Interviewer: What would you say are some of the mistakes that a client might make after they’ve been arrested or during their arrest that can potentially hurt their case?
Matthew Murillo: One is telling the officer everything they want to know. One of the main questions I get after somebody’s been arrested is that they were never read their Miranda Rights and they ask if that can cause the case to be dismissed. The answer to that is no, it won’t cause the case to be dismissed, alone. My problem with that, though, is that if you know your rights, then exercise them. You don’t need them to be read to you before you can exercise Miranda Rights, but most people assume that the officer is going to be nice to them if they’re truthful and honest, the officer will let them off, when that’s not the case. They’re basically building a case against you while you’re giving them all the information that they need to do so.
Making Statements to the Police in the Absence of an Attorney Can Have Adverse Consequences on a DUI Case
The second part of that is, if they are going to be honest, people generally seem like they hold back a little bit from the officer. Maybe they’re not completely honest and maybe they don’t remember as far as how many drinks they consumed or when they consumed those drinks, but 99% of the time, people tell the officer they had two (2) drinks. That’s all. Sometimes, they’ll say that they consumed drinks three hours before the contact believing that it will help them when really that consumption occurred 20 minutes before the arrest. Things like that make it more difficult to build a defense when there is contradictory information and be able to counter the argument that the DA may make based on the answers that were given to the police officer.
It is Not Advisable to Consider Pleading Guilty to DUI Charges in California
Interviewer: What’s the deal with pleading guilty, even to a first offense? What’s so bad about it if I’ve just given up and pleaded guilty? What’s the difference between that and actually hiring an attorney and fighting the case?
Matthew Murillo: Hiring an attorney should be seen as an investment in your future, especially if you are younger. If retired, the conviction may not have much of an impact on your life. However, if you’re under 21, under 30 or under 40, or anywhere in between that and retirement, you may still be looking at making that investment by hiring somebody. Overall, a DUI can cost several thousand dollars of conviction and cause several thousand dollars in court fees, alcohol program fees, transportation fees once your license is suspended. A first-time DUI conviction would trigger a 6 months license suspension and insurance rate increases, as well as potential extended license suspension for enhanced penalties or having too many points on your DMV record.
A Simple First Offense DUI Conviction Can Cost Anywhere from $10,000 to $11,000
In California, a DUI conviction with first offense, no aggravated circumstances (meaning it’s not an extremely high BAC, no prior incidences, no refusal of chemical test allegations) it’s probably going to cost in the neighborhood of $10,000 to $11,000 once that conviction goes through. In California, a DUI also triggers a 6 months license suspension and it’s 2 points on your driver’s license record. Here, with the point system that California has, you’re allotted 3 points in a 12-month period, 5 points in a 24-month period or 7 points in a 36-month period. Anything above that is going to trigger a separate “Negligent Operator” suspension.
Various Traffic Offenses Have Different Points Attached to Them in California
There are various offenses like speeding tickets, reckless driving offenses, that have different points attached to them, so there are significant consequences if you just decide to go in and plead guilty to it. Additionally, again, it’s the DA’s job to prove that you’re guilty. If you just decide to go to court and plead guilty, there might have been some issues with the investigation that maybe could have gotten the charge reduced or dismissed.
A Competent Attorney Can Discover Evidence that Might Significantly Reduce or Dismiss a DUI Charge
I’ve had a couple of cases where the breath machine indicated in the report was determined to be out of service on the day of the arrest according to the law enforcement records. I’ve had a case where the blood result came in, but the lab results showed that the blood sample vial that was used, was a couple of months expired, and all those things are going to factor into whether or not there is a good defense. Situations like that may lead to reducing the case, reducing the offense or dismissing the case completely. If either of those happens, obviously that will eliminate a lot of those extra fees and collateral consequences of a DUI conviction.