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Law Firm of Aaron Bortel

What Are The Changes In Misdemeanor DUI Laws In San Francisco?

In June of 2019, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office decided to come up with a different framework for misdemeanor DUI cases due to a number of factors. For many years, a first time DUI would offer a penalty, if it was a blood alcohol level between a .10 and a .15 or higher, of a few days on the sheriff’s work program in lieu of jail. You would pay a fine of $1,800 and complete a 32-hour DUI class. You’d be on unsupervised probation for three years and the Department of Motor Vehicles would suspend your license. You could get a restricted license, after a period of time.

Now, on first time DUIs, they’re offering a reduced charge, if someone is at a.13 or lower. When a DUI is lowered to a lesser included offense, like a wet reckless, nothing will happen to your driver’s license and you will not have to get additional insurance. Your DUI will be reduced to a wet reckless, once you have finished a three-month DUI class and done a MADD Victim Impact Panel or cognitive behavioral therapy, or both. Any restitution or fines would get paid and then you would do any community service or the sheriff’s work program.

The MADD victim impact panel is a half-day long class you sign up for online but complete in person. You get a certificate, which is shown to the court as a condition of your probation. They might also have you do some community service or sheriff’s work program, and they may want to monitor that you’ve done all these things within a certain period of time.

Getting a DUI reduced to a wet reckless can be very helpful for a lot of people for work reasons or immigration reasons. According to this new policy, someone is at .16 or higher would be charged with a regular DUI, not reducible to a wet reckless. When there are multiple test results, what the DA’s office is doing is looking at the most accurate alcohol levels, as close to the time of driving as possible. Preliminary alcohol screening devices are typically not as accurate or calibrated well, so this can be argued in many different ways.

I’m seeing more of what they call the early resolution policy. They’re saying that if a case is set for trial, they may withdraw the case, and they won’t offer the earlier plea offer again. Some of them are starting to withdraw the offers even earlier on in the proceedings. We might have an arraignment where we enter a not guilty plea and then a month or two later, have our first pretrial conference.

At that point, we’re often still gathering evidence and yet we’ll get an e-mail a day or two before that pretrial conference presenting an offer and advising us that if we don’t take it, it’s going off the table. This practice does not feel ethical. It’s trying to push quicker resolutions. A lot of investigation is required on new cases and they’re trying to prevent that from happening. This is not the way to work out resolutions on cases where people’s constitutional rights and futures are at stake.

I believe that a number of the younger assistant district attorneys in San Francisco who are practicing this way don’t understand the ramifications. They haven’t worked with people like we do, as defense attorneys. It’s more about numbers and moving up in the ranks to them versus helping people through a complex legal system. They need to be careful because it is not being well received.

For more information on New Misdemeanor DUI Laws In San Francisco, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (415) 523-7878 today.

Aaron Bortel

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