Sacramento County Misdemeanor DUI Guide
In November of 2016, the Sacramento County District Attorney received a grant of just over $700,000 from the California Office of Traffic Safety to prosecute drunk drivers in Sacramento County. Therefore, you should have understand the Sacramento DUI process. This guide provides just that.
Attorney DisclaimerDefending against DUI charges is extremely complicated. This guide is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor is this an exhaustive resource on DUIs. Also, bear in mind that this guide deals specifically with misdemeanor DUIs in Sacramento, not felonies. If you have any specific questions, you should contact a local Sacramento DUI lawyer. Most attorneys offer free consultations and are happy to answer questions.
DMV and Your LicenseThere's three ways you can lose your license after being arrested for DUI:
1. Failing to request a DMV Administrative Per Se (APS) Hearing
2. Losing an APS Hearing
3. Getting convicted in court
Therefore, the first thing you should do after being released from custody is call the Sacramento Driver Safety Office and request an APS hearing. The Sacramento Driver Safety Office can be reached at (916) 227-2970. If you do not contact the Driver Safety Office within ten days of your arrest, your license will be automatically suspended thirty days from the date of your arrest. If you do request the APS hearing, any administrative suspension from the DMV will be stayed (or delayed) until if/when you lose your APS hearing.
If you win your APS hearing, your license will not be administratively suspended by the DMV. However, your license may still be suspended if you are convicted in court. An APS hearing loss on a first DUI, however, triggers a four-month license suspension: thirty days of no driving followed by three months of a restricted license. In order to get a restricted license in Sacramento County, you must provide DMV with:
1. Proof of insurance (referred to as a SR-22)
2. Proof of enrollment in an approved alcohol class
3. Proof of installation of an ignition interlock device
If you do lose your license, it will not be fully reinstated until you complete your alcohol class.
The First Court DateAfter requesting a DMV APS hearing, your focus should be on your first court date. The first court date is referred to as an arraignment. The purpose of the arraignment is to make you aware of what you are charged with.
You will likely be charged with:
1. Vehicle Code (VC) 23152(a)
2. VC 23152(b)
People often ask: why am I charged with two different VC sections for one DUI? While the DA will charge you with both sections, you can only be punished for one of them. VC 23152(b) requires the DA to prove that you drove with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08%. Clients tend to be less familiar with VC 23152(a), however. Under VC 23152(a), the DA must prove that you drove "Under the Influence." To prove that you drove "Under the Influence," the DA must show that you could not drive with the caution of a sober person. Therefore, you could be charged with and convicted of VC 23152(a) even if your BAC was below .08%.
If you can afford to hire an attorney, it is wise to contact a local Sacramento County DUI attorney before the arraignment. Hiring a private attorney prior to your arraignment is a good idea for the following reasons:
1. You won't have to show up to court;
2. It ensures that the administrative action taken by the DMV on your license is handled properly;
3. It allows the attorney to hit the ground running and use the DMV subpoena process to obtain discovery before the arraignment.
Depending on the facts of your case, the DA may request that the court set bail. While this generally doesn't happen on a first DUI, it is a common occurrence if it is a second or third offense. In the event that the DA requests bail, you will need to show up for court. Your attorney will have the opportunity to argue that you shouldn't have to post bail at all, or that the amount should at least be reduced.
It is generally good practice to contact a bondsman ahead of time and have them attend the arraignment in the event that the court sets bail. This way, the bondsman can post your bond in court without you having to go into custody. If you have a private attorney, you typically have to pay a bondsman 8% of the total bail amount. Otherwise, it is usually 10%. Either way, you are generally able to work out payment plans.
If you cannot afford to hire a private attorney, you should request to discuss your case with a Public Defender.
Sacramento DUI arraignments are typically handled in Department one on the first floor of the Sacramento Superior Court. The court is located at 720 9th Street in Downtown Sacramento.
