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Law Firm of Aaron Bortel

Top Things One Should Do After Being Arrested For DUI

Call Several Attorneys and Get a Consultation or Appointment
Most people don’t know DUI attorneys. When you’re looking for a DUI attorney, it’s best to talk with other attorneys who have been around for a while. Ask for referrals to the best DUI lawyers they know. They will ask around for you, and a good referral from someone you trust is usually a good way to go. You can also ask, or check yourself, whether they are members of the National College for DUI Defense and California DUI Lawyers Association. Those are two organizations that have been around for many years.

There is a new DUI organization in California that’s been around about a year, broken off from the National College for DUI Defense. If they are a member of that one, that’s great. When you find an attorney who has many years of experience, who exclusively does DUI defense, and who is a member of these organizations, that means that he or she is on Listservs; all day, every day, they see different issues come up, answer questions, and they know their stuff. Many attorneys spend an hour or more online every day answering questions and looking at emails from attorneys on these Listservs.

They do the same thing going back and forth with their own clients, so it is important to look for good ratings. Probably the best site out there right now is the AVVO site ( If you see that an attorney has a 10 rating, or close to a 10, that’s important.
You also want to look for someone who practices in the court where your case is. They don’t have to have their office there, but they definitely should practice there and be familiar with the court and its procedures.

You want to make sure you are comfortable with them, that you have rapport. Meet with them in person. If you can’t meet them in person for any reason, talking to them on the phone is fine. Some people will tell you that you have to talk to X number of lawyers before making your decision. It’s fine to talk to more than one lawyer. Do some research! Call at least two, maybe three. If you talk to too many, though, you may start getting confused. Unless you’re sure the first few you call are not the right person, don’t try to call too many. If you have to call five or ten different attorneys, you may have not done enough homework first.

Be wary of Yelp reviews. Yelp is not specifically a lawyer review site. To get Yelp reviews, someone has to be a Yelper for the clients’ reviews to stay up. If someone handles DUIs exclusively, Yelp is not going to be the place to see a lot of in-depth reviews about how they did on a case, their relationship with clients and whether they did a good job guiding them through their case. Yelp does not necessarily give that type of feedback. AVVO is much better for that.

There are some other review sites out there, but the best thing to do is meet the attorney in person, or on the phone, and go with your gut. Get a feel for who you feel is the best one to protect you, who cares about you. Make sure the attorney you had your initial consultation with is the attorney who is going to represent you in court. When you call a law office, the attorney does what we call an intake. He takes notes whiles he’s talking with you, creates a file, and has spoken with you for at least half an hour. He knows everything that can be known about your case up to that point. That’s who you want.

If your case was handed off to another lawyer who is going to represent you, things can fall through the cracks. My model is that the attorney who took the call and spoke with you personally is the one who should defend you. You’re going to want to be able to communicate with him, have him return your calls, your texts, and your emails. Ask, “If I call you, how long is it going to take for you to get back to me?” or, “Are you the one who will be getting back to me when I have questions?” See what the answers are.

Take Note of Potential Witnesses that May Testify or Might be Willing to Testify.
This is important! If there was anyone else was in your car and you know how to contact them, your attorney needs to know. He can either contact them or have his investigator contact them, especially if a declaration needs to be taken. A declaration is a statement that will be under penalty of perjury.

Other important people are those you may have been with earlier in the evening, especially if they were with you most of the time until you got into the car. They may have seen what you had to drink, when you were drinking, what you had to eat, and can testify about your actions that night. Those people, and maybe the person who served you, are all potentially important witnesses.

Having the receipts for the places you ate and drank can sometimes help to establish time and how much you had to eat or drink. Track down as much of that information as you can and get it to your attorney either at your initial consultation or shortly after.

The attorney can also help you gather that information through an investigator. Sometimes it’s better for the attorney to use an investigator to get that stuff. He can use subpoenas. There needs to be a proper foundation laid for any evidence used it court, and it can be easier to do that by using an investigator. That’s something you should talk about with the lawyer.

Other potential witnesses are people at the scene, people who might have been working nearby or just came out onto their porches to see what was going on. They may be able to back up your version of events. There might be someone who observed your field sobriety tests. Talk to your attorney about that. He may be able to use that information to help fight your case.

