Unless you are in custody, which is rare on a 1st time DUI, unless there was an accident with injuries or death, the first thing you should do is contact the DMV Division of Driver Safety in order to request a hearing and a stay. The phone number will be on the upper right hand corner of the pink Temporary License you should have received and is good for 30 days. This is a different office than your normal Local DMV office.
Requesting a hearing allows you to contest the DMV suspension of your driving privilege. The DMV will then set a hearing date in the future - generally 4-6 weeks out - where the DMV must show:
1. You were driving. This can be through either direct or circumstantial evidence;
2. You were lawfully detained. Generally a traffic violation or accident;
3. You were lawfully arrested. Generally after field interview questions, FST's and a PAS test; and,
4. Your blood alcohol level was a 0.08% or higher at the time of driving.
If suspended, it is for 120 days.
You will generally receive a court date anywhere from 4-8 weeks after your date of arrest. You will not get any reminders, and if you miss this date, and the case is filed, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
Generally on a 1st time DUI you will be sentenced to the statutory minimum terms. This includes a fine of $390 plus assessments (about $1,800), an alcohol school (3 to 9 months in duration), and informal probation for a term of 3 years with numerous items to follow such as: don't drive with ANY alcohol in your system, must have a valid license and insurance, use your true name birth date of birth, as well as to violate no laws.
But don't take this for granted! If you were in a minor accident with no injuries, or had a very high blood alcohol level, the government may want jail or community service. You could also be in Riverside or Ventura Counties which generally want a minimum of 10 days in jail no matter the circumstances.
Was There an Accident? Injury?
If there was an accident, and especially injury to another person, everything changes. Now you are likely looking at felony charges, and maybe enhancements for great bodily injury or multiple victims. What was now a nuisance of a misdemeanor has became a truly life changing event.
A conviction now has a minimum of 5 days in jail and a maximum of 3 years in prison. It could get worse with enhancements such as great bodily injury, plus 3 years, or multiple victims, plus one year each. Lastly, a conviction results in a 1 year suspension of your driving privilege.
There is no doubt you should hire an attorney in this circumstance at the earliest possible time. An attorney can generally help you to obtain bail at an 8% rate instead of the regular 10%, and will make sure you start doing everything you need to from the beginning. Do not wait until the court date!
Should I Hire an Attorney in My Case?
I truly believe it is in your best interest to always hire an attorney in a DUI. These are complex cases, and even an experienced DUI attorney will not know all that can be done until the case is thoroughly reviewed. It is difficult or impossible for the defendant to know whether the stop was legal? Were the breath machines calibrated in compliance with Title 17? Was the blood analyst certified? And many, many more issues.
Often it is not the initial conviction that becomes a problem, but the fact it remains on your record. And no, it does not "go away" after 10 years! 10 years is how far the prosecutor and DMV can go back to allege priors to automatically increase the minimum sentence. However, 11 years later, your record will still know you had a prior DUI and it can be used to increase your sentence.
A DUI on your record may prohibit you from getting certain jobs: truck driver, police officer, and firefighter to name a few. Jobs with security clearances frown as well.
Additional resources provided by the author
I would recommend looking for an experienced DUI lawyer to assist you with your matter. Here are some great resources to start with: