Getting arrested for a DUI can be a frightening ordeal. DUI punishments are strict and can be life-changing. Getting arrested for DUI in Orange County is even more challenging because a first-time DUI in Orange County generally carries more severe punishment than in other parts of California. Orange County is known as one of the strictest, toughest on crime counties in the State. That is why it is especially critical to find the best DUI attorney when facing a first-time DUI in Orange County.

First DUI in Orange County

What to Expect:

A first-time DUI is generally a misdemeanor charge, meaning that it is a criminal charge that can subject you to jail time (maximum of 6 months in jail). The law states that a person is guilty of DUI if they operate any motor vehicle (cars, motorcycles, anything vehicle with a motor) and drives that car any distance (even driving an inch is considered driving for DUI purposes), and does so while above a .08% BAC or does so while legally “impaired” even without a .08% BAC. As Orange County DUI defense attorneys, we specialize in fighting all types of DUI (including biking under the influence, boating under the influence, etc).

With a first offense DUI in Orange County, you should anticipate having two cases against you – the first is a DMV case and the second is the court case, or criminal case. These two separate cases are completely independent and even if the court dismisses or reduces the charge, the DMV will still suspend your license in most cases. And conversely, the DMV can drop your case yet the court will still press charges against you. Upon being arrested for a first DUI in Orange County, you can anticipate a court case that typically starts about three months after the arrest, and lasts about six months until its settlement.

The DMV process starts immediately after the arrest since it is time-sensitive and can result in a suspension of four months, all the way up to one full year. During the court case, there will be many court hearings where we appear in court on your behalf. You generally do not need to attend these court hearings. In court, we seek all evidence and discovery to challenge the case. This process can take months as the prosecution is in no hurry to go collect evidence for you that may help your case.

For the court case, the first hearing is known as the “arraignment” where the court asks “how do you plead.” At this stage we typically enter a “not guilty” plea so that we can challenge the case to seek the best possible outcome. If we plead guilty on the first hearing date, we wouldn’t have access to all of the necessary evidence that can make the difference between winning and losing the DUI case. After we enter a not guilty plea, we request all available evidence and discovery, including calibration logs for the breath machine, audio/video recordings, surveillance video, etc. We then set a follow-up court hearing about six to eight weeks later, at a date of our choosing.

The second court hearing for any Orange County DUI is generally what’s known as a “pretrial conference.” A pretrial conference is a chance for us to meet and confer with the judge and district attorney to discuss issues with the case. We can address any outstanding evidence, file motions to retest the blood or a motion to suppress evidence, for example. The case generally does not resolve at the second court hearing and we usually set a follow-up date about a month or two after this hearing is finished.

The following hearings allow us an opportunity to challenge all aspects of the case and begin negotiations with the judge and prosecutor. We can also present any evidence that is favorable to your case to seek a better outcome.

The final court hearing usually consists of a plea or dismissal, or a jury trial. Most cases do not go to jury trial, however. For cases that need to be challenged, we have incredible experience in DUI jury trials and we typically win our jury trials. The reason for this is that we do not recommend going through a jury trial unless there is a strong case for us. If the case is very bad for our client and the risks of a trial greatly outweigh the possible benefits, we usually avoid a jury trial due to the risk of significant jail time upon a conviction.

The DMV License Suspension Hearing

When you are arrested for DUI, the police officers typically confiscate your CA driver’s license and issue you a pink temporary “admin per se” license. This license is only valid for thirty days of driving and then it translates into an automatic suspension unless other steps are taken. When you retain our firm for your Orange County DUI, we immediately contact the DMV to demand a hearing to challenge the case. This must be done within 10 days (calendar days, not business days) of the arrest, otherwise the suspension will automatically begin.

When we are retained for an Orange County DUI, the first thing we do is demand a hearing from the Orange County driver safety division to challenge the case. We typically set the DMV hearing many months out so that you have a long period to keep driving with a full license and also so that we have plenty of time to examine the evidence and possible defenses for the case. We also have the DMV send us police reports, audio/video and other available evidence to use in the hearing. We typically handle the DMV hearings on behalf of our clients meaning you do not need to be present for the hearing (unless it makes strategic sense to have you testify in which case we will prepare you in advance). At the hearing we challenge every aspect of the case including the reason for the vehicle stop, the alcohol level, and whether the police properly handled the DUI investigation in accordance with the law.

The DMV suspends in many cases and when that occurs, we handhold each client through the process of getting a license back and getting back on the road as soon as possible.

The important point to note about the DMV case is that it is extremely time-sensitive and must be dealt with immediately after the arrest. When you contact our firm for help, we take care of the entire process for you.

First Offense DUI Penalties

In any first offense DUI in Orange County, assuming it is a misdemeanor, you face the following penalties:

  • Up to six months in jail (unlikely in most cases)
  • Community labor and/or community service (also known as CalTrans)
  • Massive fines
  • DUI classes ranging in length from three, six, to nine months (known as AB 541, AB 762, AB 1353).
  • Probation (typically three years)
  • License suspension
  • Ignition interlock device
  • MADD meeting
  • Visiting the Hospital and Morgue (HAM)
  • AA meetings

First Offense DUI Probation

Probation on a first-time DUI in Orange County is unlike traditional probation. Traditional probation is known as formal probation and requires a probation officer and very strict monitoring. Misdemeanor DUI probation is different – it is not formal probation. Rather, it is “informal” probation. Informal probation means that there is no direct supervision by a probation officer, there is no reporting requirement, no travel restrictions, no random drug and/or alcohol testing, no search and seizure requirements, etc.

