Your Oakland DUI Case: The Basics

You've always loved Oakland. Your sister, who is also an amateur vintner, just bought a condo near Lake Merritt. She decided to showcase her Napa Valley red Zin collection at a house warming party. You've never had that much wine, brie, and puff pastries all in one sitting. You ended up sleeping it off on her "expertly crafted" Williams Sonoma sectional arm sofa. Right around 4:00 a.m. you have a burning desire for your own bed. You stumble around for your keys, grab a leftover bacon-wrapped date for the road, and head to your car.

You start the drive. Everything is fine until you realize you aren't as sober as you thought, when you run a red light and slam into a fire hydrant. Hello, Oakland Police. The officer believes you are under the influence after your miserable performance on some type of balance tests. Off to the Dyer Detention facility for booking and your choice of a blood or breath test.

Arraignment

If you committed a felony, you'll be there until your arraignment. If not, you'll have been released with a promise to appear at one of the Oakland courts at a later time.

During the arraignment a judge will inform you of the charges and set bail. She may impose additional conditions, such as alcohol testing. You will enter a plea of not guilty, guilty, or no contest. You can hire a lawyer, represent yourself, or ask for the Alameda County Public Defender's help, if you qualify.

But, I Need My Driver's License!

Taking BART, Muni, or any other form of public transportation in the Bay Area isn't always convenient or practical. But, the fact is that your license will likely be suspended.

Many people don't realize that when they are arrested for a DUI in Oakland they'll have to deal with two historically unpopular government agencies: the DMV and the Alameda County criminal court system.

Why? Because the DMV will handle your license suspension pursuant to California's implied consent laws, while the courts will deal with your criminal case.

DMV Administrative Per Se Hearing

After the officer arrested you, she likely took your driver's license and gave you an "Order of Suspension and Temporary License." You may drive for 30 days from the date of issuance (usually your arrest date) provided your license is not expired, or your driving privilege is not suspended for some other reason. After that, the suspension takes effect. You only have ten days to contact DMV to request a hearing (known in short as an Admin Per Se Hearing) to contest the suspension. This action is completely independent of any action taken by the court.

What If I Win My Hearing?

You aren't out of the woods. If the court still convicts you of DUI, your driver license will still be suspended as a result of the court conviction. A hearing decision in your favor applies only to the administrative suspension resulting from the arrest.

DUI Criminal Charges

California has two separate ways to charge drivers who are impaired by drugs or alcohol:

Driving Under the Influence: Vehicle Code 23152 (a):You weren't able to drive safely and the officer could see it. Your FSTs show it. You don't need a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or above to be charged with DUI. Simply put, alcohol and/or drugs have impaired your judgment to the point where you can't drive your car in the same way as someone who is not intoxicated.

Driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or Higher, Vehicle Code 23152 (b): Your BAC is at or above the legal limit of 0.08%.

Aggravating Circumstances

You'll probably face enhanced penalties if any of the following apply:

High BAC: Drive with a BAC of 0.15 or higher and you're looking at a longer jail sentence.

DUI with a Child Under 14 in the Car: It doesn't matter the reason. If you have a minor in your car under 14 years old, you face enhanced penalties.

DUI with Excessive Speed and Reckless Driving: If you drive 20-30 miles over the speed limit and recklessly, you can add 60 days jail onto your sentence.

Under Age 21 Operating with Any Alcohol Content: If you are under 21, California has zero tolerance for drinking and driving. You'll be charged if you have any presence of alcohol in your system.

Keep in mind, you will face felony charges if you do any of the following :

  • 3 DUI or Wet Reckless convictions within 10 years;
  • Cause a serious injury or death while driving; or
  • Have a prior felony DUI on your record.

Wet Reckless

Sometimes the Alameda County District Attorney will offer a first-time offender a reduced charge known as a "wet reckless" in exchange for your guilty or no contest plea. It will remain on your record for ten years and will be considered a DUI offense in the event you incur another DUI conviction within this ten-year period. The fines and penalties for a wet reckless are less than that of a standard DUI.

What if I refused a chemical test?

If you refused a blood or breath test, there's a penalty. California has an implied consent law. If you're arrested and refuse to take the chemical test, you'll be fined and the DMV will automatically suspend your license for one year for the first refusal, two years for the second, and three years for the third. This is in addition to any penalties you'll receive if you are convicted of DUI in the criminal case.

Ignition Interlock Device

If you've been convicted of any DUI-related offense, the judge has the option of requiring you to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on any vehicle you own or intend to drive. The court might have you install the device if the court might order an IID if you had:

  • BAC of at least 0.15%;
  • Moving violations prior to the DUI;
  • Prior DUI convictions within ten years; or
  • Refused the chemical test.

Remember, it's best to never drink or use drugs and drive. Select a designated driver ahead of time, who will stay sober. You can also ask someone else to give you a ride, call a taxi, or hop on BART.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.