Ramifications of DUI Arrest for Out of State Clients
Representing clients charged with DUI in California presents different challenges when the client resides in a different State or Country. The priority for these clients is that the case be resolved without them having to return to California to attend court or perform penalties.
Normally, a misdemeanor DUI can be resolved without a defendant having to attend court. California Penal Code section 977(a) allows an attorney to appear in court for a defendant in misdemeanor proceedings. If the charge is a felony, the defendant must be present at every court date, even if they reside out of State.
However, penalties for a DUI include a requirement that the defendant attend an alcohol education class. For a first offense, this class may be for three, six or nine months. Obviously, for an out of State client, returning to California to perform a lengthy education class in not realistic. Normally, a judge will accept a reasonable out of State equivalent program. Some judges will insist that the program length be equal to a California program, which can be challenging as many States operate much shorter classes.
One option favored by some judges is for an out of State defendant to perform an alcohol education class on line. There are companies that specifically tailor their programs to meet California requirements. For California residents, the program must be performed in person.
I was in court in Long Beach today representing a client who lived in Thailand and was at sea for most of the time as an engineer on a merchant ship. For him, performance of any type of alcohol education class was not an option. The case involved a "refusal enhancement" and the prosecutor wanted a nine month alcohol education class, forty eight hours jail and ten days of caltrans (picking up trash) in addition to the normal fine and probationary terms. This was completely unacceptable to us and we were prepared to go to trial if necessary. In the end, the judge agreed to accept a non probationary sentence which carried a penalty of a significant fine only. This avoided all the other inconvenient penalties for the defendant.