of six months
- An ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle
- Three years of informational probation
- Up to 60 hours of DUI school
- Up to a thousand dollars in fines
Can I Go to Jail for My First DUI?
It is not uncommon for people to have a short jail sentence for their first DUI. First-time offenders can face anywhere between two days and six months of jail time. While most people who get their first DUI are charged with a misdemeanor, a DUI is still a serious offense.
That doesn’t mean jail is guaranteed, though. With an experienced Laguna Niguel DUI attorney on your side, you stand a chance of avoiding any jail time whatsoever. Jail is often used as a way to throw the book at an offender, and if things go your way, you may even get your charge reduced.
What Happens If My DUI Wasn’t My First?
Subsequent DUIs make you a repeat offender, which increases your chances of receiving a felony and heavier consequences. After a repeat DUI, you could be sentenced to increased punishments such as:
- Two years of license suspension
- Up to a year of jail time
- Three to five years of informational probation
- Increased fines
- Up to 30 months of DUI school
Judges want you to learn your lesson after your first DUI, so they will increase your sentence on your second, third, and subsequent offenses. This may include penalty assessments, which are additional fees that are added to your standard fine.
If you’re a repeat offender, you still may be able to get a reduced sentence. Get a free initial consultation with a DUI lawyer in Laguna Niguel to see what we may be able to do for you.
Should I Take a Plea Bargain for My DUI?
When you’ve been charged with DUI in California, the prosecution will at some point present you with a plea bargain, which is a deal offered to you in exchange for pleading “guilty” or “no contest.” The first deal is presented as some type of lesser sentence than you’d get for fighting the charge, but the initial bargain is rarely actually a good deal.
Prosecutors don’t want to spend extra time and money on DUI cases, so they will be testing you to see if you’re willing to plead guilty quickly. They might offer something that seems less extreme, but it’s actually a pretty standard penalty for DUIs.
This is why you should never accept the first plea bargain until you’ve spoken with a good DUI lawyer. They can let you know if it’s actually a decent deal, then work to get you a bargain that is actually favorable to your situation. Examples of plea bargains could be:
- The prosecution agrees to reduce your charge from a DUI to reckless driving, which has significantly fewer penalties.
- Your lawyer gets the prosecutor to agree to a sentence that doesn’t include jail time.
- Prosecution offers to decrease a DUI charge resulting in injury to a normal DUI.
Even plea bargains that are good for your case won’t be as beneficial as winning the case completely. It’s hard to spot the best plea bargain, or know if you should take one, without a trained legal eye on the situation. A DUI defense lawyer can help you make the best decision and know how much you need to fight for a better outcome.
How Can I Get My DUI Reduced to Reckless Driving?
Reckless driving is one of the two most common plea bargains for DUIs (the other is wet reckless driving). The penalties for a reckless driving charge are simply:
- 2 points on your driving record
- A $145 fine
This is substantially better than the penalties of a DUI, which include:
- Driver’s license suspension
- Jail time
- Fines and assessment fees
- Mandatory completion of DUI school educational programs
- Potential installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle
- Other indirect consequences like higher insurance costs
Needless to say, getting your DUI charge reduced to “reckless driving” would be immensely better. But to maximize your chance of this being a possibility, you’ll need to have two main goals with your case as soon as you can after being arrested:
Showing Prosecutors You Plan to Fight
The prosecution may contact you soon after your arrest with a plea deal, but it’s almost never worth taking. In most cases, if they offer you anything, it will be to try and get a guilty plea from you.
Prosecutors want to punish DUI offenders and are not afraid to pursue extreme convictions. That means you’ll have to understand what the prosecution wants and also demonstrate that you plan to fight your case hard. There’s no chance of being offered a reckless driving deal unless they can see they might not win your case in trial.
Working With a Great DUI Lawyer
DUI defense lawyers are highly trained to know the ins and outs of DUI cases and trials. Most defendants won’t get offered a decent plea bargain without a dedicated attorney on their side. Look for a lawyer (not the court-appointed lawyer) who works primarily on DUIs and has a record of success on cases like yours.
Your DUI lawyer will build up a case for you based on your situation, the details of your case, and evidence the prosecution has against you. Then, they’ll use specific tactics when pushing for a plea deal, including:
Challenging Whether Your Arrest Was Carried Out Legally
It’s surprisingly common for police officers to make mistakes during arrests, such as not reading you your rights. Your attorney will look at the arrest report, officer testimony, and any witness testimony to determine whether any of your rights were violated during the arrest. They’ll challenge any errors potentially made by the police throughout the process.
Questioning the Accuracy of Breath or Blood Test Results
All sorts of errors can lead to inaccurate test results. Your lawyer will check whether the test methods were carried out correctly, if there were any equipment issues, and whether the machines were properly calibrated. This just one of the many areas your attorney will look for weak spots in evidence against you.
You might be tempted to fight the DUI yourself, but we urged you not to. Nothing can take the place of having the experience and training of a DUI lawyer beside you in court. You need a professional if you want to get your charges reduced or even dropped.
How Much Does a DUI Attorney in Laguna Niguel Cost?
How much you pay your California DUI lawyer depends on the details of your case, as well as the services that they will have to provide. Factors that could affect your lawyer’s fee include:
- Costs during your case: If there are certain fees involved in your case, such as subpoena fees or medical tests, then you will have to pay your lawyer a higher fee
- The difficulty of your case: Most DUI lawyers charge by the hour, so the more time your attorney puts into your case, the more you will have to pay them.
- Your lawyer’s level of experience: The better the lawyer, the more they will charge. This is why you shouldn’t always go with the cheapest option, as that will give you worse results.
Our DUI lawyers in Laguna Niguel don’t take any up-front fees. Meet with us for a free consultation so we can assess your situation. We will let you know generally how much you can expect to pay and what your case will entail.
Talk to a Laguna Niguel DUI Lawyer Today
Your chances of a better outcome in your DUI case increase astronomically when you have a professional on your side. The faster you can act to obtain legal defense, the better. Contact a DUI lawyer as soon as possible after your DUI arrest.
To get a FREE consultation with a DUI lawyer in Laguna Niguel today, contact us by phone or by simply completing the form to the right.