You have sobered up, you have been released from custody, and it is just now hitting you that you have been arrested for DUI in Long Beach and, although you are out of jail, the whole nightmare is just beginning. There are a million questions racing through your head about what happens next and what is going to happen after that. Take a deep breath and read on, many of your questions will be answered and you will – hopefully – feel a little better.
Catch Your Breath…Make Some Notes
Nothing is going to be resolved the morning after a DUI arrest. Go home, take a shower, have a nice meal, and try to get some sleep. Nobody is likely to see clearly after a DUI arrest until they are clean, fed, and rested. You have time.
After you have had some time to absorb, like most everyone else, you will be running through the events of yesterday over and over and over in your head. While it is all still fresh, write it down; write down every tiny detail that you remember about the stop, the interaction, the arrest itself, the drive to jail, the interactions in jail…EVERYTHING. Jot down everything you remember about what the officer(s) said to you, what you said to them, what they said to each other. Make a note of what you had to drink and when; what time you took the first sip of the first drink and what time you finished the last one. Write down everything you remember about how you were feeling physically before and during the stop; aches, pains, weakness, dizziness, vision problems, anything. You will only be sharing this information with your DUI Lawyer, so don’t leave anything out. A skilled DUI Attorney in Long Beach will know whether and what information can be used to help in your DUI defense as well as what information can hurt it. Most importantly, your Long Beach DUI Lawyer will know what to do with the information and when to do it. It can only help. Just remember to keep it private; don’t show it to or share it with ANYONE who is not a DUI Lawyer that is on your side.
Beware of Jail Mail
A few days after the arrest, your mailbox will overflow with crap! You will get mail from law firms and insurance companies and all kinds of companies that provide the goods and services one might need after a DUI arrest. Toss it all in the trash.
They have your name and address because arrests are public record. The have crawlers scrubbing the internet daily for “sales leads” by exploiting what was probably the worst, most sensitive and embarrassing event of your life. That is just tacky and reprehensible and motivated by one thing: separating your money from you.
The mail may even look official, like it is coming from a state or local government agency. Now that Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs) are part of ALL DUI convictions in California, companies are sending “advertisements” that look a lot like official notices. Don’t do anything with them until you have consulted with a DUI Attorney in Long Beach.
You may also receive mail from law firms claiming that DUI defense costs only $499. It does not. That language is a ploy to get you on the phone so an intake associate (sales representative) can get you to sign up before you read the fine print that limits the number of appearances or hours that $499 gets you. When you get something in the mail from a DUI defense law firm shortly after your arrest, look for the very small print at the bottom that says, “attorney advertisement.” That is how you know.
Lastly, you will feel a sense of urgency to get something started and many law firms and ancillary businesses will take advantage of that post-arrest-panic, and actually feed into your urgent desire to pay somebody to start doing something right now. STOP! In most DUI cases, where you have been released on your own recognizance or your bail was low, you have time to take a breath and think it through. The only issue that is time sensitive in that moment is contacting the DMV and for that you have ten calendar days (we will discuss that in a minute), so don’t feel pressured and don’t let anyone pressure you into hiring them immediately. If your case is more serious than just a simple DUI; if someone was injured or killed, then there may be some critical issues that need more immediate attention and you will know if that is the case.
Find the Right DUI Lawyer in Long Beach
Long Beach, California, is a great city with lots of everything; dining, shopping, entertainment, music, art, recreation…and lawyers. There are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of DUI Lawyers who practice in Long Beach DUI Court and it may take a minute to find just the right one for you.
Finding the right Long Beach DUI Attorney starts with the search. If a lawyer or law firm sent you jail mail, consider the source and start your own search. Of course, Google is where most searches begin and, for a DUI Lawyer, it’s as good a place as any. When you search for “DUI Lawyer Long Beach” or some combination thereof, you will see pages and pages of lawyers and law firms. It is widely understood that the lawyers on the first page have worked hard to get there, but that is not the only criterion for you to consider. Nice and informative websites are plenty good but dig deeper. When you have found a few that you think you like and you have looked at their website, cross-reference them on review sites like Yelp. What do prior clients have to say?
