Van Nuys Getting Tough on DUI Cases
I was in Van Nuys court yesterday for a client charged with a misdemeanor DUI with a high breath alcohol reading of .30%. Although the case was filed as a first offense, the defendant had three prior DUI convictions that were older than the statutory period of ten years. There was no accident in the case.
The case resulted from an arrest in Malibu and was prosecuted by the District Attorneys Office. The deputy district attorney in court was very hostile and emotional about the situation and regarded my client as "a drunk" and "a danger to the public" who needed to be "locked up". It took me a while to calm her down. The judge sitting in the arraignment court, Judge Rebecca Omens, has a reputation among DUI defense lawyers as being one of the most punitive judges in Los Angeles County. We faced a very difficult situation.
By entering a plea of "Not Guilty", we were able to continue the case and have the matter transferred to a different court with a different judge for future pre-trial negotiations. However, the immediate problem was that the prosecutor and judge wanted my client taken into custody, and would not consent to continued release without bail.
The astonishing fact was that the judge, at the prosecutor's urging imposed bail of $50,000. This is an amount more in-keeping with a felony DUI, not a misdemeanor. The judge would not take into account the fact that my client had attended over 60 AA meetings since her arrest.
The lesson to be learned is that you can't assume that a first offense DUI will result in a "slap on the wrist" and no custody time. The prosecutor in this case wants 120 days county jail! It will take a great effort to avoid this. I have had potential new clients calling me with high blood alcohol levels asking whether they really need to hire an attorney.
There is sometimes a wide gulf between defendant's expectations in DUI cases and the reality of being in court with a punitive prosecutor and judge. Nobody charged with a DUI should consider representing themselves as the court system is not reasonable or fair and treats people charged with DUI with great seriousness.
If you have been charged with a DUI and you have a high blood or breath alcohol reading, please call us for expert guidance and representation.