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Top Ten Tips > Easing the Consequences of a DUI

5. Court Fines

Typically, in Sonoma County and other counties, your DUI attorney can arrange monthly payments of $75-$100 to ease the financial burden of increasingly higher court fines for a DUI. There may be a small processing fee (like $35) to set up your account, but typically no interest.

Sonoma Accounting Office 106-JIf your Sonoma DUI lawyer sets up these low payments for you, then be sure to write your case number on each check. Try to pay off the entire amount early to avoid problems which often occur due to lost or forgotten payments (happens more than you would guess). A failure to pay may result in a violation of probation (possibly making a subsequent expungement of your criminal record more difficult for a Sonoma County DUI lawyer to perform for you in the future), and may result in reporting to the DMV (resulting in an unanticipated driver license suspension notice in your mailbox).

Click here for the Court Fines Flyer handed out at sentencing for information on how and where in Santa Rosa to arrange payments and send your monthly checks. Additional payment information may be obtained at the Sonoma County Court's Accounting Department Web Page. Check in with the offices listed in the court flyer a few weeks after sentencing to confirm your first payment date, amounts, addresses and other arrangements, in order to avoid missed payments due to inadvertent error. If you can't find your account, call the number listed to inquire.

Community Service Alternative to DUI Fines

If you cannot afford to pay even a small amount each month, then you may wish to consider discussing the Sonoma County Volunteer Center's court referred Community Service Program with your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer who can arrange this alternative for you at the time of sentencing in order to substantially reduce the court fines. The Court converts your fine to community service at a certain hourly rate. For example, if the hourly rate was $10.00, then you would be required to complete 50 hours of community service within a certain amount of time in order to work off $500.00 of your fine. Only certain portions of fines and fees may be converted to community service.

Don't Pay a Reimbursement Bill From a Police Agency or Hospital Before Speaking To A Lawyer!

Drop BoxYou might get a bill from the police. The best Sonoma DUI lawyers know very well that many 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 arrest you are now fighting, still, in these tough economic times Sonoma County agencies often try to bill you for reimbursement of their costs for the actual arrest incident, pursuant to Government Code Section 53150. See an example here of a Santa Rosa City "Invoice." Although an invoice pursuant to this law may be valid if emergency personnel were required to respond (for example an ambulance, paramedics or fire trucks responding to an accident scene, or more CHP officers to manage traffic interruption), nevertheless, the California Appeals Court for Sonoma County has ruled that an ordinary arrest for DUI is not a sufficient trigger event to require reimbursement 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 (2 years after the above appeals case was issued) which was sent to one of Jake's DUI clients involved in an uneventful DUI arrest, states that "the defendant herein shall pay to CHP the total indicated below" which lists 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 misleading mandatory "shall" language in the invoice (completely contrary to controlling law in this jurisdiction) from an agency whose leaders are sworn to uphold and enforce the law, and he advised this particular DUI client not to pay the bill.

Although failure to pay may result in a lawsuit by the arresting agency, or cause an item to be referred to a collection and risk a negative credit incident, such negative effects of asserting consumer rights may be negated with vigilance and protest when, as in the case above, the claimed debt is disputed and invalid. Many DUI arrestees never hear from the police agency again. If a lawsuit is filed by the Sonoma County agency seeking reimbursement, the defendant will have the opportunity to challenge the collection attempt and claimed amounts. DUI defendants should always consult with a Santa Rosa lawyer about the individual circumstances of an arrest before being intimidated into paying any such invoice from Sonoma County law enforcement agencies. See the more comprehensive discussion on this site about the Allende case, and new law developments since this case was first published, under Hire a Lawyer.

You might get a bill from the hospital. Often a Santa Rosa DUI arrest involves a blood test, because the arresting officer placed you in custody and ordered you to give a blood sample, either 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.

If you are commanded to provide a blood test (or told that the law requires you to choose), then you have not freely elected to choose and should not be required to pay for it. Further, 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.

Finally, you may have signed a hospital form promising to be financially responsible for the blood draw. The above arguments should be equally applicable, since your presence at the hospital and subsequent paperwork and medically unnecessary procedures were not the product of your own free will. If you receive a hospital bill for a blood draw in the context of a Sonoma County DUI arrest, then you should discuss it with a Sonoma County DUI attorney before paying it. Click here for an example of a Hospital Bill for Blood Draw. Always discuss your individual circumstances with a Sonoma County DUI lawyer because the unique facts of your case may affect the actual legal advice you need.

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.

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Dave Jake Schwartz is an Honors Graduate from UC Hastings Law School, and UC Davis, former Federal Judicial Clerk, and Nationally Qualified Sobriety Tests Practitioner. Member of the California Bar for 30 years, Sonoma County resident for over 20 years, handles only DUI cases, including thousands of Sonoma County DUIs and DMV hearings: first/multiple offenders, minors, seniors, tourists, undocumented immigrants, veterans, probation violations, suspended license, public intoxication, open container, minor in possession, child endangerment, collisions, hit and run, evading, resisting arrest.

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Dave Jake Schwartz