Once you have narrowed your search to a few you really like, call them. How easy is it to get the lawyer on the phone? If you can’t get to him or her quickly and directly, that may be a red flag. Keep in mind, though, that most DUI Lawyers spend their mornings in court, so the hours of 8:30AM - noon may be a tougher time to get to them. If you get a voicemail or receptionist in the morning, don’t give up. Also, a good DUI Lawyer spends a lot of time on the phone and may not be able to answer immediately every time. If you get a voicemail or receptionist, don’t hang up. Leave a message and ask that the attorney [not a sales associate] contacts you directly as soon as he or she is available.
If you call and the Lawyer answers the phone personally, that is a good sign. That means that he or she is accessible. You are going to want that.
When you do get the DUI Attorney on the phone, there are a few things for which to look. One: Does the lawyer try to hurry you off the phone and into their office or will he or she take the time to really talk about your case when you call seeking information? Two: Does the lawyer ask questions and try to get a thorough picture? Three: Does the lawyer try to scare you into hiring them right away? A DUI Lawyer who rushes you or doesn’t ask questions or tries to scare you is probably not going to be a good fit. How he or she treats you during that first contact will tell you almost everything you need to know about how he or she will treat you throughout the case.
Sometimes a lawyer may answer the phone, but then say he or she needs to call you back when they have more time to talk. That is a good sign. That means they are genuinely interested in taking the time necessary to get to know your case. That is what you want.
How does the DUI Lawyer make you FEEL? Does he or she inspire confidence and bring comfort; when you spoke the first time, did they relieve some of the anxiety or did they leave you feeling small and embarrassed? In addition to handling the actual legal issues, a DUI Lawyer is also a Counselor and should behave that way. A good DUI Lawyer knows how stressed and scared and anxious you are and should try to relieve some of that stress if only with a soothing and calming, confident and supportive attitude.
How does the lawyer treat you? Does it seem like his or her time is more valuable than yours? For whatever reason, lawyers have been led to believe that their time is more important than that of anyone else. It is not. A lawyer who treats you like your time is less valuable does not have respect for you or what is important to you…like your case. If you are not worth the lawyer’s time, then the lawyer is not worth your money. You want a DUI Lawyer who will spend all the time YOU need to be comfortable and understand what is happening.
It sucks, but DUI defense is not free. A skilled DUI Lawyer is going to cost some money and the legal representation should be worth what you pay. In Long Beach, one can expect to spend anywhere from $2,500 to over $5,000 for a first-time misdemeanor DUI. A felony will cost more. For most first-time misdemeanor DUI cases, $3,500 is about the average fee.
Most reputable DUI Lawyers in Long Beach do not charge by the hour. A flat-fee is customary in DUI defense and should cover everything the lawyer does. The flat-fee should include unlimited work hours, unlimited trips to court, the DMV hearing, unlimited motions, letters, and research for your case. The flat-fee should also include misdemeanor trial or felony preliminary hearing. It is normal for a lawyer to charge a separate fee for felony trial (because most cases don’t go to trial), but the misdemeanor trial should be included in the flat fee. If a DUI Lawyer charges extra for misdemeanor trial, that is a red flag.
Costs and expenses are not normally included in flat-fee agreements. For example, if you need an expert to do analysis or testify, that will cost separately. If you need an officer to testify at the DMV hearing or if you need video for the DMV hearing, that is a separate expense. If you need special exhibits made for trial, those are also separate expenses and not included in the attorney’s fee. However, things like parking and printing and mileage should all be included in the attorney’s fee.
Get it in Writing
The last thing you need to know about hiring a DUI Lawyer in Long beach is to make sure the agreement is in writing. While most lawyers – all reputable lawyers – will never take a DUI case without a signed agreement with the client, there are some who may try to get you to hire them without one. DON’T! The California State Bar requires that there be a written agreement. If the lawyer doesn’t have one, something is wrong.
The written agreement should include all of the terms of the representation; the parties, the cost, the included services, the excluded services, the duties, etc. The agreement should be dated and signed by the attorney and the client and the client should receive a copy at the time of signing. The written, signed agreement is the best way for everyone involved to be protected should the relationship become strained or if any confusion about the terms develops.
The DUI (Admin Per Se) DMV Hearing
The most common first step in a Long Beach DUI case is to secure the DMV hearing within ten calendar days of the arrest. That includes weekends and most holidays. Before you were released from jail, they took your California Driver License and gave you a pink piece of paper that says, “temporary license.” What they probably “forgot” to tell you was that you have only ten calendar days to contact the appropriate DMV Driver Safety Office (not just any branch) and 1) request a hearing, 2) request copies of the reports, and 3) request that the temporary license be extended until after the hearing. Your Long Beach DUI Lawyer should handle all of that for you.
