January 2012 Archives

Helmandollar Plea: Can It Help Get My License Back After The DMV Suspended It Due To A DUI?

The first thing to address is that there are two separate actions pending once you are arrested for drunk driving. One is the administrative portion through the Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV, and the other is the court process. Although these two processes are separate and distinct, some of the rules and laws interact and influence the other.

For instance, if you requested a DMV administrative per se hearing to challenge the suspension of your license and you lost, or if you failed to request a hearing and your license was automatically suspended 30 days after the arrest, a Helmandollar plea in court can help you get your license back.

So, what is a Helmandollar plea? Under Helmandollar v. Department of Motor Vehicles, the defendant pleads guilty or no contest to a dry or wet reckless charge. Immediately after there is a bench trial, (a trial before a judge without a jury), on California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b). The trial is based on stipulated facts between defense counsel and the prosecutor, thus the prosecutor agrees not to put on any evidence about the blood-alcohol content, or BAC. The court then finds the defendant not guilty or acquitted of the (b) count.

The defense counsel then requests a certified copy of the court minutes showing the acquittal and forwards it onto the DMV's mandatory actions unit in Sacramento. The court's findings are binding on the DMV and the licensee is entitled to have the conviction on the DMV record set-aside.

The license suspension and DMV conviction is set-aside pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 13353.2(e), which states, "If a person is acquitted of criminal charges relating to a determination of facts under [the administrative per se law]...the department shall immediately reinstate the person's privilege to operate a motor vehicle." (Note, this does not include a suspension due to a refusal to take a chemical test.)

The court and the prosecuting authority must agree to such a plea which makes it very difficult to get. Often one or both of them do not want to help the defendant get his or her license back and will refuse such a request for this type of plea. However, if you cannot afford to have a DUI on your driving record, this is an option that can be explored by a driving under the influence defense attorney in negotiating with the prosecutor.

The above summary on Helmandollar pleas is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For information and advice on the specific facts and laws that pertain to your driving under the influence case, contact a DUI attorney in your area.

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DMV Notification Of Findings And Decision, Suspension Of Driver's License Re-Imposed, What's Next?

suspended dl.jpgIf you are arrested for driving under the influence in San Diego County, your license is usually taken by law enforcement and you are given a temporary driver's license. The temporary license allows you to continue to drive with the same restrictions, classifications, and endorsements that your original California driver's license had. Make sure you sign the document and carry it with you when you drive. The temporary license is valid for thirty days after the DUI arrest.

After the thirty days, your license is automatically suspended unless you contact the Department of Motor Vehicles, DMV, Driver Safety Office within 10 days from the date of arrest to schedule an administrative per se hearing. This hearing with be telephonic unless an in-person hearing is requested. By requesting this hearing, the DMV will put a stay on the suspension of your license until a decision has been made on your matter, unless you request otherwise. A stay means you will be able to continue to drive and often a second temporary license with an extended date will be mailed to the driver.

After the administrative per se hearing, the DMV will mail the Notification of Findings and Decision with the decision to either end the stay on the license suspension, thus beginning the suspension period*, or set aside the suspension, thus giving back the driver's license.

If the DMV's findings end the stay, the driver has 15 days from the effective date of the notice to request a Departmental Review of the findings. This request must be in writing, addressed to the Driver Safety Office where the hearing was conducted, and received and date stamped by the DMV by the statutory date. In addition, the request must include a fee of $120. No stay on the suspension will be issued pending review; therefore, the license is suspended as of the date noted in the notification.

Often these reviews end with a confirmation of the hearing officer's decision. However, the matter may be sent back to the hearing officer to clean up any issues, still resulting in a license suspension. In a few instances, the DMV review board will find that the hearing officer acted outside his or her authority and set aside the suspension, returning the license to the driver.

If the DMV confirms the hearing officer's findings and decision after the Departmental Review, the licensee may appeal that decision by filing a Writ of Mandamus with the courts. Under California Vehicle Code Section 14401, the driver has 90 days from the date the order was noticed to bring an action in the court to review the administrative agency's decision.

This code section specifically requires all administrative appeals be final before filing a petition in the courts; however, since the license suspension is not stayed pending the Departmental Review, the driver may consider filing a writ without the review or simultaneously with the review.

*The suspension time is determined by factors including how many prior DUI's the driver has, if a chemical test was refused, and the age of the driver.

