Top Ten Tips

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2. Hire a Sonoma DUI lawyer

Protect your own interests.

Getting a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer gives you your best shot at beating a DUI in the local Sonoma Superior Court, and protecting your driver's license at the Santa Rosa DMV. The Sonoma County District Attorney and the Sonoma County judge are both lawyers with their own agendas. You should have a Santa Rosa DUI lawyer looking out for your own interests. Would you perform your own dentistry? Engineer your own home? Sue a big company without a good lawyer on your side? Don't follow casual advice from friends or try to do this yourself. Seriously, the outcome of a DUI can affect you for the rest of your life.

Public defenders. If you really cannot afford to hire a private Sonoma County DUI lawyer, then appear at the first court date in the Sonoma County courthouse and when your case is called by the judge, simply ask at the very first moment for the Sonoma County public defender to be appointed.

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Note: Sonoma County public defenders do not handle DMV proceedings in Santa Rosa or elsewhere, and typically you are not permitted to speak with them prior to your first court appearance. Also, typically you have to physically go to court for the first appearance and every proceeding in your case, as opposed to private Sonoma DUI lawyers who go for you while you go to work or stay home. Public defenders get a bad rap because they typically can't spend as much time with you as compared to a private DUI lawyer, but their service is excellent and highly valued.

Representing yourself. Although you have a constitutional right to represent yourself according to the US Supreme Court's Faretta Ruling, understand that in any civil or criminal case, it is nearly always considered a mistake to represent yourself in court. This is because the other side (in Sonoma County criminal cases, the other side is the State of California) has its own highly trained lawyer (the District Attorney), with a bank of assistant lawyers and staff, but you don't have such support if you represent yourself, and therefore you are at a severe disadvantage. In addition, one is always biased and sympathetic to one's own personal situation, and unable to objectively advise yourself of your own best interests. This is true even for defendants who are themselves lawyers and is the fundamental reason why "a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client." See also the Sonoma County Superior Court's Faretta Waiver advisements and warnings if you still wish to consider this ill-advised alternative to affordable counsel.

DUI's are actually very complicated.

If you don't see how involved and complex even a first DUI can be in Sonoma County without a lawyer, then click on Anatomy of a DUI on this site and see the many different directions a Sonoma case can go, as well as the collection of obligations, timetables and tasks to perform. A local Sonoma DUI lawyer who can guide you through the maze of bureaucratic doo-doo, not to mention the possibility of getting charges reduced or dismissed, is well worth the expense. Your situation requires an attorney knowledgeable in the precise area of the law in which you find yourself. Consider just a sample listing of possible DUI defenses on this site by clicking on Ten Tips for Fighting a Sonoma County DUI. A DUI should be handled by a criminal defense lawyer who regularly defends DUI cases in your courtroom.

Bail companies and lawyers.Sonoma DUI Aladdin Car

Typically people arrested for DUI in Sonoma County are either released by police on their own recognizance ("O.R.") after being processed, or post bail to be released. Bail is supposed to be set by the jailer pursuant to the Sonoma County Bail Schedule which lists most possible charges and the presumptive bail amount for each charge. You can click here to see Sonoma County's specific 2013 Bail Amounts for DUI and Vehicle Code Charges. These amounts can go up or down depending on a variety of factors relating to a case. If someone arrested for DUI is not released on O.R., or cannot bail out and is due to appear in court while still in custody, then most likely bail would be set at the first court appearance, or the person arrested for DUI may be released on a more comprehensive form of O.R. called "Supervised Own Recognizance" ("S.O.R."), where the Santa Rosa judge imposes special SOR Conditions on the defendant's release. Often a Sonoma County DUI attorney may take the opportunity to save an arrestee or family large sums of money by arguing that such conditions will be better for the defendant and the community than posting lots of bail money.

Santa Rosa DUI Bad Boys CarSometimes, someone arrested for a DUI in Sonoma County may not be able to get out of jail immediately, or at all, unless they post bail. A friend or loved one can usually post 10% of the stated bail for someone who is in jail. See, for example, the San Rafael's Zig Zag Bail Agreement & Application. See also Santa Rosa's Aladdin Bail Bonds FAQ's for answers to frequent quetions about bail. See also Santa Rosa's Romelli Bail Bonds FAQ's. Good Sonoma DUI lawyers will tell you that some Sonoma County bail companies will refund money to you if you hire a private Santa Rosa DUI lawyer. Most bail companies offfer an 8% rate rather than a 10% rate (they will give you back 20% of what you paid, typically a $100 refund on the normal $500 bail premium) if you hire a private Sonoma County DUI attorney, probably because it's more likely the case will resolve properly with a local DUI lawyer involved. Greg Rynerson Bail Bonds and Bad Boys Bail Bonds actually offer a 7% rate if you hire a private Sonoma County DUI lawyer.

