Frequently Asked DUI Questions

Our Santa Barbara DUI Lawyers have the Answers

Drunk driving cases can be complicated. That's why our team of Santa Barbara DUI lawyers is dedicated to helping people like you avoid unnecessary DUI convictions. With more than 50 years of legal experience behind us, our team has the skill and understanding to answer your drunk driving questions. Below, you will find a list of frequently asked DUI concerns.

If you were arrested for driving under the influence and have additional questions, feel free to call our office to see what the legal team at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP can do for your DUI case.

Will I go to jail for my first DUI?
Most DUI convictions involve some period of incarceration, no matter how short. DUI penalties can include probation, fines, mandatory DUI education programs, incarceration, driver's license suspension, and other penalties. Your first DUI offense is punishable by up to six months in a county jail. However, this does not mean that you must spend six months in jail. In fact, you may be able to avoid incarceration – depending on the circumstances surrounding your case. The county that you were arrested in can change the specific penalties imposed by the court for your first drunk driving conviction as well.

Will a DUI affect my credit score?
Generally speaking, a drunk driving conviction will not affect your financial record. DUI is documented on your criminal record, which means that it will show up during a background check – not a credit report. However, a drunk driving conviction can have an indirect impact on your finances. Even a first-time DUI is punishable by $1,000 in fines. If you are unable to pay and go into debt because of the fines associated with your conviction, your credit score could suffer. Additionally, any criminal conviction could impact your ability to obtain a job, further impeding your ability to pay for the DUI.

Can a DUI keep me from getting a new job?
A drunk driving arrest will not affect your ability to obtain a new job. However, a DUI conviction will remain on your criminal record for ten years. During this time, prospective employers can see the conviction on your record, which may affect their decision to hire you. Some jobs, such as daycare employment, teaching, or jobs that involve driving are extremely selective when it comes to hiring convicted drunk drivers. You may also be denied entry into the U.S. military or other government jobs.

Will an underage DUI conviction affect college applications?
An underage DUI conviction will not typically affect your ability to apply for college. However, you may not be eligible to receive certain grants and scholarships after a drunk driving conviction. Some colleges may ask about your DUI and wish to discuss your conviction during the application process, though. Because of this, it is always best to combat any drunk driving allegation – even if it will not affect your college applications. A DUI conviction can still impair your ability to obtain employment and may indirectly affect your ability to attend college by imposing mandatory fines and extensive DUI education programs.

Do DUI charges transfer between states?
The Interstate Driver's License Compact (DLC) allows motor vehicle departments from most states to communicate with each other regarding serious traffic violations. In other words, a California DUI charge will stay on your criminal record if you move to another state. If you were arrested for driving under the influence in California but live in another state, your home state may impose additional legal consequences. For instance, if the DMV suspends your ability to drive in California, you may not be able to drive in others state as well.

Can police arrest me for driving with a BAC that is lower than the legal limit?
Yes. Law enforcement can arrest you for driving under the influence of alcohol, regardless of your BAC. According to California Law, it is unlawful to drive with a BAC that equals .08%. It is also unlawful to drive under the influence of alcohol, even if your BAC is less than. 08%. Police might arrest you for simply being impaired behind the wheel, even if your BAC was .07%. You can also be arrested for driving under the influence of drugs.

The police failed to read my Miranda rights, will my DUI be dismissed?
Not necessarily. Law enforcement is only obligated to read your Miranda rights after you were arrested. The officer is not obligated to read your Miranda rights unless he/she interrogates you. In other words, the officer must ask you detailed questions about the DUI. If police fail to read your rights, your case will not be automatically dismissed. However, the statements that you make in custody could be inadmissible in court if law enforcement fails to read your Miranda rights.

How do officers determine if a driver is impaired?
Law enforcement uses a variety of methods to decide whether or not a driver should be arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. An officer might arrest you because he/she smelled alcohol on your breath and noticed that your words seemed slurred. Law enforcement may decide that you are under the influence if you were unable to complete field sobriety testing, had an open container or alcohol in your car, or exhibited other signs of impairment. Sometimes, drivers admit to consuming one or two alcoholic beverages before driving, which will lead officers to a DUI arrest.

