Learning About California DUI Arrests
Maybe you've never been arrested but want to be prepared. Maybe a friend or family member was arrested for a DUI, and you want to help him or her navigate the process. Or perhaps you've been arrested before and want to know how to handle the situation better if you're arrested again. Whatever your reason for wanting to learn about the steps in a California DUI arrest, you're wise to familiarize yourself with the process. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to the criminal justice system.
We've broken down a typical DUI arrest into ten steps. Review these steps to learn about what happens in a DUI arrest and what you should do to protect your rights.
- The Officer Pulls You Over
Most California DUI arrests begin with the officer pulling you over. Please note that even if your car was not in motion, an officer can still approach you. This is one of the most important steps in a DUI arrest because it requires the officer have probable cause. A police officer must have probable cause or a reasonable belief that a crime had been or was being committed, to pull you over. Sobriety checkpoints are the one exception, and this is why they are so controversial. Probable cause could be anything from failing to signal at a turn to having a broken taillight. The officer does not need to suspect you are intoxicated. Likewise, an officer may have probable cause to arrest you if called to the scene of an accident you were involved in and you displayed signs of intoxication. If the officer pulled you over without probable cause, you might be able to get your case dismissed.
- You Will Be Asked Some Basic Questions
“License and registration” may be the first things you hear from the police officer. The officer may also ask you for proof of insurance. At this point, he or she might not indicate why you have been stopped. If you feel safe asking, go ahead. Just know that if the officer catches any hint of alcohol on your breath, you will proceed to the next step immediately.
- The Officer Will Try to Assess Your State
Some officers start with “Have you been drinking tonight?” or even “How many drinks have you had this evening?” This is a crucial point in a DUI arrest because what you say could mean the difference between handcuffs and being told you're free to go. But many people make a mistake by trying to talk their way out of it. They may admit they had been drinking but only had a few drinks. Some people even will go so far as to argue with the officer over the reason for being pulled over. At this point, you need to know that you have a right to remain silent. You do not have to answer the officer's questions! I hope this comes as no surprise, but want everyone to thoroughly understand this right. Remain silent if you want to protect your rights. It's all too easy to say the wrong thing when being questioned by an intimidating officer.
- Field Sobriety Tests
The officer might ask you to run through a few tests. Typically this involves following a pen with your eyes or balancing on one leg. No matter the test, you have a right to refuse to submit to one. Again, this doesn't mean you'll be let free, but it does mean the officer won't have evidence you “failed” the test.
- Breathalyzer Test
The officer must wait 15 minutes to observe you then may conduct the test. Basically, you blow “deep lung air” into a hand-held machine which then calculates your BAC (blood alcohol content) level. There are consequences for refusing to take a test, one of which being an automatic one-year license suspension. Also, in some cases, officers can get a warrant to force a blood draw from you to perform a BAC test.
- The Arrest
Regardless of the results of your tests, the officer can choose to arrest you if he or she suspects you were driving while intoxicated. Arrests are fairly standardized. You may or may not be read your rights. This depends on whether the officer plans on interrogating you.
- You Will Be Transported
You may have to wait in the squad car for a while or you could be taken to the station directly. Never answer questions or say anything during this time! Keep your mouth shut and cooperate physically.
The booking process can vary based on the jurisdiction, the inmate population, available holding cells, and other circumstances. But fingerprinting, taking photos, and taking inventory of your belongings are usually involved.
Next, you wait. If you are booked in on a weekend, you might have to wait until the next business day for your arraignment. If you are booked on a weekday, you might be arraigned sooner. The judge may set bail at the arraignment, at which point you can arrange to post bail or secure a bond for your release. If you are released, you will have to sign something promising you'll return to court on a specific date. You will be given your court date at this time as well.
- Recovery and Reflection
Arrests are stressful. They can make you feel mistreated and violated. You may also have received a lot of information during your arrest and holding. As soon as you can, write down notes on the whole process from the moment you were pulled over to your release. Then, call a California DUI defense attorney to discuss those details so you can plan your defense.
Have you been arrested and are facing criminal charges? Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens can help you get the outcome you deserve. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has taken over 50 to trial. Attorney Christopher Martens has the skills and knowledge needed to defend your rights. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.