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Top Ten Tips > Easing the Consequences of a DUI

6. Court Probation

Read Your Sentencing Order and Stay Out of Trouble!

Your Sonoma County DUI lawyer should inform you that there are multiple obligations imposed at sentencing in Sonoma County, such as fines, DUI classes, jail, etc. Although the court and even your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer may detail the consequences of a DUI sentence prior, during and subsequent to a sentencing, nevertheless you are best served by reading your Sonoma County Superior Court papers immediately, asking questions, and Sonoma Minute Orderconfirming your understandings. Inadvertent errors do happen, therefore your own independent understanding and diligence is critical to preventing confusion, mistakes or omissions, and possibly serious consequences affecting your legal position and your personal liberty. This is one of the most important reasons to have a Santa Rosa DUI attorney helping you, so that you fully understand the conditions which were imposed on you, and the consequences and benefits of unsuccessful or successful completion of probation.

In Sonoma County, at the time of sentencing, you or your Santa Rosa DUI lawyer will receive a "minute order" from the court showing every item recorded by the Santa Rosa courtroom clerk, including the court's specific sentencing orders (usually these are part of the court's probation order) regarding jail, fines, drinking driver DUI Program classes, dates, durations, even special orders for multiple offenders such as staying out of bars and abstaining from alcohol possession/use, waiver of search and seizure rights, and installation of an ignition interlock device, etc. Any such orders typically last the entire term of probation unless otherwise stated in the orders. A good Sonoma County DUI lawyer will advise you to permanently keep the original orders (pictured, right) with your important papers. Click here to see a typical Sonoma County probation order: Typical First DUI Minutes/Sentencing Order, or here for the older 2015 example, or here for the older 2012 example, or here for the older 2011 example, or here for the older 2008 example. Click here to see the reverse (page 3) of the minute orders, which includes additional orders and key information such as phone numbers, addresses and times for certain obligations. Click here to see a typical probation order for a DUI Reduced to a Wet Reckless, or here for the older 2015 Wet example, or here for the older 2013 Wet example, or here for the older 2012 Wet example.

For other north bay counties, click here to see a typical first DUI Marin County Probation Order, or here for the older 2014 example, and here to see a first DUI Napa County Probation Order, or here for the older 2014 example, and here for a first DUI Mendocino County Probation Order, or here for the older 2014 example.

The Conditional Sentence.

Sonoma County DUI lawyers know that mostly all Sonoma County DUI convictions result in this informal court probation (called a "conditional sentence") described above, which does not require monthly reports or any restriction on your travel. Simply put, your DUI resolution in court is conditioned upon you satisfying all affirmative obligations, and having no adverse police contact during this period or else you will risk further punishment in this case (in addition to the new trouble, of course). The standard probation period in Sonoma County is 18 to 24 months for a wet reckless, three years for a typical first or second DUI, and five years for a DUI with two or more priors. High blood alcohol levels, refusals, hit and run accidents, or other aggravating allegations may affect the length of a probation term.

Typical Court Probation Terms.

Jail (or jail alternatives), fines, and DUI program enrollment and completion, are a key part of this informal probation, and any decent Sonoma County DUI attorney will explain to you that failure to follow through on these obligations will likely result in a new charge of violating probation (including warrants, new Santa Rosa court appearances, and complications expunging this case later). In addition to these sentencing requirements, Sonoma County court probation typically includes a catch-all condition of sentence that you be of good conduct and obey all laws, do not drive unless validly licensed and insured, and do not drive with any measurable alcohol or intoxicating substances in your body (as compared to before conviction when you could theoretically have up to .08% alcohol level). New penalty provisions regarding driving with measurable alcohol are discussed below. In addition, although Santa Rosa DUI lawyers may succeed in avoiding burdensome conditions of probation, still, informal probationers with more serious penalties imposed might ultimately waive search and seizure defenses during this period and agree to submit to chemical testing pursuant to a lawful order by a Sonoma County peace officer; these waivers and agreements typically will not become relevant unless there is adverse police contact.

Higher Alcohol Levels and/or Multiple Offenders.

