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Napa Valley DUI FAQs

Napa County DUI FAQs

Answers to Common Questions About Drunk Driving Arrests in Napa County

What are the likely penalties for drunk driving in Napa?

California has some harsh penalties for motorists convicted for DUI. A drunk driving charge initiates two separate and simultaneous proceedings: a driver's license suspension through the California DMV, and criminal charges in the Napa County Superior Court. The specific penalties depend on the totality of the circumstances in your case.

For a first-time DUI, you may be looking at a six-month driver's license suspension, up to $2,300 in fines and assessments, up to six months in Napa County jail, community service, AA meeting attendance, three to nine months of DUI school, and installation of a breath alcohol ignition interlock device.

For second or multiple DUI offenses within 10 years, the penalties are more severe. You may have to pay $3,000 to $10,000 in fines and assessments, spend several months to several years in county jail or state prison, lose your driving privileges for up to four years, and attend DUI school for up to 30 months.

If there are aggravated circumstances in your case, the penalties may be increased. Examples of aggravated circumstances may include:

  • Driving with a suspended or revoked license.
  • Driving while on probation.
  • Child endangerment.
  • Being involved in an accident resulting in serious injury or death.
  • Driving more than 20 miles per hour above the speed limit.
  • Refusal to submit to a mandatory chemical test.

What are my chances of having my DUI charges reduced or dropped in Napa County?

The Napa County District Attorney's office is known for aggressively prosecuting DUI offenders, even if you were driving below the legal limit of .08 BAC. Many locals and tourists who were out for a day of casual wine-tasting are picked up at DUI checkpoints even though they are not over the legal limit. To successfully fight these charges, you need an attorney who understands how the local court system works, has strong negotiating skills, and a successful track record bringing cases to trial.

What are the best legal defenses to avoid a drunk driving conviction in Napa County?

There are several potential defense strategies that can be used to get your DUI charges reduced or dismissed. These include:

  • Constitutional challenges to the enforcement stop or arrest (e.g., lack of probable cause, failure to Mirandize, etc.).
  • Misleading statements by the arresting officer.
  • Taking a blood sample without a search warrant or lawful consent.
  • Unreliable breathalyzer test.
  • Unreliable field sobriety test.
  • Failure to continuously observe the driver for 15 minutes before the breath test.
  • Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was on the rise at the time you were pulled over for DUI.

How can I keep my driver's license after a DUI arrest in Napa Valley?

When you are charged with drunk driving, the arresting officer confiscates your license and gives you a "notice of suspension" stating that your driving privileges will be suspended after 30 days. You have just 10 days from the date of your arrest to request an administrative hearing with the California DMV to challenge your suspension. You must act within the 10-day window, because there is no further opportunity to prevent the suspension from taking effect.

Requesting an administrative hearing is a sound strategy, because it can delay your suspension for several weeks or months. In the meantime, you are able to continue driving and possibly resolve your case prior to your hearing date. At your administrative hearing, you must be prepared to show the DMV hearing officer that there were no solid legal grounds for your arrest. These hearings are difficult to win, however, and you someone in your corner who has extensive experience successfully challenging DMV suspensions.

I am a tourist from out of state, how will a DUI in Napa, California affect me?

If you are an out-of-state resident, your DUI arrest has already been an unsettling and unpleasant experience. You probably spent at least four hours in jail, had your car towed, and/or missed your flight back home. In addition, you will have to deal with losing your California driving privileges, criminal charges in Napa County Superior Court, and possibly losing your driver's license in your home state. This situation is likely to get much worse if you do not have skilled representation. A seasoned DUI attorney who practices locally in Napa can help mitigation the situation as much as possible. In addition, in most cases, your attorney can represent you at your hearings without you having to come back here for court appearances.

How do I find the right lawyer to represent me in Napa County?

Be aware of slick advertisements in your mailbox and websites with misleading claims and inflated credentials. Many who engage in these practices do very little to stand up for your legal rights and interests. Get a lawyer who is Board-Certified by the National College of DUI Defense as approved by the American Bar Association. Only five attorneys in California have this distinction, and it demonstrates a high level of technical knowledge, skills, and experience. You also want to ensure that the attorney has an A-V rating from Martindale-Hubbell™ (this is the highest possible rating), has been practicing in Napa County for a long time, and has no State Bar complaints against them.

Have More Questions?

This information is presented by Napa County DUI defense attorney Paul Burglin. Attorney Burglin co-authors California Drunk Driving Law, a two-volume treatise that is commonly referred to as the "Bible of DUI Defense." Paul Burglin has been practicing in Napa County since 1985, and he is not only Board-Certified by the National College of DUI Defense, he is also a Regent for the National College for DUI Defense and editor-in-chief of its national journal.

If you have additional questions about your DUI arrest in Napa, contact attorney Paul Burglin now at 707-320-4007 for a discreet and confidential consultation. He serves clients throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and Napa County, including Napa, American Canyon, St. Helena, Calistoga, Yountville, Rutherford, Pope Valley, Deer Park, Oakville, Angwin, and surrounding Napa Valley communities.

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