Get Your Car Out of Impound.
That’s something that you can usually do the next day unless there is evidence in your car. If it was a hit and run, or something like that, they may not let you take it out. But usually, the fine is going to be three to five hundred dollars to get it out, depending on which county you are in and how long you leave your car there. It can cost $50 to $100 a day for storage space, so you want to get it out soon.

If there has been an accident, you want to talk to your insurance company. If you’re going through insurance, and your car is not drivable, you’ll want to get it towed to a location where you can get it fixed. BUT, there may be evidence in or on your car. Don’t have someone start fixing your car until you’ve talked to your attorney about whether or not accident reconstruction or further investigation of the car is needed. Photos will need to be taken.

It’s a good idea after an accident to photograph your car because if the car is not in your name – maybe it’s in your parents’ name or a friend’s – you may not be able to get it out of impound. If it was a rental car, the rental car company will have to get it out themselves. Same thing if it was your employer’s car.

Sometimes there can be other issues. The officer might say your brake lights weren’t working. When you go to the impound lot, you may want to have someone else with you like the attorney’s investigator who can video tape the vehicle to show that the second you retrieved it, as you were pulling out of the impound lot, those lights actually were working. That’s something that can help with your case. We have won cases in those situations.

Be Mindful of the DMV Hearing Date and Make Sure to Secure All Documents that May Have Been Given to You.
You have 10 calendar days from the date of your arrest to request a hearing with the DMV. When the police arrest you for a DUI, they usually give you a pink sheet of paper, which is a temporary license good for 30 days. After that, your license will be suspended unless you, or your attorney, request the DMV hearing. By doing this, you can often stay (postpone) any suspension until the hearing results are obtained. It is very important to get that hearing requested because the hearing may not happen for many months.

You may want your attorney to request the hearing because he will know the best place to have it and who the best hearing officers to request are, which will be important in getting you the best result. A lot of the newer hearing officers don’t understand the evidence code and what should be done in an administrative hearing. I don’t fault them for it, but you want an experienced officer who is going to give you the best chance to win your case. That’s important! So, with DMV it’s important to have an attorney represent you who will get the best hearing officer possible.

With regard to documents, obviously any documents that you have been given — usually a notice to appear in court or citation, the pink sheet, property evidence – you should keep those together and make copies. Get them to the attorney for your initial consultation or have them handy if you talk with him over the phone. You should be ready to fax or email them. Usually, scanning and emailing is better because they are often light carbons and hard to read in a fax.

Start Noting Important Dates like Arraignment and other Court Hearings so that you can ask for the day off from Work.
That’s common sense. For the arraignment in most counties, the first court appearance on a misdemeanor DUI, you will not need to be at court; the attorney can appear for you. However, in some cases, it is advantageous for you to be there. Your attorney can discuss with you why that would be advantageous. If you’re going to lose your job by asking for the day of, don’t do it right away. Talk to the attorney first and see if he needs you to be present.

A client texted me earlier today asking if he needed to be at the arraignment tomorrow and the answer was “No.” Usually, we do not need our clients at the arraignment. Depending on which courthouse you are in, and which county you are in, you may or may not need to be at subsequent court appearances. In some jurisdictions, they want you there; in others you are not required to be there. The attorney will know whether you need to be there or not.

Refrain from any Discussion on Social Media Sites.
Absolutely! The DA, the prosecutor in the case, is able to locate your social media. And destroying evidence is not allowed. If you have a social media page that shows you partying, drinks in hand, looking drunk, that sort of thing, you never know if that will be used against you. Not a good idea to have a Facebook or other social media page with statements about partying and pictures of you being drunk.
Refrain from any Sort of Alcohol or Drug Related Activity, Especially those that Might get You Arrested Again.
You’re in trouble, don’t do it again. I’ve had people arrested two days, three days in a row. It’s rare, but it does happen. We’ve had people who have gotten arrested, gotten released and that same night, gone out and gotten another DUI! It’s a very good idea if you have been arrested for a DUI, especially if there is a high blood alcohol level or there were multiple offenses, to start going to some AA meetings or other type of self-help meetings. That is the complete opposite of going out and continuing to drink.

Picking up a Drunk in Public is not going to help you at all, especially if it happens in the same county as your DUI. Be smart while your case is pending. It’s not a good idea to be putting yourself in any situation that can get you into any more trouble. If it’s a felony case and you are out on bail, there are additional charges if you commit a new crime. I’ve seen this happen numerous times over the years. So be careful, be smart, and use common sense.

