San Diego DUI Lawyer

California DUI laws are incredibly strict. You could face serious consequences after your first offense if you do not have a knowledgeable DUI attorney by your side. After just one offense, you may face between four days to six months in prison, up to $1000 in fines, and a minimum four month license suspension.  Although you may feel hopeless as the law enforcement officers put you into the back of a police car, the reality is that not many DUI cases deserve such excessive consequences after a one-time mistake. The team at the Law Office of George Gedulin can help. We have the DUI experience needed to help you develop a strong defense whether it is your first arrest or not.

DUI Arrests and Convictions in California (2003-2013)

Source: California DUI Management System Annual Report 2015

What Should I Do if I Am Pulled Over?

An officer has to have reasonable cause to pull you over. The reason will either be reckless driving, speeding, a suspicious license plate, or a headlight is out. You can legally ask the officer why you are being pulled over and should do so, especially if the officer does not immediately provide a legitimate reason. Not all DUI cases start with someone being pulled over, but many do, and knowing how to handle the situation can help your defense later on.

Try to remain calm. Although you heart may be racing if you know you have had a few drinks, anxiety and other unusual behavior may make an officer more suspicious of your activities. If an officer thinks you have been drinking, he may start asking you questions. You are not legally required to answer these questions, but not complying may lead to further evaluation. Do not lie to an officer, because the information could be recorded and used against you later. If you suspect you could be over the legal limit, say nothing.

During the field test, you are required to step out of your vehicle if an officer asks you to. You are not, however, required to take any field tests. Not taking the tests could lead to an arrest, but by refusing the roadside tests, you could be saving yourself from evidence that could be used against you later in court.

After an Arrest

If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI, you should comply fully with the officers. An arrest can be overturned later in court. Even an affirmative blood test may not be enough evidence to secure a DUI conviction. Fighting a DUI is always a better idea than pleading guilty, even if you know you had a few too many that night. The reality is that alcohol reacts in peoples’ bodies differently, and your blood test may have been compromised. If you were not treated fairly during the course of the arrest or the DUI investigation, you deserve to have the case re-evaluated in court.

Any mistakes that law enforcement officers, forensic analysts, and others make can turn a seemingly straightforward case on its head. Fighting the case does not mean you were guilty or not guilty; it means understanding you have rights and making sure you are protected under the law.

Find an Experienced DUI Attorney in San Diego

If you are looking for an experienced DUI attorney in San Diego to defend you against a DUI charge, it helps to have a clear understanding of this criminal offense as defined by the laws of California. The following sections spell out what you need to know.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

When a person consumes an alcoholic beverage, the alcohol content of those beverages enters the individual’s bloodstream once absorbed by the stomach and small intestine. The alcohol affects many organs – most notably the brain. Rising blood alcohol levels can hinder the brain’s ability to react quickly to critical events, such as those that occur while operating a vehicle.
An individual’s blood alcohol concentration level depends on body mass, the amount of alcohol consumed, how quickly the beverages were consumed and other factors. Regardless of beverage type, consuming an alcoholic drink of any kind will result in the rise of an individual’s BAC. Beer typically has a lower alcohol content than wine, and wine typically has a substantially lower alcohol content than hard liquor (i.e. vodka, whiskey, and other distilled spirits).

Every state has laws against driving under the influence of any substance that can affect the ability to drive safely, including alcohol. Each state has its definition of unacceptable BAC levels.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles says that the following BAC levels are illegal in California for anyone operating a motor vehicle:

  • For a person 21 years of age or older, a BAC of 0.08 percent or greater.
  • For a person under 21 years of age, a BAC of 0.01 percent or greater.
  • For a person of any age who is on probation for driving under the influence, a BAC of 0.01 percent or greater.
  • For any person operating a vehicle that requires a commercial driver license (CDL), a BAC of 0.04 percent or greater. This restriction applies whether or not the person in question possesses a valid CDL.

DUI Charges for Individuals Under 21 Years of Age

Since the early ‘90s, California has had a strict zero-tolerance policy for those under the age of 21 driving under the influence of alcohol. For those under 21, the very low BAC level of 0.01 percent is enough to result in a DUI conviction. For most, consuming a single alcoholic beverage will result in a BAC of more than .01 percent.

A DUI conviction for a person under 21 might lead to the loss of a driver’s license and a permanent mark on their driving record. Driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent may lead to the driver serving jail time in the same way drivers 21 or older may face. Being treated like an adult in the court system can have severe consequences for the success of college and scholarship applications, which frequently ask applicants about criminal records such as DUI convictions.

DUI and DWI Penalties

The charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI) is slightly different from the charge of DUI, but the penalties for a DWI conviction are identical to those for a DUI conviction. DWI charges rely on the results of breathalyzer and blood-alcohol tests while DUI charges rely on field sobriety tests conducted by patrol officers. Driving while under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol could result in a DUI charge even if a breathalyzer or blood-alcohol test later shows an otherwise acceptable BAC level.

