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.