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California DUI Process

In the state of California there is generally a multi-phased process for DUI-related matters, beginning with the initial investigation and ending with punishment / sentencing upon conviction. The following is the process for DUIs in California:

An Investigation

The initial phases of a DUI are the investigation and arrest aspects of the process. During these stages, the defendant will be pulled over or otherwise stopped by a law enforcement officer for the purpose of looking into whether or not the driver shows any signs of intoxication. A law enforcement officer's investigation will likely involve a series of field sobriety tests, as well as a write-up which will report on the type of alcohol identified on the driver's breath and any objective signs that the driver might be intoxicated, i.e. slurred speech or bloodshot eyes.

The Arrest

After the investigative process is complete, an arrest can be made. At this time, the law enforcement officer will take the driver to the local police station, hospital or jail to have a blood or breath test conducted. Depending on the results of the test, the driver could be charged for driving with an excessive BAC (if your BAC was above 0.08%) or driving under the influence of drugs. Any refusal to submit to one of these chemical tests will result in a "refusal" allegation which will be added to your charges.

Driver's License Suspension

Upon your arrest, the officer must notify the driver that his or her driver's license will be suspended in 30 days, at which time the license will be confiscated and a valid temporary license will be issued. Booking will take place only after the DUI tests have been completed. Whether or not the defendant can be released on bail will depend on specific facts of the case, as well as his or her criminal record. Before this stage of the process is completely finalized, the law enforcement officer must submit his or her report to the local agency for review.

DUI Arraignment, Pre-Trial Motions, & Bargains


The first stage of DUI criminal proceedings is the arraignment, at which time the prosecutor will present an "offer" to the defendant. This offer is the prosecution's recommended sentencing for the case, and it is at this time that the defendant will have his or her first chance to plead "guilty," "not guilty," or "no contest."

Pleading guilty at this time will result in formal sentencing. From here, the case will be closed. Pleading not guilty, however, will continue the case. At this time, the defendant and his or her legal counsel will have the opportunity to review and challenge any or all of the prosecution's evidence.

Pre-Trial Motions

The pre-trial motion can last for months because it is at this time that your defense attorney will have the opportunity to thoroughly review all aspects of the case, including the scene of the arrest, the BAC testing equipment, as well as legal records that were made.

Pre-trial motions generally include defenses such as probable cause (contesting the validity of an officer's initial stop), motion to suppress (asking the court to exclude evidence that was illegally obtained and / or unjustly prejudiced), and pitchess (requesting to learn more about the officer's history of making complaints).


After all evidence has been gathered on behalf of the defendant, and pre-trial motions have been conducted, and defense expert witnesses have been consulted, a negotiation can be made on behalf of the defendant. If substantial evidence is obtained on your behalf, the prosecution may be much more likely to reduce or even dismiss the charges that have been brought against the defendant.

Sentencing and Punishment for DUI

Typically, DUI cases are settled prior to the need for jury trial. This is not to say, however, that no California DUI case will go to trial; in fact, quite a few will need to be brought before a judge and jury in order to make a conclusion.

A defendant can only be convicted of DUI if the prosecuting attorney is successful in convincing all 12 jurors that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Avoiding an ultimate conviction at trial will rely heavily upon your DUI attorney's ability to effectively challenge any evidence that can be used against you in court.

Defendants who plead guilty or who are convicted by jury will be sentenced to a certain set of punishments as issued by the judge. Depending on the facts of the case, as well as the criminal history of the defendant, the sentence that is prescribed will be different from defendant to defendant. Common consequences tend to include:

  • Driver's license suspension or revocation
  • Enrollment in a court-approved alcohol program
  • Fines
  • Possible jail or prison time

Protecting Your Rights, Defending Your Future

Aside from protecting your rights throughout the entirety of your DUI case, our lawyers can work toward defending you against serious penalties. These penalties can include hefty fines and fees, driver's license suspension, probation, jail time, and more. A conviction on your criminal record can also be the brand that creates barriers in your future.

Whatever your case may be, our team is dedicated to helping you secure the best possible outcome. We work closely with clients and handle each case on a unique basis. Our goal is to protect your freedom and future.

Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP has helped many clients charged with DUI, and we're ready to put our experience and skill to work for you. If you have questions about your case and how we can help you, call us today. Remember, time is an important factor in DUI cases.

Contact a Ventura DUI attorney if you were charged with any DUI related offense.Our firm serves clients throughout Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and the surrounding areas.