Regardless of the technical basis for prosecution, California imposes severe penalties on individuals convicted of DUI or DWI charges. A DUI or DWI conviction can result in license suspension, court-ordered recovery of prosecution costs, hefty fines, and even incarceration.

Consequences of the First DUI or DWI Conviction

Quite apart from the mental stress of coping with a criminal prosecution, simply being charged with the offense of a DUI or a DWI can seriously affect your job, your reputation in the community, your family, and your financial health. If you are convicted, your ability to earn a living could be threatened even if you are spared a jail term.

San Diego drivers convicted for the first time of a DUI or DWI offense may see any or all the following penalties as defined in the penalty chart from Vehicle Code Section 23152:

  • License suspension for up to six months.
  • Probation period with monitoring.
  • Mandatory participation in an education program about the dangers of mixing driving with drugs and alcohol.
  • Payment of fines and penalties up to $1,000 plus court-imposed legal fees.
  • Up to six months in jail.

In addition to or instead of the listed penalties above, the presiding judge might decide to impose community service, require participation in a victim-impact panel conducted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) or order the involved vehicle to be impounded. Instead of impounding a vehicle, the presiding judge might accept a defendant’s request to have their car outfitted with an ignition interlock device. This device prevents the vehicle from operating until the device has confirmed that the driver’s breath does not reveal an illegal BAC level.
Furthermore, any DUI or DWI conviction can lead to higher car insurance rates and difficulty with your current employer. A criminal record could also lead to family tensions, lost friendships and limited opportunities for future employment.

Consequences of a Second DUI or DWI Conviction

Individuals convicted of a second DUI or DWI offense within any single 10-year period face the following possible penalties:

  • License suspension for up to two years.
  • Probation period with monitoring.
  • Mandatory participation in an education program about the dangers of mixing driving with drugs and alcohol.
  • Payment of fines and penalties up to $1,000 plus court-imposed legal fees.
  • Up to 18 months of participation in a state-recognized substance-abuse treatment program.
  • Up to one year in jail.

As with the first offense, other court-imposed stipulations might include community service, participation in a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) victim-impact panel, vehicle impoundment or installation of an ignition interlock device.

Consequences of a Third DUI or DWI Conviction

Individuals convicted of a third DUI or DWI offense within any single 10-year period face the following possible penalties:

  • License revocation for up to three years.
  • Probation period with monitoring.
  • Mandatory participation in an education program about the dangers of mixing driving with drugs and alcohol.
  • Payment of fines and penalties up to $1,000 plus court-imposed legal fees.
  • Up to 30 months of participation in a state-recognized substance-abuse treatment program.
  • Up to one year in jail.

As with the first and second offenses, other court-imposed stipulations might include community service, participation in a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) victim-impact panel, vehicle impoundment or installation of an ignition interlock device.

Consequences of a Fourth DUI or DWI Conviction

Individuals convicted of a fourth DUI or DWI offense within any single 10-year period face the following possible penalties:

  • License revocation for up to four years.
  • Probation period with monitoring.
  • Payment of fines and penalties up to $1,000 plus court-imposed legal fees.
  • Up to 30 months of participation in a state-recognized substance-abuse treatment program.
  • Up to one year in jail.
  • Up to three years in state prison.

Other court-imposed stipulations might include mandatory community service, participation in a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) victim-impact panel or vehicle impoundment.

Unique DUI or DWI Case Conditions

The unique details of each case may lead the presiding judge to decrease or increase the penalties imposed upon conviction. Sentencing likely will be affected by any of the following conditions that hold true for your personal circumstances:

  • Reckless or inattentive driving.
  • Excessive speeding or weaving.
  • Driving under the influence while accompanied by a passenger under the age of 18.
  • Violation of the traffic rules for construction zones or safety zones such as schools.
  • Infliction of bodily harm on another person, including manslaughter.
  • Prior felony charges or convictions.
  • Verified BAC of 0.15 percent or greater.
  • Enhanced Penalties for DUI or DWI Cases with Injury

Depending on the specific DUI or DWI case details, a prosecutor might decide to file either a misdemeanor or felony charges or both. A case involving serious injury to another person likely will attract more serious felony charges.

The sentence for a misdemeanor conviction on a charge of DUI or DWI with injury may include any of the following penalties:

  • License suspension for not less than one year.
  • Up to three years of probation with monitoring.
  • Payment of fines and penalties up to $5,000 plus court-imposed legal fees.
  • Up to 18 months of participation in a court-mandated substance-abuse treatment program.
  • Up to one year in jail.
  • Restitution to the injured victim or victims as determined by the court.