If an officer asks me if I was drinking, what should I say?
You are never obligated to tell law enforcement that you consumed alcohol. According to the law, you do not have to answer any questions that might incriminate you in any way. Although it is not technically illegal to consume an alcoholic beverage and drive, law enforcement may assume that you are under the influence if you admit to having a drink. Instead, tell officers that you will not answer questions before speaking with an attorney.

Should I refuse to take a chemical test?
While law enforcement cannot force you to submit to chemical testing, a refusal can result in stiff legal consequences. If you refuse to take a chemical test, your driver's license could be suspended for one year. Additionally, if you are convicted of DUI after refusing to take a test, you may be subject to additional penalties – including incarceration. Refusal to take a blood test or breath test can also be submitted in court as evidence against you. Prosecutors might claim that you refused the test because you knew that you were impaired.

What is "wet reckless" driving?
The term "wet reckless" refers to a specific offense that involves alcohol, but is not the same as drunk driving. In California, a wet reckless driving conviction implies that you committed a traffic offense that involved alcohol impairment or drugs. You cannot be arrested for wet reckless driving; prosecutors can only offer it as a plea bargain. For instance, prosecutors might offer you a wet reckless charge instead of an actual DUI offense. A wet reckless conviction has disadvantages and advantages. For instance, you may be subject to less probation and fewer fines. However, your insurance company may treat a wet reckless conviction like a DUI and you could still lose your driver's license.

Chemical tests indicated that my BAC was .08%; can I still win my DMV hearing?
Yes, you may be able to avoid a mandatory driver's license suspension, even if chemical testing indicated that your BAC exceeded the legal limit. If you were arrested for DUI because of chemical testing, the DMV may decide that you can keep your license during the DUI process. Chemical testing, field sobriety tests, and other forms of evidence are not always accurate. If law enforcement failed to administer a test correctly, the DMV may set aside your license suspension.

Can DUI Affect Child Custody?

Sometimes. The ramifications of a drunk driving conviction are not limited to incarceration and fines; it can reach far beyond the legal realm and into every facet of your life, even a child custody agreement. Many people think that DUIs are "minor" criminal offense. In reality, California law takes DUI very seriously. If you were convicted of a DUI offense in the past, you may not be eligible to obtain custody of your children in the future. For example, multiple DUI charges within a short amount of time may cause a judge to question your ability to care for children. If you lose your driver's license to a DUI conviction, the court may not grant custody simply because you lack the means to transport your children to and from school, etc. In short, a DUI offense may not always affect your child custody agreement, but multiple charges and extreme circumstances could prevent you from obtaining custody.

How much does a DUI cost in California?
Every DUI case is different, but the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) estimates that the average DUI conviction in California costs approximately $6,641. The specific amount can change depending on the driver's prior offenses and the circumstances surrounding his/her case. For example a DUI causing injury could be subject to enhanced fines and restitution to injured parties. A standard DUI may not be punishable by these additional consequences. Other costs include court costs, impoundment fees, vehicle towing, and increasing insurance payments. The Santa Barbara DUI lawyers from Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP can help you avoid a DUI conviction and these financial penalties.

What is a DUI education program?
After a DUI conviction, the court may impose a mandatory DUI education program or "DUI school." DUI schools are designed to decrease the number of individuals convicted of multiple drunk driving offenses. Generally speaking, you cannot enroll in a DUI school unless you have a mandatory court order to complete the program. First-time DUI offenders may be required to attend a DUI school as long as nine months. However, the court can impose a shorter education program. Repeat offenses can result in 18-month or 30-month programs.

Can I get my DUI expunged in California?
You may be able to obtain an expungement under certain circumstances. DUI expungements are not easy to obtain. Additionally, you can only pursue an expungement if you completed your probation and are not on probation for another offense. You cannot expunge your drunk driving offense if you are currently facing additional legal charges. If you went to federal or state prison for your drunk driving charge, the court will not allow the offense to be expunged. However, if you are able to expunge the DUI, you are not obligated to report the offense on job applications, etc.

When should I contact a DUI attorney?
Contact a DUI lawyer as soon as possible. The DUI process begins when an officer decides to pull you over. If you are arrested for driving under the influence, you could be subject to severe penalties – including jail time and drivers' license suspension. On average, a drunk driving conviction can cost $10,000. Don't leave your future at the mercy of the court. Call Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP and let a topnotch Santa Barbara DUI lawyer work for you. With our team on your side, you can have peace of mind knowing that your case is in good hands.