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Receiving a DUI in Sonoma County


Interviewer: We could start talking about Sonoma County now.

Aaron: Sonoma County is making a change in the next month, starting at the beginning of January. Someone who is arrested for drunk driving or DUI will be assigned to one of 4 courtrooms. Those are Departments 2, 6, 7 or 8. The way things used to be in Sonoma County, your case would start on one of those courtrooms and stay in that courtroom.

Sonoma County DUI Procedure

Then they went to a master calendar courtroom where everything is heard in courtroom 2 and only of you wanted to do a motion or go to trial, would your case get transferred over to one of the other 3 courtrooms.

I know in Sonoma County, they had 2 positions for special DUI prosecutors, as they do in Marin County and a lot of other counties in the Bay area. Your case will stay in one courtroom, most likely the entire time, unless for some reason, they need to transfer it elsewhere. Getting to court from your arrest usually occurs within a month or two.

Now, they are going back to the old system. Everything will be assigned to one of 4 courtrooms from the beginning. In fact all the cases that I have going on in Sonoma County in January have been assigned out to different courtrooms and are no longer in Department 2. If you’re arrested say over the weekend for a DUI, you have a notice to appear in court and it would be ion one of those courtrooms if it’s a misdemeanor DUI.

Sonoma County’s Judges Have an Excellent Reputation for Professionalism and Legal Knowledge

Different judges who all have slightly different takes on DUIs, some are more likely to grant a suppression motion than others, but they’ve got a very good professional bench of judges in Sonoma County. Every one of them that I’ve been in front of is going to give you a trial and follow the law and if you’ve got good issues, they will give a good DUI lawyer a chance to win the case. Sonoma County has 2 special prosecutors who are assigned to doing just DUIs.

Sonoma County Is Receptive to Reducing a DUI Charge to a Wet Reckless

They’re the ones who are most likely to deal with your attorney on a case where it’s a multiple offense; meaning a 2nd, 3rd, 4th or more or if there is an injury involved. They may or may not be the ones that do the trial or do the hearings for the case, but they’re the ones that we’ll deal with. Sonoma County is, like similar other California counties in their offers and their sentences.

Sonoma and Napa Counties Are Known for Imposing Costly Fines

They will offer a reduction to a wet reckless on certain cases, if the blood alcohol level is low enough. They do have a very high fine. Sonoma and Napa County are the two counties which give out the highest fines in the San Francisco Bay area. Those come out to about $2400 and plus when everything is added in. They let you use a payment plan. They will typically give you, on a DUI, if it’s under a .15, two days on the sheriff’s work program, a 3-month DUI course and 3-year probation. But they are fairly predictable, which is good because it helps a DUI lawyer be able to let their client know what they’re looking at as a penalty for a 1st or 2nd or 3rd offense DUI.

Aaron Bortel

Get your questions answered - Call Us 24/7 For a FREE Case Evaluation (415) 523-7878.

There Is a High Incidence of DUI arrests in Sonoma and Napa Counties That Are Attributed to People Visiting the Wineries

Interviewer: As far as Sonoma County goes, you mentioned it is wine country, so is the typical clients different from other counties as far as that goes?

Aaron: We get a lot more cases in Sonoma County and Napa County. It’s where people have been wine tasting, because that is the big attraction in that county. There are a lot of wineries in Sonoma County, a lot of big wine events. A number of people are driving home or back to their hotel from drinking events and so we do get a lot of people who have been out wine tasting call us because they were arrested for a DUI.

A New Casino in Sonoma County Has Dramatically Increased Traffic and Is Expected to Impact the Number of DUI Arrests

One of the new attractions in Sonoma County is a new casino. It’s created 2000 jobs and there are tens of thousands of people going up there all the time. I’ve already started seeing people getting arrested for DUIs after going to the casino and leaving.

There are a lot more police officers hanging out in that area now, watching people leave the casinos and getting on to the freeways or running stop signs or stop lights. I expect to see a lot more DUI activity with that new facility there. It is very popular in the Bay area, and as I said, a lot of people are going up there now for that reason.

Interviewer: Where is the casino located?

Aaron: Just before downtown Santa Rosa. It is about a 30 or 40 minute drive from San Francisco to get there.

What Is a Trial Tax?

Interviewer: I have heard about a trial tax. Is that something that is imposed in your area with a DUI conviction?

Aaron: A trial tax may be imposed in Marin County. Typically, clients will know what they are going to get on a first offense, in most cases. The trial tax is the penalty for going to trial and if you lose trial it would be a maximum usually of 5 days.

In Sonoma County, It Is More Difficult to Anticipate What the Sentence Will Comprise If You Lose at Trial

In Sonoma County, you have less of an idea what the judge is going to do. If the judge is different, the DA doesn’t say what they’re going to be requesting. Depending on the severity of the DUI, you could get 20, 30 days on a first offense DUI or you might just get 2 days. It is hard to predict, because you’ve got to see the facts, depends on what judge you’re in front of, depends on what the DA is asking for, and again, that’s all only if you lose the trial.

San Francisco May Ask for a Very High Sentence If You Lose Your DUI Trial

A city like San Francisco will really try and nail you with the trial tax if you lose. A lot of that depends on how the DA feels about your client. I’ve had DAs who felt like my clients were good people and they made a mistake. I’ve seen them ask for a little and I’ve seen them ask for a lot. Recently, a DUI attorney who I know had a DUI case in San Francisco which he did not win at trial. It was a very hard case, almost an impossible case to win. But the client wanted to go to trial.

The DAs office, after the case was over, in their sentencing memorandum, was asking for 60 days in jail. In the end, after them going back and forth, the judge I believe decided to give the person 20 days in jail. At first, the judge didn’t want to let them do the sheriff’s work program but eventually did. The person ended up doing about half that time. In fact, I think the person wound up doing about 8 days on the sheriff’s work program. That’s 4 weekends, usually consecutive weekends of picking up trash.

By Aaron Bortel

Aaron Bortel

Get your questions answered - Call Us 24/7 For a FREE Case Evaluation (415) 523-7878.

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