The sentence for a felony conviction on a charge of DUI or DWI with serious injury may include any of the following penalties:

  • License revocation for up to five years.
  • Payment of fines and penalties up to $5,000 plus court-imposed legal fees.
  • Between 18 to 30 months of participation in a court-mandated substance-abuse treatment program.
  • Up to four years in state prison.
  • Between three to six additional years in state prison for inflicting severe bodily harm to another person.
  • One additional consecutive year in state prison for each injured victim, regardless of the extent of bodily harm.
  • Potential for an extended prison sentence under California’s “three strikes” sentencing law.
  • “Wet Reckless” Cases Versus “Standard” DUI or DWI Cases

“Wet Reckless”

It may be possible for your defense attorney to secure a plea bargain that knocks an ordinary DUI or DWI charge down to the reduced charge of “wet reckless.” This may be done only for the milder offense of reckless driving with the involvement of alcohol and only if the following two conditions hold true for your personal circumstances:

  • Your BAC level as measured by a breathalyzer or blood-alcohol test fell under the legal limit.
  • The arresting officer did not find severe impairment on your part in field sobriety tests.

Many prosecutors and trial courts will consider this option for first-time offenders. However, if other DUI or DWI charges are brought against you later in a separate case, then the original plea bargain will be interpreted as a prior conviction for the purpose of determining potential penalties upon conviction for the new charges.

Advantages of Pleading Guilty in a “Wet Reckless” Case

The best outcome for any DUI or DWI case is successfully persuading the prosecutor to drop all charges or convincing the presiding judge to dismiss those charges with prejudice. If this is not possible, then pleading guilty to a lesser charge of “wet reckless” may offer significant benefits against the risk of conviction on the original DUI or DWI charges.

Agreeing to accept a conviction on “wet reckless” charges typically results in a significantly less severe range of potential penalties:

  • Possibility of avoiding license suspension.
  • Shorter potential probation period with monitoring.
  • Reduced likelihood of fines and penalties up to $1,000 plus court-imposed legal fees.
  • Shorter participation period in an education program about the dangers of mixing driving with drugs and alcohol.
  • Shorter or no jail sentence.
  • No mandatory enhancements in sentencing guidelines.

Depending on the details of your specific case, your defense attorney may advise you to press for a plea bargain that reduces DUI or DWI charges down to a single “wet reckless” charge.

Constructing an Effective Defense Against a DUI or DWI Accident Case

Fortunately, a good DUI defense attorney can argue against the prosecutor’s DUI or DWI-related charges with several approaches. Common issues that might lead to a reduction in potential penalties, dismissal of some or all charges by the presiding judge or acquittal on some or all charges if they reach trial appear below:

  • Breathalyzer or blood-alcohol tests were improperly administered or otherwise flawed.
  • Poor weather conditions may have fully accounted for or otherwise substantially contributed to the accident.
  • The wrong party was identified as responsible during a faulty police investigation.
  • Significant procedural errors occurred in the course of the police investigation.
  • The laboratory analysis of blood- or breath-based evidence contains errors.
  • The integrity of the chain of evidence linking a blood sample to the defendant is in question.
  • A medical condition may have significantly affected the accuracy of blood- or breath-based BAC testing.

In addition, the prosecutor must be able to prove multiple claims to secure a conviction:

  • You were actually driving the vehicle in question at the time of the accident.
  • Your blood alcohol concentration level demonstrably met or exceeded 0.08 percent.
  • You clearly violated a traffic law or otherwise demonstrably exhibited negligent or reckless behavior while operating the motor vehicle in question.
  • If an accident occurred, the accident directly resulted in injury to another person or substantive damage to property.

Failing to prove these claims will likely lead to an acquittal at trial or preemptive dismissal of the charges by the presiding judge.

About the Ignition-Interlock Device
Upon a conviction on DUI charges, DWI charges or upon incurring a charge of driving with a suspended license, it is possible in cases without injury to persuade the presiding judge to reinstate a driver’s license after the defendant has installed an ignition interlock device (IID). This possibility is especially useful for defendants struggling with a second or third DUI or DWI convictions.

Roughly the size of a bulky cellphone, an IID is typically installed on the vehicle’s dashboard and securely wired into the ignition system by an authorized dealer. The IID contains a small breathalyzer that requires the driver to blow into a receptacle before starting the vehicle and again at set periods while the vehicle is in operation. To start a car, the driver’s breath must not reveal an excessive BAC level. A subsequent failure to satisfy the breathalyzer device while the vehicle is in motion will result in a notification to pull over and record the infraction. If the vehicle is not halted, it will begin to emit sounds and flashing lights.

Effective Legal Representation Against DUI and DWI Charges

Your future happiness, personal freedom and financial security rest on avoiding a needless DUI or DWI conviction. San Diego DUI attorney George Gedulin understands the DUI process completely. At the Law Office of George Gedulin, we handle all types of DUI cases, including claims involving felony charges, injuries, and vehicular manslaughter. Regardless of what you think you know about your case, consulting a recognized DUI attorney is the first step in fighting a DUI charge. Our firm only handles criminal defense litigation, so we know how to investigate DUI cases and pick apart a prosecutor’s argument. For more information about how we can help you fight your DUI charge, reach out to us today. We are ready to get to work as soon as possible.