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Common Misconceptions Regarding A DUI Arrest In California

Interviewer: What are some of the top misconceptions that people have about being arrested for DUI when they speak to you about their case?

Matthew Murillo: One of the main ones is the propaganda that attaches the stigma of having alcohol in your system or being arrested for DUI automatically meaning that you’re drunk. One of the things that I ask a lot of people when they come in is, before this arrest happened, if it’s the first time offense, and somebody said, “DUI”, what’s the first thing that came to mind? Almost without fail, they usually think of this person who’s weaving in and out of traffic, nearly causing several accidents, or causing an accident.  Another is an example I use often.  If is say to you that two cars are involved in a collision and one of the drivers had alcohol in their system.  Who caused the accident, or do you need more information?  Most people just straight into placing blame on the party with alcohol in their system.  So I my response is, “what if I told you that party 1 (no alcohol in system) cut off party 2 (alcohol in system).  At that point, people will stop and think about the bias that is so ingrained simply by the introduction of alcohol to the equation.

It is Not the Job of a Defendant to Prove their Innocence. Rather, It Is the Job of the DA to Prove that They Were Impaired

They don’t think of the person who got stopped because of the expired license plate, registration or because they didn’t have their blinker on when they were making a left turn or a right turn. Someone who’s not really showing any signs of impairment and who really isn’t impaired; that’s the biggest misconception. The fact that people assume “I was drinking, so I had to have been driving under the influence, otherwise I wouldn’t have been arrested” and that’s simply not the case. For the readers, it’s not their job to prove their innocence; it’s the DA’s job to prove that they were actually impaired.

Attorney Insight Into a California DUI Arrest and Prosecutorial Process

Interviewer: What have you learned about people’s behavior or their reaction to being arrested and prosecuted for DUI? What sort of insights have you gained into the whole process?

Matthew Murillo: This is the wake-up call. A lot of people, when they first come in to see me to discuss their case, have already made their decision to stay away from alcohol completely – which is good in one sense. They make their decision to stay away from alcohol if they go out and if they’re going to be the only person driving.  In one sense, it’s good. At the same time, though, sometimes you find yourself in that situation. I do have some clients who come in after taking a professional licensing exam, whether it’s MCATs or the nursing test or whatever it may be.  They happen to get pulled over after having a celebratory drink with dinner & friends.

The Stigma Attached With Having DUI Charges Is Unwarranted As Anyone Can be Charged with a DUI

They’re out celebrating that they finished this difficult degree or certification, they might have had a drink and they just happen to have alcohol on their system when they get stopped. Most people do feel guilty about the fact that they were even stopped. A lot of people feel ashamed and don’t want to tell their family about it. It’s one of those things, you can’t beat yourself up too much over it. Anybody, literally, can be arrested for DUI even if they weren’t impaired.

Public Knowledge Of DUI Charges In The State Of California

Interviewer: How public is someone’s situation going to be? If I was arrested for DUI, is my spouse going to find out or my friends and is my job going to find out also?

Matthew Murillo: It’s pretty much as public as you want it to be. The court proceedings are generally public because those are open to anybody who wants to go in.  Once the case is filed, anybody can look up your name and see if there’s anything filed against you. As far as the employers, they’re not going to be notified by the police department or by the court, proactively, to let them know that you’ve been arrested for DUI.

Some Employers Require a Mandatory Notification Regarding Any Contact with Law Enforcement or a Conviction

Some employers do have, in their handbook, a condition that they require any kind of law enforcement contact be reported to them and some require only if there’s a conviction. Additionally, some employers run their own background check periodically.  Unless your employer periodically runs their own background check or they require that you report any convictions or any arrest, people generally won’t find out unless you tell them.

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