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If the Preliminary Breath Test Is at or over the Legal Limit, the Driver Is Arrested


You get cuffed, you get put in the back of the car and taken, if the stop happens or the driving happened in San Francisco to the Hall of Justice, which is 850 Bryant Street, South of Market.

Most Individuals Will Spend 4 or up to 12 Hours at the County Jail

If it’s CHP they’ll usually take you to CHP headquarters to do your breath and blood test. If it’s non CHP, if it’s SFPD or sheriff’s, they’ll usually take you right to the jail. Once CHP is done with you they’ll take you over to the jail.

You will spend, after you undergo your breath or blood test at CHP or the jail, four or five hours there. Unfortunately, it’s enough just so they’re very slow at releasing people, and it can be as much as 12 hours or more. I’ve seen a few people who were arrested around midnight and their looking at mid-afternoon the next day when they get released.

On a rare occasion I’ve seen them make major mistakes and keep people for days, but that usually has to do with other issues, such as they’re making a mistake on immigration issues, which is very rare, but it can and does happen.

The First Court Date after the DUI Arrest Is Typically in 2 to 4 Weeks

They will give you a court date, and in San Francisco it used to take a long time from the date of arrest to your court date, now it’s really sped up and it will usually be within two to three, four weeks at the very most, but it’s usually pretty quick. There are two types of DUI charges, a misdemeanor DUI or a felony DUI. A felony DUI would be a fourth DUI within ten years of three other DUIs that resulted in conviction and they go by date of arrest.

Felony DUI Require the Individual to Post Bail; in Felony DUI Cases, the Bail Is Set Very High

If there’s an injury in the DUI, which would almost always be after an accident, then you would be looking at a felony. You probably would have had to post bail to get out of jail, which can be a very high balance in some of these felony DUI cases.

Misdemeanor DUI Charges Do Not Usually Require Bail

Misdemeanor cases they usually just site you out so you don’t have to post a bond or bail, and then you show up in court. Court for misdemeanor DUIs in San Francisco will start, in pretty much every case, every case that I’ve seen for the last number of years, in department 17 which is on the second floor at the Hall of Justice.

Misdemeanor DUI Cases in San Francisco Are Currently Heard by Judge Samuel Feng

The judge in there right now is Samuel Feng. You’re usually cited to show up at 8:30 in the morning, it could be any day of the week, for example, you could even be cited to show up on the 24th of December or the day before Thanksgiving or if they are open, the day after Thanksgiving.

If You Have Retained an Attorney for a Misdemeanor DUI, Then You Do Not Have to Attend the First Court Appearance

If you have a lawyer then in most cases you are not required to show up for your misdemeanor arrangement, which is your first appearance in court. You can also go into court yourself and request more time to get a lawyer and they’ll usually work with your schedule and postpone the proceedings for two to four weeks until you come back with lawyer.

If You Cannot Afford an Attorney, You Will Be Appointed a Public Defender

If you cannot afford a lawyer, for example, if you’re out of work and don’t have any income or if you have a very low income, the San Francisco Public Defenders Office represent people on all types of criminal cases including DUIs. There is some very good San Francisco public defenders who fight DUIs. It’s a very experienced office and we’re lucky to have them in San Francisco.

It Is a Better Option to Retain a Private Attorney for a DUI because Public Defenders Cannot Represent Clients during the DMV Proceeding

In most cases, the most people who are arrested and charged with a DUI in San Francisco, will be able to afford their own attorney and will not qualify for a public defender. In fact, in most cases if you can’t afford your own attorney, you’re better off going with a private attorney who does mostly DUI defense.

It Is Advisable to Have an Attorney for Both the Court Case and the DMV Proceeding

That is because DMV is not covered by the public defender’s office. When you are arrested for a DUI, you have two battles to fight: one is with the courts and the other is with the DMV. You’re trying to save your license because DMV is trying to take it away for at least six months. The private attorney can also help you at the hearing with DMV and fight for you. It is not wise to go to court or to DMV unless you have a lawyer, an experienced DUI lawyer helping you out.

If You Have Been Charged with DUI and Do Not Retain an Attorney and Do Not Attend the First Court Appearance, a Bench Warrant Will Be Issued for Your Arrest 

Interviewer: At the initial arrangement the individual has the option to not show up to that if they have a lawyer representing them. Is that correct?

Attorney Bortel: That’s correct. It is good to note that if a person charged with DUI doesn’t have a lawyer and they do not show up for the first appearance then the court will usually issue a bench warrant of at least $10,000. They’ll send officers out to your house, they can arrest you and if they do it on a Friday, you’re going to sit in Jail until at least Monday when you get to go in front of the court.

Unless you want to spend a lot of money bailing yourself out, it’s something you want to avoid and that’s why you never want to miss a court date.

By Aaron Bortel

Aaron Bortel

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