At the DUI (Admin Per Se) DMV Hearing, the “hearing officer” is both prosecutor and judge and only cares about three things: 1) were you lawfully stopped (or was the initial contact by police lawful), 2) were you lawfully arrested, and 3) did you have a chemical BAC of 0.08% or higher at the time of testing or did you refuse a chemical BAC test. To prove their case, the DMV will usually rely only on the officer’s reports and they tend to believe everything the officer says or writes…even if it is completely stupid and impossible.
The DMV usually does not call the officer to testify, however when they do, the DUI Lawyer has a great free opportunity to cross examine the officer and lock him or her into statements that can be used to assist the defense later in criminal court. If the DMV does not call the officer to testify, the defense can subpoena the officer to come in and testify, but law enforcement agencies charge money for that. The client can expect to pay upwards of $200 per hour of officer testimony. Most DUI (Admin Per Se) DMV Hearings are very short and conducted by telephone. The defendant/respondent does not usually need to be present because it is very rare for the driver to testify.
When the hearing is concluded, the hearing officer has 10 days to render a decision. If they find the driver meets all the elements, they will order the license suspended – and they almost always do. As of this writing, the length of suspension for a first-time DUI depends on whether the driver installs an ignition interlock device (IID). If they do install an IID right away, they can continue to drive with the device for six months at which time their driving privilege is fully restored (unless there is a conviction in criminal court). If they do not install an IID, they will be prohibited from driving at all for 30 days after which they can request a restricted license that allows them to drive to and from work, in furtherance of work, and to and from DUI classes only for a period of 11 months.
Criminal Court: The DUI Arraignment
When you were released from jail, you [should have] received a notice telling you when to be in court and where for the first court appearance. That first appearance is called the arraignment and only one of two things happens: your DUI Lawyer will either enter a “not guilty” plea or ask for a continuance so he or she can investigate whether the case can be dropped/managed before entering a plea. That is very rare, but in some instances, it is worth considering. Sometimes continuing the arraignment is done to delay the process for one reason or another.
At the arraignment, the prosecuting agency will provide the first round of reports. Generally, that first round includes the arrest report, a rap sheet, and maybe a copy of your driving record. Your Long Beach DUI Lawyer will have to request the other information (called discovery) that will be used to assess and defend your case. He or she will ask for any audio or video of the stop and arrest, other reports generated about the case, maintenance logs and other supplemental documentation related to the equipment used to test your BAC, the names of all witnesses, and anything else that may be available. At the arraignment, if your DUI Lawyer has entered the “not guilty” plea, he or she will set another court date called a pre-trial about a month or so down the road. If you have hired a DUI Lawyer, the law allows that person to appear so that you do not need to be personally present at the first appearance – unless he or she tells you otherwise.
It is not uncommon for the arraignment date to come and go without charges being filed. Don’t get too excited. For misdemeanors, the prosecutor has up to one year from the date of arrest to file charges. They have limited personnel resources, so if they have higher-priority cases to file, your misdemeanor may end up in a box of cases to be filed later. I have seen cases filed on the 363rd day after the arrest. If your DUI case is not filed in time for the first scheduled arraignment date, your DUI Lawyer will know what to do.
Criminal Court: Almost Nothing Happens Before the DUI Arraignment
Perhaps the worst part of the whole process is the uncertainty. Not knowing what is going to happen (or when) causes anxiety for most people. For some, after you have hired a DUI Lawyer, it becomes frustrating when there have been no updates – sometimes for weeks – before the arraignment.
It is important to understand that, except for the DUI (Admin Per Se) DMV Hearing, nothing procedurally really happens with the case. Your DUI Lawyer is likely working on it, but there is nothing for you to do. The DMV hearing process may provide some of the reports, but there is usually more to come in the criminal court case. Be patient. Long stretches of silence are normal. Think of fighting a DUI case in Long Beach like flying across country; there is some excitement for passengers when you take off and some excitement when you land, but the middle is mostly boring for everyone except the pilots who are controlling the aircraft behind closed doors – that basically describes the life of a DUI case. However, the right DUI Lawyer (unlike the airline pilot) will always welcome your calls and inquiries about the status of the case, even when there is nothing to report.
