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Sonoma DUI FAQs

Santa Rosa DUI FAQs

Answers to Common Questions About Drunk Driving Arrests in Sonoma, California

What is the typical sentence for a DUI conviction in Sonoma County?

This depends on the circumstances in your case. If you are a first-time offender with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of under .15, and there are no other aggravated circumstances (such as child endangerment, DUI with bodily injuries or fatalities, or refusal to take the mandatory chemical test), you can expect:

  • Two days of jail time (which can be converted into two days on the Sonoma County Sheriff's work program);
  • $1,000 in fines plus penalty assessments;
  • Driver's license suspension for at least four months with the possibility of obtaining a restricted driving permit (RDP) after 30 days;
  • Three years of probation;
  • Three months of DUI school;
  • Community service;
  • Attendance at AA meetings; and
  • The possible requirement to install an ignition interlock device.

Second and multiple DUI convictions within a 10-year period and DUIs with aggravated circumstances result in more severe penalties. This may include fines and penalty assessments as high as $10,000, between several months and several years in jail, loss of your driving privileges for up to four years, and 30 months in DUI school.

What are the best ways to avoid a DUI conviction?

If there are weaknesses in the case against you, it may be possible to negotiate a reduction to a lesser charge (such as a "wet reckless") or have the charges dismissed. An experienced DUI lawyer will thoroughly review your case and identify the most effective defense strategy to minimize the negative consequences as much as possible. Some potential legal defenses may include:

  • Lack of probable cause for the arrest;
  • Failure to read your Miranda rights;
  • Misleading statements by the police officer;
  • Defendant driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) under the legal limit of .08;
  • Defendant showed no signs of impairment;
  • Defendant not driving the vehicle; or
  • Defendant driving the vehicle because of a medical emergency.

Is there a way to keep my driver's license?

After your DUI arrest, you are given a notice that your California driving privileges will be suspended by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) after 30 days. Usually, the only way to prevent the suspension from taking effect is to request a DMV administrative hearing to challenge it. You have just 10 days from the date on the notice to ask for a DMV hearing.

Requesting a DMV hearing allows you to keep your driver's license while the hearing is pending. This gives you time to potentially resolve your criminal case favorably and keep the suspension from going into effect. At your hearing, you must be prepared to convince the hearing officer that there were insufficient legal grounds to arrest or detain you for DUI.

Should I tell my employer about my Sonoma DUI arrest?

Many individuals wonder how a DUI arrest will impact their employment and if they should tell their boss. When the arrest first occurs, it is usually best not to say anything to your employer, unless you are required by law or contract to do so. Keep in mind that an arrest for drunk driving is not the same as a conviction. Ultimately, you may be able to have the charges reduced or dismissed, or you may be found "not guilty" at trial. If you inform your employer without knowing the final outcome of your case, it may cause confusion and unnecessarily jeopardize your job.

I am from out of state. Do I have to come back to California and appear personally in Santa Rosa for hearings?

For tourists visiting wine country and other out-of-state residents arrested for DUI in Sonoma County, the process can be scary and confusing. At this point, it is best to retain skilled legal counsel as soon as possible. A DUI attorney who practices regularly in Santa Rosa can usually appear on your behalf for all court appearances and DMV administrative hearings. Having a seasoned advocate in your corner gives you a much better chance to secure a favorable outcome in your case.

How do I find a good lawyer to help me?

Stay away from slick advertisements in your mailbox and attorneys who make misleading claims to make themselves appear more accomplished than they truly are. Choose a lawyer who has at least 10 years of experience practicing in the Sonoma County Superior Court and has a successful track record taking cases to trial. In addition, find a lawyer who is Board-Certified by the National College of DUI Defense (NCDD), as approved by the American Bar Association. There are only five lawyers in all of California who have Board-Certification, and it indicates a high level of technical skill, knowledge, and experience defending clients facing drunk driving charges.

Have More Questions?

This information is provided by DUI defense attorney Paul Burglin. For over 30 years, attorney Burglin has successfully defended clients charged with drunk driving in Sonoma County. Paul Burglin is not only Board-Certified by the NCDD, he is also a Regent for the College and Editor-in-Chief of its National Journal. He also co-authors California Drunk Driving Law, a two-volume legal guide commonly referenced by other lawyers in the state when they are preparing a DUI defense.

If you have further questions about your DUI arrest in Sonoma County, contact attorney Paul Burglin at 707-320-4007 for a discreet and confidential consultation. He serves clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding northern California communities.

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