How Does The Court Process Work For A DUI In Marin County?
The court process involves the judge, the prosecutor, District Attorney, Assistant District Attorney, the DA’s office, the defense attorney, and the client. There is usually a calendar of DAs in court, who will be there agreeing to a continuance or having questions about something. Sometimes we’ll discuss things, but typically I am getting the additional evidence I need, beyond the initial police report, from one of three DAs. That would be to the expeditor who was assigned to negotiate and make offers on misdemeanor cases, specifically first DUIs.
If it’s a DUI with a prior, within 10 years, more than one prior, a felony DUI, which can fall within the last 10 years, injury accidents, and even misdemeanor accident DUIs, there are special DAs, who are under a grant from the state, to deal with those cases. There are typically two of those DAs assigned to those types of DUI cases. I would deal with those attorneys, who would be the expeditor on a more complex or involved DUI case where we’re talking about accidents, injuries, prior offenses, or a hit and run. The additional charges are typically things that we’ll say when we have the grant attorneys taking care of the DA’s position, and arguing or negotiating from that side. The process basically works where I go back to court a lot, and I am asking for discovery from whichever DA I’m dealing with.
The different types of evidence that we can get include video and audio. Sometimes we have a video of the driving, especially in cases involving CHP. The video will usually go back about a minute from when they turn on their overheads to pull someone over, and then it keeps running in most cases. A lot of the local police departments now have body cameras. I’ve recently seen at least one CHP having a body camera, so that may be forthcoming, to be determined. Many local police departments have body cameras, so we will get sometimes driving, but typically the approach, the stop, getting someone out of the car, field sobriety tests, verbal exchange, investigation, all of the things that an officer’s doing with someone when they pull them over is what we get on a body camera.
I am getting that video, and now we’re dealing with different machines. I’m getting discovery during the process here, so I deal with the prosecutors that I mentioned before, to get not just the video and audio, but machine records and blood testing records. They will request the records from the chromatogram, from the Department of Justice lab in Sonoma County, in Santa Rosa where they test the blood from Marin DUI cases. They also test the blood there for Napa and Sonoma County cases. In my discovery, I’ll also be getting, if we have breath testing, the preliminary alcohol screening or PAS test, get the maintenance records, calibration records, and whatever logs they have.
For the evidential test, which is usually what’s called a Draeger Machine, which tests both using a fuel cell and infrared technology, we’ll get their maintenance records, calibration records, logs, accuracy checks, anything that we can look at to see if there is an issue, or if the machine is in question. That’s what we’re trying to do with this investigation, to see if we can find a way to make the case go away. If not, then we’re negotiating the best result we can get, and the alternative is going to a jury trial. The jury trial is something that’s a client’s choice, and we help discuss everything. There may be expert witnesses involved. In fact that’s something else that happens in these cases, as I may be using an expert witness on a breath case, but it could be on a blood case as well. We get their opinions—sometimes it’s just verbal, sometimes it’s in writing—to help aid us and our client in deciding whether or not to pursue a case to trial, or to see if we can find something odd about the case. Maybe something that I’m missing, an expert can pick it up. Examining the records on the different machines that are used is where an expert can also come in handy.
Is The San Francisco DMV Notified Of A DUI Arrest In Marin County?
The San Francisco Driver Safety Office, which is in the west side of the San Francisco Bay Area headquarters for DUIs, is where the administrative per se trying to suspend the license process for the DMV happens. The San Francisco office will be the office that would be notified, and that I request a hearing from for anyone who’s been arrested. For San Francisco, Marin, Napa, or Sonoma counties, the headquarters where we would contact and request the hearing would be through San Francisco DMV. In the East Bay for Contra Costa County and Alameda County, which includes Oakland and the other Berkley and Martinez, those cases go through the Oakland Driver Safety Office. Sacramento goes through the Sacramento office, which is the Driver Safety Headquarters for California. The other office in Northern California covers Santa Clara County, and that’s the San Jose Driver Safety office of DMV.
I deal with all of those offices, because I do DUI cases all over the Bay Area, but for my cases that are in San Francisco, Marin, Napa or Sonoma Counties, those hearings are requested through the San Francisco DMV. I personally do the requesting of those hearings, and personally do the DMV hearings. When someone hires me to do his or her DUI case, I am doing every part of it. We talk about this upfront to confirm that, and if I’m the attorney that you’re talking to and the one that you’re contracting with, then I am going to be the one handling your case.
What’s critical for any DUI arrest in regards to the DMV is that we get the request for a hearing in within 10 days of the arrest. This means if you were arrested on a Saturday night, Sunday would be day 1, because weekends count. If the 10th day lands on a weekend, we’re supposed to be able to request a hearing on Monday after the weekend, but we always try and do it on the Friday before the weekend, because DMV can still be difficult in granting that. I always tell clients that it’s best for me to request a hearing because that way, we are going to set where and when we want. It can be very difficult to switch things.
DMV may tell people otherwise, but especially to change a hearing officer, if the client sets the hearing and then hires me much later, because the things have been processed and the hearing officer’s already reviewed the case. When the client calls up, they may end up with a hearing officer who is someone that might be a satellite hearing officer who doesn’t know the area as well. You just don’t know what you’re going to get there. Because of this, it’s best for the attorney to request the hearing—not the attorney’s office, but for the attorney personally to set the hearing.
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