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Marin County DUI FAQs

Sausalito DUI FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions About Drunk Driving Arrests in the San Francisco Bay Area

What are the Penalties for DUI in Marin County?

A drunk driving arrest in California triggers two separate proceedings: an administrative per se driver's license suspension from the California DMV and a criminal case that is prosecuted through the Marin County Superior Court. Unless you request an administrative hearing with the DMV within 10 days of your arrest, your driver's license is automatically suspended after 30 days. On the criminal side, you are usually charged with two offenses: driving under the influence and driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above.

Penalties for a criminal conviction vary depending on the totality of the circumstances with the case. In addition to a driver's license suspension or revocation, you may be looking at heavy fines and penalty assessments, DUI school, attendance at AA meetings, community service, and jail time. Penalties are higher for multiple DUI offenders than for first-time DUIs, and they may also be enhanced by aggravated circumstances such as accidents with injuries or fatalities, driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .20 or above, child endangerment, or fleeing the scene of an accident.

What should I tell the police officer if he/she asks if I have been drinking?

By law, you are not required to answer any questions that may incriminate you. Beyond the required information (i.e., license, registration, insurance card), it is generally best not to answer any questions. If the officer asks if you have been drinking, politely decline to answer the question and let them know that you would like to speak to your attorney first.

Does it help my case if I agree to take a preliminary alcohol screening and/or field sobriety test?

In most cases, no. These tests are voluntary (unless you are under 21, in which case you are required to take the preliminary alcohol screening), and they are usually not administered in a fair and objective manner. If the officer pulls you over for DUI, he/she likely already presumes that you are guilty and is looking to gather more evidence to prove the case. Unless you are absolutely certain you are under the legal limit of .08 BAC, it is generally best to decline these tests. Without them, there is a better chance of having your case thrown out for lack of probable cause.

What happens if I refuse to take the chemical test after my DUI arrest?

After you are arrested and taken into custody, you are given a chemical test to determine your level of intoxication. This test is mandatory, and refusal to submit to it can be very costly. If you refuse, you may face an automatic one-year driver's license suspension and other sanctions that may include extended time in DUI school and jail time.

How can I get my DUI charges reduced or dropped?

Each drunk driving case is different, and there are unique circumstances that may present opportunities to minimize or eliminate the penalties you are subjected to. For example, there are numerous potential procedural violations, such as lack of probable cause for the arrest and failure to read you your Miranda rights. There may also be flaws in the tests that were administered that can be used to discredit the results. Other legal defenses may include a BAC reading that was inflated due to medical or other reasons, driving the vehicle due to an emergency, or not driving the vehicle at all.

What are my chances of being offered a plea bargain in Marin County?

Historically, the Marin County District Attorney's office has had a "no plea bargaining" policy for DUI offenders. This meant that even if you were a first-time DUI offender, the DA would not offer to reduce the charges to alcohol-related reckless driving (a.k.a. "wet reckless"), which would carry a far less severe punishment. Due to budget constraints and progressive thinking, this policy was altered in 2016 to allow some first-time offenders to plead guilty to a lesser charge. The chances of successfully negotiating a plea bargain depend heavily on how your case is presented to the DA and the persuasiveness of your argument. For this reason, it is important to be represented by someone with in-depth knowledge of the local procedures and a proven track record of obtaining favorable results within the Marin County court system.

How can I keep my driver's license after a drunk driving arrest?

When you are arrested for DUI, you are given a notice that your driver's license will be suspended by the DMV after 30 days. In the fine print on that notice, it states that YOU HAVE 10 DAYS TO REQUEST AN ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING to challenge your suspension. However, even if you request the hearing, all it will do is delay the inevitable if you do not WIN at the hearing. Be sure to work with an attorney who has extensive experience successfully challenging DMV suspensions and revocations, so you have a better chance to prevail in these proceedings.

In addition to the DMV suspension, you must also deal with the separate criminal proceeding. A guilty plea or conviction triggers a driver's license suspension or revocation, so you need to employ the most effective defense strategy to avoid either of these outcomes.

How do I find the right DUI lawyer to handle my case in Marin County?

There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding DUI attorneys, and the process of selecting the right one can be very confusing. Be very skeptical of success rate claims on various websites. DUI arrests almost always trigger two separate criminal charges, and when you plead guilty to one of them, the other charge is usually dropped. So when someone claims that they get the charges dropped for most clients, this can be very misleading. Another thing to watch out for are online reviews. These reviews are often paid for, and they do not provide a reliable indication of what it would be like to work with that particular attorney.

One of the best places to start when you are seeking a reputable DUI attorney is to ask for a recommendation from bailiffs, clerks, and other attorneys at the local courthouse. These people are in the best position to know who is the best attorney in the area. In addition, find out if the lawyer is Board-Certified by the National College of DUI Defense, as approved by the American Bar Association. There are only a handful of attorneys in California that have this distinction, and this indicates a high level of knowledge and experience in this area of the law.

For more information on how to choose the right DUI attorney for your case in Marin County, go here.

Have Further Questions?

This information is brought to you by Marin County DUI attorney Paul Burglin. Attorney Burglin co-authors California Drunk Driving Law, a two-volume legal guide that includes hundreds of authoritative case interpretations, unique and decision-based DUI defenses, and answers to most DUI questions that may come up. Paul is the only lawyer in Marin County that is Board-Certified by the National College of DUI Defense, and one of only five in the entire state of California. His depth of knowledge and successful track record are major reasons he is frequently sought out by judges, prosecutors, and DMV hearing officers when someone close to them winds up in legal trouble for DUI.

For a discreet and confidential consultation with attorney Paul Burglin, contact our office today at 415-729-7300. We serve clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Marin County, including San Rafael, Corte Madera, Novato, Sausalito, Lagunitas, Belvedere, Bolinas, Dillon Beach, Fairfax, Forest Knolls, Greenbrae, Ignacio, Inverness, Kentfield, Larkspur, Marshall, Mill Valley, Muir Beach, Nicasio Valley, Olema, Point Reyes Station, Ross, San Anselmo, San Geronimo, Stinson Beach, Tiburon, Tomales, and Woodacre.

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