Getting a DUI in the Sacramento area is a major event that can have far reaching consequences. The best way to understand a DUI is to go through the process chronologically. Please note that these time estimates are the typical time frames for someone who is out of custody. Typically when the person is not released from custody these time frames are accelerated and these events move much faster.
Day 1 – Arrest – Once you are arrested you will likely be taken down to the nearest police station. The first thing that will happen is you will be required to take a chemical test. This is normally a breath test on a Drager machine, or a blood test. It is important to distinguish the required chemical test from the voluntary test. The Preliminary Alcohol Screening device, or PAS, is a small, handheld device that the officer keeps in his car. This test is voluntary (though sometimes officers might make you feel like this test is mandatory), and you are free to decline taking this test as long as you not already on DUI probation with the Court. However, once you are back at the station the test you are required by law to take a chemical test. Failure to take the chemical test, ONCE YOU HAVE BEEN ARRESTED, can result in an automatic one year driver’s license suspension, even if you are later acquitted of a DUI.
If this is your first DUI you will likely be released on your own recognizance (OR’ed). If you have multiple DUI priors, if there was an accident, or if you were charged with other crimes it is likely that you will have to post bail. You should know that most bail bond agents will give you a 20% discount on your premium if you have an attorney. In serious felony cases this discount alone makes it worth hiring an attorney.
Days 1-10 – Start of the DMV process – When you are arrested the officer will confiscate your driver’s license and give you a pink piece of paper. This paper is your temporary driver’s license. That paper will inform you that you have 10 days to contact the DMV to request a DMV hearing. If you fail to do this your license will automatically be suspended 30 days after your arrest. A good lawyer will know how to work with the DMV and how to work around their draconian regulations.
Days 30-60 – Arraignment- Your arraignment will be about 30-90 days after your arrest. The smaller counties in the greater Sacramento area tend to have faster arraignments than the larger counties. Your arraignment is where the judge reads the charges against you and it is the first time your attorney is able to negotiate with the District Attorney. You should know that 90% of cases end up being a simple continuance at the arraignment.
Days 60-180 – Discovery – This is the time where your attorney will review the discovery from both the DA’s office and the DMV. Typical defense strategies include retesting the blood (if blood was given), looking for unconstitutional actions by the police when you were stopped and arrest, inspecting the in car camera for inconsistencies and file any motions the attorney feels is appropriate.
Day 180(+) – *Felony cases only* – Preliminary hearing – If you are being charged with a DUI as a felony, the DA’s office has to prove there is enough evidence to justify a trial. Typically the DA’s office will bring in the officer who arrested you and the toxicologist from their crime lab. Both the DA and your attorney will have an opportunity to ask the witnesses questions. The standard for a preliminary hearing is much lower than that of a jury trial. Therefore, the practical purpose for the preliminary hearing is to allow a new DA and a new judge to evaluate the case, and hopefully to strike a better plea bargain.
Days 180(+) – Trial readiness conferences – If the negations have not resulted in a dismissal or an acceptable plea bargain the case will go to a trial readiness conference. At the TRC your attorney, a new attorney from the DA’s office (usually the one who will handle the trial) and the judge make a last ditch effort to work out a deal. The court does this in an effort to have the county avoid paying for a costly and time consuming trial. Many times the best deals come from the TRC negotiations.
Day 270(+) – Trial – Typical DUI trials last about 3-5 days. If you are acquitted, it is all over and you walk free. If the jury is unable to come to a unanimous decision it is up the DA’s office to decide if your case will be retried. Even if you are convicted, you can still “win”. Many times the judge will sentence you to a lower amount of time than was offered by the DA if the judge is convinced that your case has merit.