IID blower Normally all of these and other probation conditions will be included on your Sonoma County court minutes/sentencing order (click on the examples, above). If your case included a relatively high blood alcohol concentration (over .15%) or this is your second or higher DUI, then your Sonoma County DUI lawyer should explain to you that you may be subject to further probation conditions, such as refraining from alcohol possession and use (and waiver of search and seizure rights to enforce no-possession orders), and staying out of places where alcohol is the primary item for sale, installation of an ignition interlock device in any vehicle you own or operate, etc. Click here to see a typical Sonoma County Second DUI Probation Order, or older 2014 example, or older 2012 example, and here for a Sonoma Second DUI with Aggravating Factors (higher alcohol levels, recent prior offense or violation of probation on prior DUI, collision, hit and run, old prior outside ten years, resisting arrest, refusal to give breath/blood test, kids in the car, suspended license, etc.), or older 2014 example, or older 2012 example, or here for a Second DUI Reduced to Wet Reckless resolution (much lower alcohol numbers and a distant prior offense).

The best Sonoma DUI lawyers should be able to explain that counties vary in sentencing practices. For a comparison of the above sentencing approaches in Sonoma County with other North Bay Counties, click here to see a typical Napa Second DUI Probation Order, or older 2014 example, and here for a typical Napa Second DUI with Aggravating Factors, or older 2014 example, and here for a typical Mendocino Second DUI Probation Order.

From December, 2009, to July, 2012, multiple DUI offenders were referred to a "DUI Compliance Court" (see further discussion below). If you were sentenced during this time, then your Sonoma County DUI attorney should have given you a copy of your Compliance Court Probation Order, including obligations to perform and further court dates in Santa Rosa following sentencing. Click here to see an example of a Second DUI Probation & Compliance Court Orders. A good Santa Rosa DUI lawyer will explain each of these obligations and try to lessen the impact of certain tasks. For example, if you were sentenced under this scheme but you are fully in compliance, you may not be required to continue attending if your Request for Waiver of Appearance is approved.

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Third DUI sentencing and probation terms vary widely depending on individual circumstances, but click here to see an example of a Sonoma County Third DUI Probation Order where home confinement was authorized in Santa Rosa, followed by a period of time on an alcohol detection anklet. Such convictions typically include a designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender pursuant to Penal Code 193.7 and Vehicle Code 14601.3. Convictions involving drug use or possession often include probation terms requiring periodic random drug testing in addition to the terms described above.

Looking Up the Law.

Understand that probation orders and sentencing components are highly discretionary with the judge in any criminal matter, and are normally tailored to specific aggravating and mitigating factors in each unique case. If you wish to see applicable laws containing the range of Sonoma DUI sentencing options and consequences, you may ask a Santa Rosa DUI attorney, or click on Resources on this site and then under "Self Help" click on the California Vehicle Code. Most of the Sonoma County Superior Court's mandatory and discretionary DUI sentencing components are contained in California Vehicle Code Sections 23536-23552, 23554-23568, 23572, 23575-23582, 23592-23596, 23598, and 23600-23602.

The general probation requirements for a first offense DUI are contained in Vehicle Code Section 23538, including jail sentencing, fines, and DUI program classes. Second DUI offense conditions are contained in section 23542, and third offense conditions are contained in section 23548.

The best Santa Rosa DUI lawyers will explain that sentencing enhancements, relating to certain aggravating factual allegations related to the DUI incident, are contained in later vehicle code sections, such as the "minor passenger enhancement" (23572(a), mandating an additional 2-30 days jail, depending on the number of prior DUI convictions) when a minor passenger under the age of 14 years old was in the vehicle; the ".15 enhancement" (23578, allowing extra jail, possible longer six-month DUI program classes, possible ignition interlock device per 23575(a)(1)) when the driver refused a chemical test or his/her blood alcohol concentration was .15% or higher; the ".20 enhancement" (23538(b)(2), allowing extra jail and mandating the longer nine-month DUI program classes) when the driver refused a chemical test or his/her blood alcohol concentration was .20% or higher; and the "speeding enhancement" (23582, mandating an additional 60 days jail) when the driver drove recklessly and 30 mph over the posted speed limit on a freeway, or 20 mph on other roads. An important reason to hire a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer is to enlist valuable practical experience and guidance in order to negotiate away the most burdensome of these added penalties.

Vehicle impoundment penalties are discussed in section 23592. DMV suspensions related to DUIs are described in Vehicle Code sections 13352-13353. Sonoma DUI attorneys also see additional penalties imposed as a result of other allegations commonly associated with DUIs, some of which may be found in Vehicle Code sections 2800.1 (evading the police), 20002 (hit and run), and 23153 (DUI with injuries).

