For many people being charged with drunk driving is their first brush with the law. Many people have never experienced a DUI charge before and are unsure of where to get their answers. At JONES LAW, we strongly believe that clients should be informed and involved throughout the entire process. Below, are some of the most common questions our clients have asked about DUI charges.
• What is a DUI anyway? DUI stands for "driving under the influence." This is a per se offense of driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit of 0.08 percent. It, however, it is also considered to be drunk driving to be under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs to the point where your driving skills are impaired. This is typically a misdemeanor, but certain factors can enhance this to a felony offense.
• What is BAC? How will it affect my case? The term BAC stands for blood alcohol concentration or blood alcohol content. This is referring to the percentage or concentration of alcohol in your system at the time of the arrest. Typically, this is determined through scientific testing, such as breath or blood tests. If it is found that you have a BAC over the legal limit (0.08 percent), then you can automatically be considered to be drunk driving regardless of your level of impairment. For drivers under the legal drinking age, the threshold for their BAC is much lower resting at 0.01 percent.
• What is a PAS test? A Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test is given through the use of a handheld device at the scene of the arrest. Before your arrest, you may be requested to blow into the PAS machine. The results are used like a Field Sobriety Test (FST) by the officer in deciding whether or not to arrest you for suspicion of DUI.
• Will I lose my driver's license? At the time of your arrest, the arresting officer will confiscate your license and provide you with a pink slip of paper that will be your temporary license for a maximum of 30 days. From the time of the arrest, you have 10 days to request a hearing with the DMV in which you can contest the suspension. If you do not request a hearing, your license will automatically be suspended for four months. This is completely independent of the court case.
• What is a DMV APS Hearing? This stands for the Administrative Per Se Hearing held by the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is the hearing where you will be able to contest the suspension of your license; you must formally request this hearing within ten days of your arrest or you will lose the right to fight for your driving privileges.
• Will I have to go to court? In most instances, if you have been arrested for a DUI in Fresno, Madera, Kings or Tulare counties, an attorney can appear at the court hearings for you and you do not need to attend unless ordered by the judge. An attorney appearing for you means you don't have to take time off from work and/or school saving you time and the embarrassment of sitting in court for hours waiting for your case to be called. An attorney can also represent you at the DMV hearing and schedule it to ensure your license is fully protected.
• Will I have to go to jail? For many people, the most frightening aspect of a DUI charge is the prospect of jail. It's important to recognize that even for a first offense, you face jail time. However, by getting an attorney involved you generally can get jail time converted to some form of “alternative sentence” such as community service through the sheriff or probations office or electronic monitor. In many instances, even those with multiple DUI priors can avoid actual jail time.
• Will I have to attend a DUI program? As a condition of probation for a conviction of drunk driving defendants are required to complete an alcohol education/DUI program. This typically lasts for three months with weekly meetings that last between two to three hours. In some circumstances, however, it may last for as long as nine months if the BAC level was higher than 0.15 percent. For multiple DUI convictions the DUI program lasts 18 months.