You can call or visit your Sonoma bail company office to inquire about its rate chart (California Department of Insurance states such fees are to be posted in a visible location in every bail bond office) and see if obtaining a DUI lawyer (or being a member of a union or the military) gets you a lower rate. Click below to see examples of the forms used by local bail companies in Sonoma County:Sonoma DUI Bail Toler Van

Bad Boys Certificate of 7% Premium

Aladdin Certificate of 8% Premium

Romelli Certificate of 8% Premium

Liberty 20% Discount Statement

Typically, you can only qualify for the lower Sonoma County private DUI defense attorney rate if you act within a specified time. For example, Aladdin's lower private attorney rate is only available if the private lawyer was retained within five days of the date that the bail was issued and proof of such retention is received by the bail company within 30 days. Romelli only offeres the reduced rate if told at the time of posting bail that a private DUI lawyer has been retained already.

Good DUI lawyers will inform you that laws related to right to bail by people arrested for a DUI in Sonoma County are generally found in Penal Code Sections 1268-1320.5. Bail companies are regulated by the California Department ofSanta Rosa DUI Buntjer Car Insurance. Department regulations may be found in the California Code of Regulations at Title 10, chapter 5, subchapter 1, article 2, sections 2053-2104. You may find bail company license information and any recent enforcement actions by the Department by clicking on Bail Agent License Status, and answers to some of the more common questions by clicking Bail Faq's. Click on Court Appearances to see a discussion on this site regarding how bail companies and Sonoma County DUI lawyers can help efforts to clear a warrant for a failure to appear in court following a DUI arrest.

Here's what a Sonoma County lawyer does for you.

A private lawyer will go to Sonoma Superior Court or traffic court for you and in most Sonoma County cases you don't ever have to appear. This is particularly helpful if you don't live in Sonoma County. A private lawyer should also handle the DMV case for you so you don't have to yourself (these hearings are usually litigated in the Santa Rosa or Petaluma satellite offices). The value of this convenience and the possibility of a Sonoma DUI lawyer successfully obtaining lower or dismissed charges and protecting your driver license, is well worth a reasonable Sonoma attorney fee (typically in the $1900-2500 range for any straight-forward 1st or 2nd DUI in Sonoma County).

Any good Sonoma County DUI defense lawyer will closely examine the Sonoma County Superior Court complaint against you and the police report completed by Sonoma County law enforcement, looking for any possible (or glaring) defenses, and then sit down with you for as long as you need, explain everything to you and ask you to make your own decisions after you understand the issues, likelihood of success, additional costs, and probable risks and consequences. A good Sonoma DUI lawyer will help you navigate the minefield of possibilities, get through the bureaucratic doo-doo which is present in every Sonoma County DUI arrest case, help you understand the multiple tasks facing you, and coordinate the timing of tasks and resolutions, to get all of this behind you from arrest to resolution with the least amount of stress and inconvenience.

Why is using a local attorney so important?

A local lawyer who lives and practices in Sonoma County is far better than one based in Marin, San Francisco or LA, because lawyers who regularly practice DUI law in Sonoma know how the Santa Rosa DMV, and how the Sonoma County judges and Sonoma County District Attorney react to certain cases, and we know the available options and procedures here in Sonoma County which often vary widely in different counties. For example, a standard no-defenses second DUI in Sonoma County is typically sentenced to thirty days of jail, but all of the time may be served by volunteering with the county if you are not otherwise ineligible. By comparison, in Marin County the typical sentence for the same charges is fifteen days instead of thirty, and four days must be served in custody. Napa's typical sentence for a second DUI is only ten days of jail, all of which may be served with a jail alternative. Local Santa Rosa lawyers who actually live and practice in Sonoma County know Sonoma County DUI practices and procedures.

Don't pay extra by being fooled into hiring a "big name" criminal lawyer based in another county like San Mateo, Marin, San Francisco or Los Angeles to whom you pay more money so that he or she can accomplish the exact same result as a Sonoma County DUI defense attorney, or worse yet they turn around and hire a local Sonoma contract lawyer to appear for you. The quality of representation might be adequate but still a waste of additional money and an unwanted additional layer of people and miscommunications. If you wish to test whether your prospective lawyer is truly local, ask how many offices he/she has, where his/her primary business office is located, how often he/she appears personally in Sonoma as compared to other courts, when was the last time he/she physically stood in front of a Sonoma County judge on behalf of a client arrested for DUI, at which DMV office he/she conducts DMV hearings, and what is his/her personal understanding of a standard no-defenses DUI sentence in Sonoma County.