Don't Drive With Any Alcohol In Your Body.

Good Sonoma DUI attorneys will explain to you that it is absolutely critical that you refrain from driving with any alcohol (courts often add "or other intoxicating substances" to probation terms) in your body at all during your probationary period. Vehicle Code Section 23600(b)(2),(d). Beginning January 1, 2009, it is unlawful in California for a person who is on probation for a DUI (not wet reckless) to operate a motor vehicle at any time with a blood-alcohol concentration of .01 or greater as shown on any preliminary breath machine or actual breath or blood test. If you are found guilty of this act in Sonoma County then your driver license likely will be suspended for a minimum one year (refusals may be even longer), usually with no possibility of any hardship or restricted "work" license. (CVC 13389, 23154, 13353.1, 13353.2, 13353.3). Click here to see an example of such a DMV Probation Violation Suspension Order.

Juvenile Offenders.

If you are under age 18, special Sonoma County Juvenile Court proceedings may apply to you at the Los Guilicos Juvenile Court in Santa Rosa.


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Click here to see a typical Juvenile Court Delinquency Finding and click here to see a typical Sonoma County Juvenile DUI Sentencing Order, which includes 6 months formal probation (including random drug/alcohol testing), 40 hours community service, one-year license suspension, DUI youth classes and approximately a $400 fine.

Although juvenile criminal records may be sealed at age 18 (Sonoma County DUI lawyers would strongly recommend that you complete this process as soon as possible), DMV records will continue to show juvenile DUI suspensions (typically one-year suspensions) for at least 10 years following an incident. The following link is an example of a 22 year old man's DMV driving record showing one juvenile alcohol suspension with .03% alcohol (age 16), one minor DUI with .08/.07% alcohol (age 20), two suspended license cases, and one adult DUI with .11/.12% alcohol (age 22): Juvenile DMV Record.

Accessing Old Sentencing Orders.

If your case resolved in the past and you lost or never received a copy of your Sonoma County Superior Court minute/sentencing order from your DUI lawyer, and you wish to review precisely what was ordered by the court, you may appear at the Sonoma County criminal clerk's office at the main courthouse in Santa Rosa and ask for a copy of the entire "docket" or court history. There is a nominal fee per page, but this is a valuable recorded history of everything that actually transpired in your Sonoma County court case and can often refresh recollections and clear up misunderstandings of precise resolutions, probation durations, time served, etc...

The "Tier 1" Compliance Court for Second and Third DUI Offenders [Suspended Program/Unfunded as of July 2012]

In December, 2009, the Sonoma County courts introduced a new layer of "informal" probation oversight for all second and third DUI offenders. This Sonoma DUI court program was unfunded and suspended in July, 2012.

In addition to the existing "DUI court" (described in the Jail Alternatives tip below), a new segment was added, named the DUI oversight court. Under this new system, second and third DUI offenders were referred to this compliance court after sentencing. These offenders were referred to a compliance officer/case manager, and required to attend another court session two months following their sentencing (court hearings on the second Wednesday of each month), and again at the six month mark and finally at the one year mark. The court may order that the defendant not attend the second or third hearings. Persons who live in distant counties, and out of state residents, may participate by telephone in certain cases.

The Case Manager. Sentenced offenders will contact the compliance office and be required to meet with one of two case managers from the Sonoma County Alcohol And Other Drug Services Program ("AODS") to come up with an action/treatment plan to address (and facilitate/ensure) compliance with the original sentencing court's orders, such as enrollment and attendance in the DUI program, AA meetings, installation of the SCRAM anklet, ignition interlock devices, jail, work release or home confinement, etc. Participants provide proof of such compliance to their case managers.

The case manager/compliance officer will monitor probation compliance and assist the DUI offenders in their efforts to eliminate drugs and alcohol from their lives, and may include, if necessary, referral to community services, monitoring substance abuse, random drug testing, addressing family issues, verification of participation in job training, immigration assistance, housing and education. If a client has not fulfilled their obligations, it will be up to the compliance officer and the court to determine why, and also to suggest a different course intended to help the client to comply. The ultimate determination of a response by the court remains with the judge. Sonoma County DUI defense attorneys will have open communication with such case managers and the court, and may help facilitate an appropriate response to certain difficulties.

Click here to see the complete Sonoma County DUI Compliance Court summary memorandum.

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Any result portrayed was dependent on the facts of that case, and the results will differ if based on different facts.

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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