After the ArraignmentAfter the arraignment, your case will likely be continued at least a month to allow your attorney to obtain evidence to support your defense (assuming they haven't already). This can be accomplished in one of two ways:
1. A DMV Subpoena
2. DA Discovery Request
It's typically less of a headache to send a DMV subpoena directly to the arresting agency to obtain the evidence related to your case. Some of the evidence that should be obtained includes, but is not limited to:
o Any video that was generated. This includes, but is not limited to: police dashboard camera footage, footage from the camera located in the backseat of the cruiser, bodycam footage, and any footage from the jail;
o Maintenance and calibration logs associated with any breath test machine used during the police's investigation
o Radar/Lidar logs if you were pulled over for speeding
Obtaining this evidence allows your attorney to evaluate whether or not the DA will be able to prove their case. At the very least, gathering this evidence typically gives an attorney a basis to negotiate a better resolution with the DA. In the best-case scenario, gathering this evidence results in the dismissal of your charges.
Should You Set Your Case for Trial?If the DA is unwilling to dismiss your case, you will have to decide between accepting the DA's offer and resolving your case or going to trial. Whether you should resolve your case or go to trial depends on the facts of your case. Common trial defenses include:
1. Rising blood alcohol defense
2. No drive defense
3. Drink after drive defense
Bear in mind that there are also a number of pre-trial motions that can be explored by your attorney to have evidence suppressed and your case potentially dismissed. However, like the decision to go to trial, the viability of said motions is dependent on the facts of your case.
If You Decide to Resolve Your DUI CaseIf you decide not to go to trial and accept the DA's offer to resolve your case, you will enter a plea of "No Contest." A "No Contest" plea has the same legal effect as a guilty plea, but the plea cannot be used against you in a civil proceeding. Accepting the DA's offer will subject you to the following punishment:
1. $2,400 fine
2. 3 years of informal probation
3. A minimum of two days' county jail
4. 3, 6, or 9-month alcohol program
5. License suspension
Informal probation doesn't include having a probation officer or anything of that nature; it's simply probation through the court. The conditions include:
1. Do not drive without a valid license or valid insurance
2. Do not drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in your system
3. Submit to testing asked for by a peace officer with or without probable cause
4. Obey all laws
To be clear, having a .01% BAC would constitute a violation of your informal probation. Also, on a first DUI in Sacramento, you can apply to one of the Sacramento Sheriff's alternative sentencing programs to complete any "time" you receive as part of your sentence. However, second and third DUIs require mandatory in custody time, and there is guarantee that the Sheriff will accept you into their alternative sentencing program on a first DUI. Finally, how high your BAC is dictates how long your alcohol program will be.
Once you enter your plea, you must head to Room 102 to fill out paperwork.
If you Decide to go to TrialIf you and your attorney set your case for trial, you will have two court dates set:
1. Trial Readiness Conference (TRC)
2. Jury Trial Date
The TRC will be held in the same courtroom as your arraignment on a Friday morning at 8:30 AM. The purpose of a TRC is to give the DA and your attorney one final chance to see if the case can be resolved instead of going to trial. If the DA is not willing to extend an offer you're willing to accept, the trial date will simply be confirmed.
If your trial date is confirmed, you will be sent to Department nine. From Department nine, you will be assigned to the judge that will preside over your trial. However, there is a very strong chance that you will not be assigned to a judge on the first date you show up for trial. Once both sides declare "ready" for trial, there is a ten-day window for your trial to get sent out to a judge. Other cases that are closer to the tenth day are given preference over cases with lower day counts. Thus, because you are only day zero of ten on your first court date, it is likely that you will not get sent out to a judge until the second or third time you show up to court for trial.
A typical DUI trial lasts 2-3 days. The trial will begin with jury selection or "Voir Dire." Jury selection allows your attorney to ask prospective jurors questions to help determine their ability to serve as an impartial juror in your case. Once a jury is selected, opening statements will be given, followed by the District Attorney's case. Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross examine all of the District Attorney's witnesses during their case. After the District Attorney presents their case, your attorney will present evidence in support of your defense. The trial will then conclude with closing statements, followed by jury deliberations and a verdict.
About the Author - Sacramento DUI Attorney Ryan T. KocotRyan is a Sacramento trial attorney whose practice focuses on DUI defense and Cannabis Law. His office is located in Downtown Sacramento across the street for the Sacramento Superior Court at 901 H St., #125A. If you have any questions, he can be contacted via email at [email protected] or at (916) 572-6445.