Don't go to court for a DUI. Let your lawyer go instead.

It is much easier for you (and well worth it) if you do not have to take time off work and attend a stressful and confusing appearance in Santa Rosa Superior Court if your DUI attorney determines that there is no other reason for you to attend. Most court appearances are boring for non-lawyers, and the first appearance in Sonoma County is usually only meant to trade papers and information and set new dates, not to argue anything of substance. Typically in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County you are not required to attend a misdemeanor court or DMV hearing unless there is a substantial proceeding where evidence is to be formally introduced (usually only a contested hearing or actual trial proceedings). A DUI arrest need not ever result in a requirement that a defendant appear in court, not even for sentencing in Sonoma County. In Marin County you must only attend sentencing if you live in Marin or a bordering county. In Napa, notarized plea forms will alleviate the need for any court appearance if there are no viable defenses in a case.

Will your absence be noticed by the court or required by your attorney? No, as discussed above, in most cases court appearances are strictly procedural. Unless special circumstances are present (such as a high blood alcohol level alleged, multiple priors, or a violation of probation), judges do not wish to speak to a defendant at such proceedings. Clients who live in Santa Rosa or elsewhere in Sonoma County, rarely, if ever, come to court in typical DUI cases. This doesn't mean you'll be left in the dark about your case. A good attorney will explain the entire process. To start, click here to see Jake's comprehensive Anatomy of a Sonoma County DUI flowchart. In addition, Jake's tech know-how can be very helpful to avoid the need for client travel, meetings or appearances, especially at the procedural beginning of a case. If requested, we .pdf police reports and other case documents to you within 24 hours after court appearances.

You can (and should) closely follow the progress of your Sonoma County case by regularly communicating with your DUI lawyer before and after Santa Rosa court appearances, and follow your case separately online by clicking on Resources on this site and then find your local court under "Superior Courts" by clicking on the county where you were arrested (for example, Sonoma, Marin, Sonoma or Mendocino), and search your name. Sonoma Courts have an online calendar for Sonoma appearances which lists your name, case number, the Sonoma courtroom for your case. Napa Courts and Mendocino Courts have similar online calendars. Marin Courts have San Rafael appearances online weeks in advance.

Sting Photo by JakeBeware the driver license sting operations. Important!! If you have a suspended license, don't drive, and if you drive to court in Sonoma, you stand a chance of being arrested in one of Sonoma County's sting operations where Santa Rosa and Sonoma County police agents watch in court and radio to officers waiting to stop you when you drive away from the courthouse.

These stings typically happen at random times throughout the year and result in huge additional headaches (including impounded vehicle and more jail time) for those caught. Click here if you don't believe it! Santa Rosa Court Sting. The photograph (left) was taken by Jake outside of his office, just one block from the courthouse, on December 21, 2010, as CHP and Santa Rosa Police Department motorcycle cops waited for radio descriptions of suspended licensees driving away. According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, in an article questioning such aggressive tactics, 10 people were arrested that day. Have a local Sonoma DUI lawyer appear for you instead.

Don't pay a reimbursement bill from a police agency or hospital before speaking to a lawyer!

You might get a bill from the police. Some police agencies routinely mail reimbursement bills to attempt to recoup costs for arresting you! Even though you may be a Sonoma County taxpayer and may have already paid for the police department, the police car, and the salary of the police officer whose DUI arrest you are now fighting, still, in these tough economic times Sonoma County agencies may try to bill you for reimbursement of their costs for the actual DUI arrest incident pursuant to Government Code Section 53150. Click below to see examples:

CHP DUI Invoice

CHP DUI Invoice-Second Notice

Rohnert Park Police DUI Invoice

Santa Rosa Police DUI Invoice

Sebastopol Police DUI Invoice

Although an invoice pursuant to this law may be valid if emergency personnel were required to respond to a DUI incident (for example an ambulance, paramedics or fire trucks responding to an accident scene, or more CHP or Santa Rosa police officers responded in order to manage traffic interruption due to a DUI incident), nevertheless, the California Court of Appeals for Sonoma County has ruled that an ordinary arrest for DUI is not a sufficient trigger event to require reimbursement to Sonoma County law enforcement under this law. See, California Highway Patrol v. Superior Court (Allende) (1st Dist 2006) 135 C.A.4th 488.

An Example. A Sonoma County CHP invoice received by one of Jake's DUI clients who was subjected to a typical, uneventful DUI arrest, stated that "the defendant herein shall pay to CHP the total indicated below" listing 5.2 personnel hours and a total due of $469.33. After reviewing this client's incident, and the invoice received, Jake was outraged by the intimidating and misleading "defendant shall pay CHP" language in the DUI invoice from an agency whose leaders are sworn to uphold and enforce the law; he advised this individual client not to pay the bill based on the facts in her case, and fired off a Counsel's Reply Letter on her behalf.

