Getting arrested for Driving under the Influence (of either alcohol or drugs) is traumatic for many people because it is their first arrest. It is easy to get panicked. SLOW DOWN. If you have been arrested for DUI, you have a serious legal problem, but not a life-altering event. It is extremely unlikely (unless there was an accident with bodily injury) that you are ever going back to jail, or even to court if a lawyer represents you. Treat your DUI case like any other serious problem: do your homework and make sure you understand what's going on. Alcohol DUI cases all proceed the same way: there is a DMV hearing followed by a criminal case in the Superior Court. If you were given a pink sheet of paper, that is your notice of the DMV action. If you were given a rectangular sheet of paper, that is your notice to appear in court on a specified day. If you are missing either document, call Attorney Joseph Rhea immediately to make sure you have not missed a deadline.
PART ONE: THE DMV
If you have it, read the pink sheet of paper the police gave you carefully. You have ten days from the date of the arrest to demand a DMV hearing. You should always hire a lawyer for this. This is essential because you do not have a right to a public defender at the DMV hearing and you will certainly lose that hearing without representation. DMV hearings are biased against the driver in two important ways. First, the standard of proof at DMV hearings is lower (preponderance) than at criminal trials (reasonable doubt). In plain English, this means the DMV does not have to present compelling evidence of guilt, only evidence that it is more likely than not that the driver was DUI/DWI at the time of driving. Second, at DMV hearings, the DMV hearing officer functions as both prosecutor and judge. Again, without legal representation, the driver really has little chance of winning a DMV hearing.
Many people from other states mistakenly believe that they do not have to respond to the DMV demand since they do not have a California driver's license. This is incorrect. While California cannot take your New York or North Carolina driver's license, the California DMV can revoke your right to drive in the state of California on any other state's license. Additionally, a default in a California DMV hearing will often turn up out-of-state when you go to renew your license. So, whether you have a California driver's license or not, take the DMV hearing seriously. The DMV part of your DUI case happens fast, so be sure to get a lawyer on this quickly.
PART TWO: THE CRIMINAL CASE
When you were released by the police, you should have signed a promise to appear at a court date that is indicated on the form the police gave you (usually a rectangular sheet of paper). That is the date for your arraignment, which is the formal commencement of criminal proceedings against you in the Superior Court. If this is a first-time DUI, your attorney can appear for you, and you will not need to appear. At that first appearance, the attorney says the words "Not Guilty," sets a future conference date with the court, and leaves with a copy of the police reports. Attorney Rhea always meets with every client individually to review what is accurate and inaccurate in the police reports, and then a defense is developed, entirely dependent on what the facts of the case allow. Some DUI cases are "motion cases," cases which can be resolved on a search and seizure motion (contesting a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights), others are more fact dependent. Examples include contesting whether or not the blood alcohol level was a .08 at the time of driving, or whether or not the level of prescription drugs in your system was beyond the therapeutic range and actually caused impairment. Every DUI case is slightly different and Attorney Rhea works with each client individually to craft the defense.
DRUG DUI vs. ALCOHOL DUI
Almost everyone knows the rule for an alcohol DUI: .08 or higher. There are many defenses to an alcohol DUI, but there is no exception to the legal rule that driving with a .08 or higher blood alcohol is a crime in California. But, how much marijuana can you have in your system? How much Ambien? There are no rules for these drugs. Alcohol is the only substance for which California has enacted "per se" rules. As a practical matter, this means that drug DUI cases are especially defensible because the attorney does not need to work against the "per se" rule that applies in alcohol DUI cases. So, if you have been arrested for a drug related DUI, you need to be aggressive about defending the case. It is often impossible for the District Attorney to prove illegal levels of intoxication for prescription or even illegal drugs.
HIRING A LOCAL LAWYER -- WATCH OUT FOR JAIL MAIL
Hiring a lawyer can be very confusing and anxiety provoking. Shortly after your arrest, advertising agencies obtained your name and mailing address from the police. Some lawyers send out direct advertisments, known as "jail mail" to people who have been arrested. These circulars are often very misleading, suggesting that an attorney is located in the area when they are not. If an attorney will not agree to meet with you in person, and will not guarantee in writing that they will personally appear on your case, then you can be sure they are not a local lawyer. You will never receive junk mail from Attorney Rhea and he will always meet you in person at his office in downtown Palm Springs.
DUI law is a substantive area of criminal defense law, like drugs or homicide. Each of these areas has knowledge and skill-sets relevant to defending those crimes. Attorney Rhea has defended hundreds of DUI cases in the desert region and at DMV hearings. Attorney Rhea's entire legal career has been devoted to defending criminal cases, and he has particularly developed knowledge of DUI, drug and domestic violence law. He was formerly a Public Defender in Monterey and Riverside Counties. He has never worked for a prosecuting agency and he has been rnamed Top DUI and/or Top Criminal Defense Lawyer by Palm Springs Life Magazine every year from 2010 to 2018. He is a proud member of the California DUI Lawyer’s Association, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, California Public Defenders Association, California NORML, and California NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).
A DUI arrest on federal land will result in your case being heard in a United States District Court rather than a local or state court. There is no federal law regarding DUI, so the U.S. District Courts import (i.e. borrow) the law of whatever state the arrest occurs in. Thus, if you were arrested for a DUI in Joshua Tree National Park, the case law used by the District Court will be essentially the same as a state court arrest. This is very different than drug cases, where there are often vastly more severe consequences to a federal arrest. Attorney Rhea appears for federal DUI cases in Black Rock Courthouse (Joshua Tree) and Riverside District Court.
BIG CHANGE IN LAW FOR 2019
Regarding DUI license suspensions: Beginning January 1, 2019, California will require everyone convicted of a DUI to install an IID (Ignition Interlock Device) device on their vehicle. However, the previously mandatory suspension periods will be removed. California is thus moving to a system which relies more on direct monitoring of driver alcohol level than outright suspensions.
For a first DUI, a motorist will not lose the Driver License if s/he installs an IID for 6 months. For a second DUI, again no license suspension but an IID is required for 1 year. For a third and fourth DUI, again no license suspension, but an IID is required for 2 and 3 years respectively. Unfortunately, drug DUIs will generally not be eligible for an IID restricted license.
Note, though, that the IID requirement is still triggered by either a loss at the DMV or a criminal conviction. So, it remains essential to contact a DUI lawyer and demand a DMV hearing within 10 days of arrest (the day of arrest being 1 of 10).
If you have been arrested for, or charged with a DUI in Palm Springs or the surrounding areas, you need an experienced defense lawyer who will fight for your rights. Contact Attorney Joseph Rhea today.
“Mr. Rhea was extremely knowledgeable which, without a doubt, was the reason the Judge dismissed my case without any fines, probation, etc. Additionally, his vast knowledge helped lay out all the scenarios which helped relieve my anxieties. He was extremely prompt and reliable which made working with him a pleasure. I would highly recommend Mr. Rhea’s services to anyone and everyone.” – Former Federal Drug Possession Client