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San Francisco, CA DUI FAQs

Bay Area DUI FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions About Drunk Driving Arrests in the Bay Area

If I was arrested for DUI, what criminal offenses will the San Francisco County Superior Court charge me with?

Most motorists who are arrested for drunk driving in the Bay Area are charged with two offenses:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol; and
  • Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above.

Though you are charged with two violations, you can only be convicted for one of them. The penalties for these two violations are the same, and if you plead guilty to one of the charges, the other one is almost always dropped.

Certain circumstances may prompt the San Francisco County DA to charge you with other offenses. Some examples include:

  • Driving a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .04 or above;
  • Driving with any alcohol in your system as a minor under age 21;
  • Refusal to submit to the mandatory chemical test;
  • DUI with bodily injury;
  • DUI vehicular manslaughter; or
  • DUI murder.

What are the penalties for a DUI conviction in San Francisco?

A drunk driving charge initiates two separate and simultaneous proceedings: a criminal case in the San Francisco County Superior Court and an administrative "per se" suspension of your driver's license. The penalties for a criminal conviction depend on the totality of the circumstances in your case. First-time offenders can receive up to six months in the SF County Jail, incur up to $2,300 in fines and penalty assessments, lose their driving privileges for six months, be required to attend AA meetings, be ordered to complete a DUI school for three to nine months, and be ordered to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicle.

Aggravated circumstances may incur enhanced penalties depending on the specifics of the case. For example, multiple DUI offenses within a 10-year period can result in extended time in SF County Jail or state prison, fines and penalty assessments as high as $10,000, loss of your driver's license for several years, and an 18-month DUI school. Other circumstances that could result in penalty enhancements may include:

Will I lose my driver's license?

At the time of your DUI arrest, the officer confiscates your driver's license and issues a notice that your driving privileges will be suspended after 30 days. This gives you 30 days to get your affairs in order and make arrangements to be without the ability to drive. This notice also states that you have 10 days from the date of your arrest to request a DMV administrative hearing and challenge your suspension.

If you want to keep your driver's license, your best chance to do so is to request an administrative hearing. By filing this request, you are able to maintain your driving privileges for several additional weeks or months while the hearing is being scheduled. This gives you much-needed time to potentially resolve your criminal case. The DMV hearing is similar to a mini-trial, and to convince the hearing officer that you should keep your license, you need a seasoned attorney in your corner with a proven track record of successful DMV challenges.

What types of legal defenses do I have for my case?

Every case is unique, and each has its own set of circumstances and variables. In many instances, there are weaknesses in the prosecution's case that can be used by an experienced lawyer to negotiate a charge reduction or have the charges dismissed altogether. Some examples include:

  • Lack of reasonable suspicion to initially detain you;
  • Lack of probable cause for the arrest;
  • Failure to read the defendant his/her Miranda rights;
  • Unreliable/inaccurate field sobriety tests;
  • Unreliable/inaccurate chemical test;
  • No signs of impairment while defendant was driving; or
  • Defendant was not driving the vehicle.

I am a resident of another state. How will a DUI arrest in the Bay Area affect me?

Being from out-of-state puts you at a disadvantage when having to defend your DUI case in San Francisco. You may have been in town for a business convention or just a relaxing vacation, and now you have a drunk driving charge hanging over your head in another state. The first thing that happens is your California driving privileges are suspended by the CA Department of Motor Vehicles. They will also forward information on your arrest to the DMV in your home state, further action may be taken to suspend or revoke your license.

If you are convicted for DUI, the consequences can impact you for many years to come. In addition to the loss of driving privileges, fines, and other penalties, a criminal conviction can make it more difficult to obtain employment, housing, loans, and college admission. If you are a professional who requires a license to practice your profession, you may also face adverse action from your state licensing board. If you are from out-of-state, you need an experienced Bay Area DUI lawyer by your side who understands the inner workings of the San Francisco County Superior Court and is able to confidently and aggressively defend the charges against you.

How do I find an experienced San Francisco DUI defense lawyer?

Finding the right lawyer to represent you can be difficult with all the misinformation out there. Beware of flashy advertisements in your mailbox and websites with "pay to play" badges and inflated claims. Many of these firms make claims such as "we get charges dismissed in 99% of our cases," but they fail to tell you that if a defendant pleads guilty to one of the two charges against them, the other charge is almost always dismissed.

To find a seasoned San Francisco DUI attorney, ask officials at the courthouse who they would recommend. Courthouse officials know the attorneys that have practiced in the area for a long time and have a reputation for obtaining successful results for their clients. Another thing to find out is if they are Board-Certified by the National College of DUI Defense (as approved by the American Bar Association). Only five lawyers in all of California have this distinction, and it indicates a high level of technical knowledge, skill, experience, and achievement in the area of DUI law.

Have Additional Questions?

This information is provided by San Francisco DUI defense Attorney Paul Burglin. For over three decades, attorney Burglin has successfully defended thousands of clients charged for DUI in northern California. He is not only Board-Certified by the National College of DUI Defense, he is also a Regent for the College and editor-in-chief of its national journal.

If you have further questions about your drunk driving arrest in San Francisco, contact attorney Paul Burglin today at 415-735-3995 for a personalized consultation. We serve clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding northern California communities.

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