Criminal Court: The DUI Pre-trial Stage
In misdemeanor DUI cases, the court appearances after the arraignment and before an actual trial are called “pre-trials” or “pre-trial conferences.” They are not as fancy as they sound. This is when your DUI Lawyer and the prosecutor come together after having looked at the evidence and other factors of your case and discuss what to do next. Sometimes the DUI Lawyer needs additional information. Sometimes the prosecutor needs additional time to gather the requested discovery (reports and other items of evidence). Sometimes both sides want to talk about how best to resolve the case – whether to have a trial or reach some kind of plea agreement.
Pre-trials take a few minutes between the lawyers and about one minute with the Judge and are usually scheduled about a month apart. An average DUI case in Long Beach may have as many as 4 or more before a case is settled or taken to trial.
Don’t be frightened by the term “pre-trial.” Pre-trials are just a fact of any criminal case and they don’t mean that a case will actually go to trial. It’s just the process. If something substantive or important happens during a pre-trial, your DUI Lawyer will discuss it with you. If nothing significant happens and only another date is set, he or she may not alert you right away. If your DUI Lawyer does not call or text or email to tell you that nothing happened at the pre-trial, don’t despair, but also don’t be shy about reaching out and inquiring if you want. A good Long Beach DUI Lawyer will always welcome your call.
Criminal Court: The DUI Plea Bargain
After your Long Beach DUI Attorney has thoroughly and exhaustively reviewed everything about your case and determined that a trial is not in your best interest, he or she may negotiate and recommend a settlement called a “plea bargain.” A plea bargain is exactly what it sounds like; it is a deal between your DUI Lawyer and the prosecutor to settle the case without a trial.
For most first-time DUI cases in Long Beach, the settlement involves NO JAIL! There will likely be classes and fines and probation. There may be community service or labor if your BAC was extremely high or there was property damage. Whatever the terms, your DUI Lawyer will make sure that they are the bare minimum available to you in your case. Your Long Beach DUI Attorney will only recommend a settlement AFTER having looked at every possible other way out for you.
You may or may not need to be present to accept an offer and settle the case. Either way, there will be paperwork to go over with your DUI Lawyer and sign. If you are not present, your signature will need to be notarized. If you are present in court, it does not. The paperwork is an advisement of the rights you will be surrendering to enter into the plea. They are standard. The form also contains other very important advisements, such as the fact that, if you are not a citizen, you may suffer immigration consequences and if you are involved in another DUI where someone dies, you may be charged with murder. Before you sign it (or anything), make sure all of your questions about it have been answered by your DUI Lawyer.
Criminal Court: DUI Trial
Some DUI cases involve significant disputed facts. Maybe you were not the driver. Maybe you were not driving at the time the police contacted you. Maybe your BAC was lower than a 0.08% at the time of driving. In cases of a Marijuana or other drug DUI, maybe there is insufficient evidence of impairment. These and countless other issues may make going to trial a viable and worthwhile option. Your DUI Lawyer will guide you. A full discussion of what happens in a DUI trial is too lengthy to go into here.
If you decide to take your Long Beach DUI to trial, there are a few things to expect. First, the entire trial could take anywhere from 2 to 5 days. Second, you will need to be present for the whole thing. There are some exceptions, but not worth going into here. Third, if you are convicted of DUI by a jury, the Judge will decide the sentence (punishment) with input from both the prosecutor and your DUI Lawyer. In many cases, the punishment is worse than what it would have been if you had settled the case. However, it has happened that the sentence after a trial verdict is less severe than the original settlement proposal. If the jury finds you “not guilty,” the case is dismissed, the arrest record can be sealed, and the DMV suspension can be overturned.
Any DUI case is frightening and frustrating. However, with the help of the right skilled DUI Lawyer in Long Beach, you will get through it. If you have additional questions about the process, please call us today at 562-206-2012. If you or a loved one has been arrested on suspicion of DUI in Long Beach or anywhere in Southern California, call for a FREE and 100% confidential consultation. If you decide that we can help, we will be honored. If you decide that we are not a good fit, it will have been our pleasure to speak with you and – hopefully – make you feel a little better.