Although failure to pay may result in a debt collection lawsuit (civil, not criminal case), or may cause an item to be referred to the Franchise Tax Board or a collection agency (click to see City of Santa Rosa Refers to Collection Agency and a Sample Reply Letter), risking a negative credit incident (many people may never hear from the police agency again, especially if the arrest was in fact uneventful), such possible risks may be addressed, minimized and/or negated with vigilance and protest when the claimed debt is disputed and invalid on its face.

Update: 2011 Allende II Ruling: On December 9, 2011, the Court of Appeals for Sonoma County DUI cases re-examined the issue of when CHP can recoup costs for DUI-related incidents, in Allende v. Dept of California Highway Patrol ("Allende II"), and upheld the CHP's latest policy, to seek DUI cost recovery "for any incident in which an officer is dispatched to a call resulting in a DUI arrest of a driver."

Santa Rosa Accident

To the dismay of Sonoma County DUI lawyers, the Allende II court embraced the CHP's "Fox Guarding the Chicken Coup" approach to when CHP can collect money from citizens whom they arrest for DUI, writing about the circular "wisdom of deferring to CHP expertise" in this self-interested cost inquiry, noting the CHP's stated internal policy where "the CHP has instituted an internal appeal process under which arrested drivers may challenge an officer's initial determination that an incident qualifies for cost recovery. According to the evidence presented to the court, "when [the CHP] send[s] out an Emergency Response Cost invoice under the CHP's Cost Recovery Program, and disputes arise over the propriety of the invoice, [it] has established procedures for investigating, reviewing, and resolving such disputes . . . ." For example, if "the dispute involves a contention . . . that no emergency response to an incident was involved, [the CHP] will put the invoice on hold and forward a copy of the invoice file (including the dispute letter) to the area office from which the incident arose. Information is requested from the area office so that an appropriate response can be made. If it is determined that the invoice was mistakenly issued, [the CHP] will cancel the invoice and inform the disputant of that fact. If the area office believes the invoice was properly issued and the disputant does not agree, or if the contention involves a dispute regarding the Government Code, the matter may be referred to the CHP's legal office. The CHP's counsel will then review the materials. When the CHP's counsel concludes an invoice was not appropriate, the charges are cancelled."

Allende II also upheld the specific formula for determining the amount of reimbursement in a Sonoma County DUI arrest, where "CHP calculates annually a standard hourly rate for its officers by taking the monetary wages paid to a mid-step traffic officer, adding the cost of benefits (retirement contributions, health insurance, workers compensation and Medicare contributions) and dividing that amount by an officer's "total actual working time," which includes the total number of hours an average officer works after subtracting paid time off for holidays, vacations and other leave."

Although the latest case law has emboldened police agencies to invoice DUI arrestees more often, Santa Rosa DUI attorneys are following these developments and are in the best position to advise someone arrested for a DUI in Sonoma County who subsequently receives a bill from a local police agency for the type of DUI cost recovery described here. It is still possible to dispute the most overreaching invoices: see, for example, a letter recently written by Jake on behalf of Santa Rosa DUI client regarding a CHP invoice for an alleged DUI incident which was never charged in court or pursued at DMV: Dispute Letter When No Charges Filed. You can see that hiring a Sonoma DUI lawyer can be very beneficial to deal with all manner of unanticipated challenges.

You might get a bill from the hospital. Often a Santa Rosa DUI arrest involves a blood test, because a breath test was unavailable, or because you chose the blood test rather than the breath test, or because the officer informed you (as they are required) that the breath-testing equipment does not retain any sample of the breath and that no breath sample will be available after the test which could be analyzed later by you or your Sonoma County DUI lawyer, and because no breath sample is retained, you have the opportunity to provide a blood or urine sample that will be retained at no cost to you so that there will be something retained that may be subsequently analyzed for the alcoholic content of your blood. See Vehicle Code Section 23614.

The fact that the police do not have access to their own medical staff, or to a paramedic response (many police agencies do have such access), does not mean that you should have to pay for alternative hospital staff to perform the blood draw while you are in state custody exercising a right protected by law which specifically states that there will be no cost to you. If you received such a bill (click here for an example of a Hospital Bill for Blood Draw), then you should discuss it with a Sonoma County DUI attorney before paying it. Always discuss your individual circumstances with a Sonoma County DUI lawyer because the unique facts of your case may affect the actual direct advice given to you.

DUI defendants should always consult with a Sonoma DUI lawyer about the individual circumstances of an arrest before being intimidated into paying any such invoices from Sonoma County, or state law enforcement agencies, or a medical institution.