The above summary of the DMV's Departmental Review and writ procedures are by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update and this article may not apply to your case. For the latest information on this, or any other DUI matter, contact an exclusively DUI defense attorney to find out more information on your individual case.

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Probation Violation: Misdemeanor Driving Under The Influence Matter

When a DUI defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty after a trial, the judge may put the defendant on probation as part of the sentence. Probation is "the suspension of the imposition or execution of a sentence and the order of conditional and revocable release in the community under the supervision of a probation officer," per California Penal Code Section 1203(a). In other words, the defendant is released into the community with certain terms or conditions that must be fulfilled.

In misdemeanor drunk driving cases, the judge has the authority to grant probation without referring the defendant to a probation officer. This means the probationer reports directly to the court, not to a probation officer. This is often called court probation, summary probation, or informal probation.

A judge has discretion to impose any reasonable terms of probation that are reasonably related to the underlying offense. However, the standard terms and conditions on a first time, misdemeanor drunk driving conviction in San Diego County include, but are not limited to: 1.) Paying the fines and fees to the court; 2.) Enrolling and completing an alcohol program per the recommendation of the SAAU Unit; 3.) Not driving with a measureable amount of alcohol or drugs in the system; 4.) Submitting to a drug or alcohol test at the request of law enforcement; 5.) Not violating the law; 6.) Public work service; and, 7.) Attending a MADD panel class.

In many misdemeanor matters, probation is a three year term. San Diego Courts commonly order five years of probation on drunk driving cases. Within that period of time, if a probationer fails to comply with any of the specific terms of his or her probation, the judge will revoke the probation and the clock will stop running on the probation. The probationer will be notified either by a letter or a warrant may be issued, ordering the probationer to come before the judge.

On the day of court, the probationer may admit the violation or request a hearing contesting the violation. If there is an admission or if the probationer is found in violation of the terms of probation after a hearing, the judge has authority to punish the probationer. The punishment may include modifying the terms of probation by adding additional requirements or ordering him or her to serve time in jail for a period not to exceed the maximum possible jail sentence under the charges plead to or found guilty of.

If you are probation for driving under the influence and you have received notice of a probation violation or warrant is out for your arrest, do not handle this matter on your own. Consult an exclusively, DUI defense firm to properly advise you on your rights, negotiate on your behalf with the judge, and represent your interests in court.

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San Diego's Drunk Driving Arrest Numbers For Holiday Announced

calculator.jpgSan Diego Sheriff's Department announced their final driving under the influence numbers for the 2011 holiday season. Fourteen San Diego County law enforcement agencies and the California Highway Patrol, CHP, arrested 770 people on suspicion of drunk driving from 12:01 a.m., Friday, December 16th, 2011, through 12:00 a.m., Sunday, January 1st, 2012. Five deaths in San Diego have been blamed on drunk driving. This is up from 715 DUI arrests in 2010 for the same time period, according to californiaavoid.org.

The Sheriff's have announced that they will be increasing their saturation patrols and drunk driving checkpoints around San Diego County during the Super Bowl weekend of February 5th, and again around the St. Patrick's Day events in March.

As always, we recommend you plan ahead before heading out to celebrate to avoid the possibility of being arrested for drunk driving. Pack a bag and plan on staying at the home of the party host. Designate a driver to remain sober and be responsible to drive you home. Save a San Diego taxi company's telephone number in your phone and use it. Use public transportation or call a sober friend or family member for a ride.

But, if you are arrested for drunk driving, hiring a skilled DUI defense attorney can help you evaluate your case, negotiate with the prosecuting authority, file motions when appropriate, mitigate your consequences, and possibly get your case reduced or dismissed!

Once arrested for drunk driving, there are two legal processes that occur: One is the California Department of Motor Vehicles' administrative process and the other is the court process. Be advised that you only have ten days from the date of the arrest to contact the DMV to request an administrative hearing challenging the suspension of your license. If you fail to schedule the hearing within those ten (10) days, your license will automatically be suspended thirty (30) days after the arrest.

Besides the administrative process that occurs, there is also a court action. If you are arrested for drunk driving, do not just plead guilty even if your blood alcohol content, or BAC, was a .08% or more. There may be defenses in your case that can lead to reduced charges with less punishment or even a dismissal! Those defenses are usually not apparent until a DUI defense attorney can review all the evidence against you. That information is usually not known until after the arraignment and the discovery process begins.

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