Consult Your Support System like Friends, Family or a Church Group in Order to Keep a Positive Outlook on Your Situation and Share with Others.
I don’t necessarily agree when people say, “share with others”! You can share whatever you want with others, but it’s inadvisable for clients to be talking about their cases with anybody other than their attorney. If there was someone in the car with you, then they already know about it. If you need to get some therapy, that’s fine, but remember: confidentiality. If the DA finds out you made statements to people, they are potential witnesses and can be used against you in court.

Be careful about who you talk to. By all means, doing AA meetings or self-help meetings or individual or group counseling is something that can be helpful. But you don’t need to talk about what happened. If you start DUI classes while your case is still going on, don’t talk in class about the facts of your case while it’s still pending.

Depending on Your Situation, Explore Options for Transportation and Make any Necessary Preparations to Be Legally Unable to Drive.
Typically, when you get a DUI, you’re allowed to keep driving for 30 days, longer if you request a DMV hearing within 10 days. For a lot of people, their jobs are at risk because of a DUI and a license suspension. But, the worst thing you can do if you are convicted of a DUI is to continue to drive when your license is suspended. That’s a violation of probation. On a first offense, it can get you up to six months in jail and thousands of dollars in fines. Any restricted license you may have will turn into a suspended license.

You could quite possibly have to have an ignition interlock installed in your vehicle – if you don’t have one already — for violating section 14-601.2. If you have any alcohol in your system when you’re driving on a suspended license, you can lose your license for a full year with no restrictions allowed.

How to make plans for others to drive in case you are convicted is something to discuss with your lawyer if you’re not sure what to do. If you live somewhere where public transportation is great, you’re doing better than most. Not a lot of people can rely on public transportation. What you need to do is to use whatever is available to make sure you do not drive if your license is suspended. That means using cabs, buses, trains, ferry, friends, family, or hiring someone. There are many different ways to find people to drive.

It can be more expensive than driving your car on a suspended license, sure, but in the end, it’s going to be better for you not to risk getting busted for driving on a suspended license. That can cost you more than a few thousand. There are just too many things that can go wrong if you drive and get caught. Not worth it! Definitely make arrangements, start planning ahead if it looks like you are going to get convicted or lose your license.

If You Pursue an Attorney, Seek out Financial Options if Money Becomes an Issue, Perhaps Taking out a Loan or Borrowing Money from Family Members.
Spend it if you’ve got anything left on your card, a lot of people don’t these days, but they are for emergencies and this is an emergency. This is where sacrificing the best defense you can afford or borrow to afford is not a wise move. You’ve got to get the best DUI lawyer that you can find to have the best chance of getting the best results in your case. Whatever it takes, whether it’s borrowing money, getting a loan, talking to friends or family, do it. Another thing is you don’t necessarily have to pay the full amount of the attorney’s fees upfront. A lot of lawyers, including myself, usually depend on plans, so you pay part upfront, and make monthly payments after that.

So, that makes it a little bit easier. There are a lot of attorneys out there who want the full fee upfront, or within a week or two. If that’s the attorney who is right for you, hire that person. But I can tell you there are plenty of attorneys who do not require it, and they are some of the top attorneys, DUI attorneys, in the San Francisco Bay area.

Take Account of All Medical Conditions that you Suffer from, if Applicable, because that could Help Your Case.
Make a list, and if you have medical documents, show those to your lawyer. There could be issues that caused you not to do well on field sobriety tests, issues with your legs, back, arms, head, feet, hips or knees. Any surgeries you’ve had, or pains you have, can be reasons you did not do as well as you could have on these tests, and why the officer may say that you did not perform the test properly.

Any medical issues can matter: if you’re diabetic, or you’re on a high protein diet. Atkins diet, for example, where you’d be in a state of ketosis, can give a false positive on some breath machines. There are a lot of different things relating to medical issues that can be looked at: what medications are you on, how they affect you, any surgeries you’ve had, anything at all might have some effect on the case. Let the attorney know, get your records from your doctor. Your attorney may need to subpoena those records if they are going to use them, but let the attorney know. You want to help him with all your possible defenses, and that’s information he needs.