Informal probation requires:

  • Do not drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in your blood (even .01% BAC is unlawful)
  • You must agree to take a breath test when asked to do so by any peace officer.
  • You must obey all laws

Violating probation, from a new arrest for example, creates a probation violation. The court then issues a bench warrant and sets a court date for you to appear. At the hearing, the judge can impose additional punishment ranging from AA meetings all the way up to the maximum jail term of six months.

Factors That Can Impact First Time DUI Penalties

A basic DUI in Orange County follows a similar pattern. There is some driving that is in violation of a vehicle code (speeding for example), the police pull over your vehicle, the police begin a DUI investigation.

A DUI investigation consists of:

  • Standardized field sobriety tests (one-leg stand, 30-second count, “pen test” or the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, and also blowing into a portable breathalyzer known as the PAS device (Preliminary Alcohol Screening device).
  • Being asked a series of questions to determine where you are coming from, where you are going, any medical conditions, and asking if you’ve ingested any alcohol and or drugs.
  • Being placed under arrest for suspicion of DUI and being taken to the local police station.
  • Being asked to submit to a “chemical test” which includes either a breath test or a blood test.
  • Being booked on the DUI, giving a mugshot and being fingerprinted.
  • Being released OR (own recognizance – you are released without having to pay bail on a written promise to appear in court) OR the police require bail for your release. If bail is required, the bail amount must be paid otherwise you will remain in custody until the case is resolved which can take months. Most first-time DUIs in Orange County do not require bail so you are let out within about 12-17 hours after the arrest.
  • Being given a notice to appear in court.

There are many factors that can make an Orange County DUI more difficult. These “aggravating factors” include:

  • A car accident (even if there is no property damage or injury)
  • A high alcohol level (anything above .15% BAC)
  • Refusing to take the breath or blood test when given the option.
  • Prior DUI arrests and convictions
  • Having a minor age 14 and under in the car with you
  • Going over 20 MPH over the speed limit on a street or 30 MPH over the speed limit on a highway.
  • Underage DUI – getting a DUI under the age of 21
  • Testing positive for other drugs in your blood
  • Being uncooperative with the police (refusing to get in the police car, for example).

How to Fight Your 1st DUI in Orange County

Getting arrested for a DUI in Orange County subjects you to heavy punishment in a court that is traditionally very strict. That is why it is critical to fight the case to get the best outcome possible. Our first step in fighting an Orange County DUI is to challenge the DMV hearing, demand reports and a “stay of suspension” so you can continue driving while the case is pending. We challenge the DMV during the hearing in an effort to have the DMV case “set aside.” We challenge each piece of evidence and make a convincing case as to why it is not a valid DUI in many cases.

In court, our approach is similar in that we seek all available evidence so we have the ability to point out flaws in the case. Aside from attacking the evidence, we demonstrate good “character” and present reasons for the prosecutor and judge to offer more leniency in your case. Fighting a DUI in Orange County requires many court hearings to challenge vital pieces of evidence. We appear in court for you so in most cases you never have to miss work to appear in court. Orange County prosecutors can be very hesitant to reduce charges so some of our cases can take more than a year, since we don’t stop until we’ve reached the very best possible resolution.

Can a First Offense DUI Be Dismissed?

A first offense DUI in Orange County can be dismissed if we find a weakness in the evidence. In each case we examine the reason for the vehicle stop. If the police do not have an adequate reason to pull you over, we conduct a suppression hearing to challenge the reason for the stop. This is also known as a 1538 hearing. Upon winning such hearings, the case is dismissed instantly.

When you hire our firm for your Orange County DUI, we scour the case for every possible defense in order to deliver the outcome you need. If you have been arrested for DUI in Orange County, call us to discuss your case and defense, free of charge.

First Offense DUI FAQs

What happens to first-time DUI offenders?
A DMV suspension is common, as are DUI classes. The court process takes many months to resolve and there are several court hearings during this time to allow us to challenge various aspects of your case. We handle the entire process for until the case is complete.

How much does a first offense DUI cost?
There is a range of prices for first-time DUIs in Orange County, depending on the complexity of the case. In very basic cases without any aggravating factors, attorneys typically charge anywhere from $2500-10,000 depending on the attorney’s expertise. You do not need to pay top dollar (10K) to get a great outcome in your case. We offer very reasonable pricing and flexible payment plans so we can help you regardless of your financial situation.

Will a first-time DUI ruin my life?
No. DUIs are frightening but when handled properly, they can be minimized or dismissed so that the punishment is extremely minimal or none at all. Even in difficult DUI cases in Orange County that result in a DUI conviction, we can have the charge removed later through the expungement process. We can do this at the 3-year mark once probation is finished, or earlier depending on your individual circumstances and needs.

What can a DUI be reduced to?
A DUI can be reduced to many different things including a wet reckless, dry reckless, exhibition of speed, disturbing the peace, etc. It’s important to note that OC prosecutors try to avoid reducing charges at all costs so aggressively fighting these cases is a must.

How many hours of community service will you need to do if convicted of a DUI (first offense)?
In most cases we can prevent you from having any community service at all. If you are required to do community service, typically the requirement ranges from 10 hours to 100 hours, depending on the severity of the case.

What is the possible maximum jail time for a first offense DUI?
The maximum jail time on a first-time DUI in Orange County is six months in jail. We have never had a client receive the maximum, or even half of the maximum, in a DUI case in Orange County. We can prevent jail in 99% of first-time DUIs in Orange County.

DUIs are overwhelming and navigating a brutal justice system in Orange County requires expertise, experience and a relentless drive. Call us now for a free consultation to discuss how to win your Orange County DUI case.