Attorney at Law

DUI Common Questions



1. I got a ticket for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs (DUI) and I had been drinking and/or using marijuana or other drugs. Should I just plead guilty and pay a fine?


No. You do not have the option of simply paying a fine. Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is more complex than any other traffic ticket. DUI charges are not simply infractions where nothing more than a fine can be imposed. You are charged with either misdemeanor DUI or felony DUI, which means that jail (misdemeanor) or prison (felony) can be imposed. You must appear before a Judge in a California Superior Court. There will likely be several court appearances, and you are entitled to a jury trial.


It would be unwise to plead guilty without consulting an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, you should plead NOT guilty at your first court appearance and ask the judge to appoint the public defender for you.


2. I was arrested for DUI while I was on vacation or traveling on business. Can I transfer my case to the county or state where I live?


No. Your case must be heard in the court serving the county where you were driving when you received the DUI. However, depending on the circumstances of your case, your attorney can usually make all or most of the court appearances for you, including the first court appearance, as long as you are not charged with any felonies. If you cannot afford an attorney, you must be in court on the first court date. You can request the Court to appoint the public defender to represent you at that time. If you do not appear in court, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.


3. I was convicted of DUI a few years ago. How will that affect me if I get another DUI? What if my old DUI was in another state?


Any DUI that occurred within 10 years of your current arrest counts as a prior DUI in the State of California. Many out-of-state prior convictions count as priors. But it depends on each state's laws. If you previously received a reduced charge of Reckless Driving With Alcohol (commonly referred to as a “wet reckless”) within 10 years, that conviction will count against you exactly the same as a prior DUI. Having a prior conviction within 10 years of a new DUI will dramatically increase your potential sentence.


4. I was in an accident and now I’m being charged with DUI. I was taken to the hospital, but I did not consent to the blood test. Can the test results still be used against me?


Generally, yes, unless the method of taking the sample is so shocking that a court decides to exclude it. Also there may be issues depending on the qualifications of the person administering the test, whether there is proof that you drove, whether there was drinking after the accident, and whether police obtained a warrant to obtain your blood.


5. Can I be arrested for DUI if the only drugs I used were prescription drugs?


Yes. If you appear to be under the influence of any substance, you can be arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). This is true even if the drug is legally prescribed.


6. Am I required to take field sobriety tests if I am stopped by a police officer for DUI?


You are, if you are on probation for a DUI or are under 21 years old, otherwise, no. You are not required to participate in field sobriety tests where a police officer asks you to perform various tasks, such as walking a straight line or reciting the ABC’s. These tests are used to help the officer determine whether there is a basis for a DUI arrest. If you do not participate in the field sobriety testing, then the officer will have to determine by other means whether or not he or she has sufficient evidence to arrest you for DUI. Also, any mistake on your part during the field sobriety test will be recorded by the officer in his report and will be used against you later in court. It is almost never to your advantage to take field sobriety tests.


NOTE: If you refuse to submit to a chemical test of your blood, breath or urine when an officer suspects you of DUI, then your drivers license can be suspended for a year or more. Chemical tests, such as the breath test, can be given at the scene of the stop, at the police station, at the jail or at a medical facility. Because of the repercussions involving loss of your driving privilege it is almost always best to give the requested sample for testing.


7. If I plead guilty to a misdemeanor DUI what would be my sentence?


The Superior Court Judge decides what sentence is appropriate in any criminal case, but because of the number of misdemeanor DUI cases that go through the system many counties have standard sentencing guidelines. These guidelines are followed in most cases, but can be changed if there is something unusual about a particular case. In Humboldt County, for example, if you plead guilty to a misdemeanor DUI in 2013 and there was no high blood alcohol claim, and no claim that you refused to take a chemical test, the standard sentence would be: Imposition of the maximum sentence suspended, with three years of informal probation. The terms of probation would include:

  • Fines and assessments of approximately $2,500
  • Required attendance and completion of a First Offender DUI Program approved by DMV
  • No driving with any amount of alcohol in your system
  • A requirement that you submit to chemical testing of your blood or breath whenever requested by a law enforcement officer
  • A prohibition from driving without a valid license and insurance
  • You must obey all laws (have no further violations of the law)


8. What happens if I violate a term of my DUI probation?


Before you can be sentenced for violating probation, the Court must find that you in fact violated your probation. You are entitled to a hearing to determine whether you, in fact, violated probation, and you are entitled to an attorney to represent you at the hearing. If you cannot afford to have your own attorney, the court would appoint the public defender to represent you. You should not admit violating probation unless and until you have talked to an attorney.


The Courts generally have a guideline sentence for violating probation which varies from county to county. Also, as with any sentencing, the court has the ability to deviate from the guideline sentence at its discretion. In Humboldt County the guideline sentence for a first violation of misdemeanor DUI probation is 30 days in the county jail.


9. If I am sentenced to serve time in the county jail, do I have to actually serve that in jail?


Not always. Some counties have alternatives to jail that may allow you to avoid serving your time in jail. These alternatives can be discussed with your attorney before sentencing. Currently (2013) in Humboldt County, for example, a sentence of 180 days or less in the county jail can be “served” by enrolling in the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program (SWAP). SWAP allows you to do your jail sentence by working for the community, generally under the supervision of the sheriff. You must qualify for the program and must be able to do the physical labor involved. Other programs may also be available depending on your individual circumstances and the county where the offense occurred.


10. Why should I consider retaining Neal Sanders, Attorney at Law, to represent me on my DUI?


Neal Sanders has represented hundreds of people accused of DUI and has a strong history of winning DUI cases. Mr. Sanders is knowledgeable of not only common DUI defenses, but also unusual and uncommonly used, but often successful, defenses as well. Mr. Sanders has resolved hundreds of DUI cases in Humboldt, Del Norte, and Trinity Counties.


Neal Sanders and his staff are dedicated to helping you understand the legal process each step of the way. You will have a good idea of what Neal Sanders expects to be able to do for you and what is likely to happen in your case after your very first consult with him.


Neal Sanders will guide and advise you about the important decisions in your case, but will not make these decisions for you. Mr. Sanders will be working for you. Mr. Sanders is known as a tough negotiator and will make every effort to negotiate a settlement of your case according to your wishes.


Neal Sanders offers competitive rates, and an initial consult with Mr. Sanders is available for a nominal fee. Once you retain Mr. Sanders he can make all or most of your court appearances for you at no additional cost.

Neal I. Sanders
Attorney at Law
320 I Street
Eureka, California 95501

PHONE: 707-442-4200
FAX: 707-442-1650

Business Hours:

Mon-Thursday 8AM-5PM
Friday 8AM-noon

Closed daily from noon-1PM

Closed weekends and court holidays 
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