Make Sure to Attend any and all Functions, Information Sessions and/or Classes that Your Attorney Recommends.
If your case is one of those where attending self-help classes, AA meetings, or counseling will help, do it. Your attorney isn’t telling you to do it just because he thinks it’s a good idea. He thinks it will help your case in court. Not in all cases, but in some it can be influential in whether charges are reduced or your sentence is reduced — not necessarily having the case dropped, but you never know. Listen to your lawyer. If he says it will be a good idea to do certain classes or to sign up for DUI school early, do it!
Refrain from Answering any Questions if Contacted by a Police Officer, a Detective, or Insurance Adjuster. Instead Contact Your Attorney Immediately.
It’s rare when follow-ups are done by the arresting agency, but sometimes they are. If they do contact you, tell them that you have a lawyer who has instructed you not to answer any questions without your lawyer present. At that point, they are not supposed to ask you any more questions. Or, they might say, “Go, get your lawyer”.

If there has been an accident, especially if there are possible injuries to others, you have to be very careful when talking with insurance companies. In almost every case, it’s best to tell any insurance company that calls that you have an attorney, and that the attorney has advised you not to make any statements to them. Tell them that your attorney is more than happy to talk with them.

Give them his contact information and let the attorney make statements to them. The attorney talking with the insurance company is not the same as statements coming from you. Those are not statements that can be used against you in court. Let your attorney protect you. Every case is different. He may tell you there is no problem with your talking to the insurance company. Rely on his experience and let him tell you what to do.

Expect a Tough Battle, Even if it is a Situation that has Involved Prescription Medications.
There is no such thing as an easy DUI case. Every case is a tough battle. The odds are always against us and that’s why you need to have someone who knows how to fight these cases. When people are unhappy with their lawyers it’s usually because their lawyers have not done this or that. Your lawyer should know everything about your case so that you will have the most successful outcome. That means knowing what to ask for in the discovery process, and how to ask for it. There are certain ways to ask for things, whether it has to do with a blood test, breath test, a video or audio file, and we’ve been through the discovery process many times and know the right way to ask.

An experienced DUI lawyer knows how to ask for the right things. They know what might be out there that will help your case. That’s extremely important. It is imperative to fight from beginning to end. Most cases do not go to a jury trial. You need to know that you’ve got a good attorney who will look at everything before any decision is made about whether to go to jury trial or not. You want to know that they have done everything they could to find whatever is necessary to win your case. Whether it’s in court or DMV, it’s important to fight. Sometimes, a court case finishes up but the result is not going to make any difference with the DMV. If there is a fight left to be fought in any area, the right attorney can help you do that.

If You Have Been Convicted of a DUI before and Didn’t Have an Attorney the First Time Around, Now is the time to Seriously Consider Hiring an Attorney.
You should have had one the first time. Often, that’s where the best chance to win exists. I get cases all the time of clients who are two or three times the legal limit. Five or six years ago, in their first case when they were .08 or .09, they didn’t have an attorney and were convicted because they just pled guilty.

So, yes, because the penalties are so much greater and because the battles are so much tougher to fight in court and at DMV, you definitely want to have an attorney for a multiple offense. Whether it’s your second, third or fourth offense, the penalty is much worse.

On a second offense, it is 18 months of DUI school, a higher fine, and potential jail time of up to a year. You name it, there are so many different things: insurance, ignition interlock, many different areas where an experienced DUI attorney can help fight on a second or third offense.

Take a DUI Seriously, Especially If It is Your First Time.
This is your criminal record we’re dealing with here. If you’re someone who works for someone else or plans to work for someone else in your lifetime, a DUI conviction is something they will see in a background check. It may show up when someone Googles you. A DUI is serious, it’s a criminal offense. For example, a DUI conviction prevents you from going to Canada for many years. You can only go there if you jump through certain hoops, and it can take about 10 years to get the whole process done.

DUIs can affect your credit, your ability to rent cars, and definitely your insurance. And, they are priorable in California if you get another within 10 years. Other states are different, some less, some more years, but they can be used against you in other states. So take it seriously, get the best attorney that you can hire, someone whom you feel comfortable with, who knows what they are doing, and will fight your case.

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Aaron Bortel
With 30 years of specialized experience in DUI defense, Attorney Aaron Bortel is a dedicated advocate for those facing DUI charges in the Bay Area. Committed to helping clients avoid jail, save their driver’s licenses and jobs, and prevent permanent criminal records, he combines deep legal expertise with genuine care for his client's welfare. Trust in a lawyer who not only defends but truly supports you through challenging times.

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