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Top Ten Tips > First 48 Hours

2. Hire a Sonoma DUI Lawyer

Protect your own interests.

Getting a local Sonoma County DUI lawyer gives you your best shot at beating a DUI in the local Sonoma Superior Court, and protecting your driver's license at the Santa Rosa DMV. All of the other parties to your case have their own agendas: the arresting officer, the DMV, the Sonoma County District Attorney and the Sonoma County Judge. For a more detailed discussion of the police agenda, see Jake's discussion in this Top Ten Tips series: Don't Follow Bad Advice. The judge and assistant district attorney who are examining your case are both highly disciplined and experienced lawyers, and, together with the DMV hearing officer assigned to your case, all of these local DUI authorities who are about to make decisions about the outcome of your matter are guided by much broader public safety considerations than just you or your own personal hardship, family needs or future job security.

Sonoma County DUI attorneys are specifically hired to protect you in every practical way. Not only can the outcome of a Sonoma County DUI affect you for the rest of your life, but in addition, all kinds of unexpected complications in Sonoma DUI cases can trip you up, and all kinds of shortcuts exist making it easier for you to comply with far less pain at the end of the day; only Sonoma DUI lawyers are uniquely positioned to navigate you through this situation, and no one has the expertise to go it alone.

Would you perform medical procedures on yourself? Engineer your own home? Fix your own plumbing or electrical problems? Sue a big company without a good lawyer on your side? We hire professionals to address and properly fix all kinds of problems in our lives, expertly and correctly from beginning to end, with minimum confusion and stress, with maximum information and flexibility, the options and execution you need right now. Don't follow casual advice from friends or try to do this yourself; you should have a Santa Rosa DUI lawyer looking out for your own best interests and easing the consequences so that you may move on with the least stress and inconvenience.

Public defenders. If you really cannot afford to hire a private Sonoma County DUI lawyer, then it's almost always advisable to appear at the first court date in the Sonoma County courthouse and when your case is called by the judge, don't try to explain your case or circumstances or ask for a break, but rather, at the very first moment that you are permitted to speak, simply ask for the Sonoma County Public Defender to be appointed.


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Note: Sonoma County public defenders do not handle DMV proceedings in Santa Rosa or elsewhere, and typically you are not permitted to speak with them prior to your first court appearance. Also, typically you have to physically go to court for the first appearance and every proceeding in your case, as opposed to private Sonoma DUI lawyers who go for you while you go to work or stay home. However, although public defenders get a bad rap because they typically can't spend as much time with you as compared to a private DUI lawyer, nevertheless their service is excellent and highly valued.

Representing yourself. Although you have a constitutional right to represent yourself according to the US Supreme Court's Faretta Ruling, understand that in any civil or criminal case, it is nearly always considered a mistake to represent yourself in court. This is because the other side (in Sonoma County criminal cases, the other side is the State of California) has its own highly trained lawyer (the District Attorney), with a bank of assistant lawyers and staff, but you don't have such support if you represent yourself, and therefore you are at a severe disadvantage. In addition, one is always biased and sympathetic to one's own personal situation, and unable to objectively advise yourself of your own best interests. This is true even for defendants who are themselves lawyers and is the fundamental reason why "a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client." See also the Sonoma County Superior Court's Faretta Waiver advisements and warnings if you still wish to consider this ill-advised alternative to affordable counsel.

DUIs are actually very complicated.

If you don't see how involved and complex even a first DUI can be in Sonoma County without a lawyer, then click on our Sonoma DUI Lawyer Anatomy of a DUI on this site and see the many different directions a Sonoma case can go, as well as the collection of obligations, timetables and tasks to perform. A local Sonoma DUI attorney who can guide you through the maze of bureaucratic doo-doo, not to mention the possibility of getting charges reduced or dismissed, is well worth the expense. Your situation requires an attorney knowledgeable in the precise area of the law in which you find yourself. Consider just a sample listing of possible DUI defenses on this site by clicking on Ten Tips for Fighting a Sonoma County DUI. A DUI should be handled by a criminal defense lawyer who regularly defends DUI cases in your courtroom.

Here's what a Sonoma County lawyer does for you.

A private DUI lawyer will go to Sonoma Superior Court or traffic court for you and in most Sonoma County cases you don't ever have to appear. This is particularly helpful if you don't live in Sonoma County. A private Sonoma DUI lawyer should also handle the DMV case for you so you don't have to yourself (these hearings are usually litigated in the Santa Rosa or Petaluma satellite DMV offices). The value of this convenience and the possibility of a Sonoma DUI lawyer successfully obtaining lower or dismissed charges and protecting your driver license, is well worth a reasonable Sonoma attorney fee (typically in the $1500-$2500 range for any straight-forward 1st or 2nd DUI in Sonoma County).

Any good Sonoma County DUI defense lawyer will closely examine the Sonoma County Superior Court complaint against you and the police report completed by Sonoma County law enforcement, looking for any glaring or less obvious defenses, and then sit down with you for as long as you need, explain everything to you and ask you to make your own decisions after you understand the issues, likelihood of success, possible additional costs if any, and probable risks and consequences. A good Sonoma DUI lawyer will help you navigate the minefield of possibilities, get you through the bureaucratic mess which is present in every Sonoma County DUI arrest case, help you understand the multiple tasks facing you, and coordinate the timing of tasks and resolutions, to get all of this behind you from arrest to resolution with the least amount of stress and pain. See Jake's Short Video "Hire a DUI Lawyer!" here: Jake's Video Shorts.

Why is using a local attorney so important? Choose carefully.

Bad Lawyer EmailA local DUI lawyer who lives and practices in Sonoma County is far better than one based in Marin, San Francisco or LA, because lawyers who regularly practice DUI law in Sonoma know how the Santa Rosa DMV, and how the Sonoma County judges and Sonoma County District Attorney react to certain cases, and we know the available options and procedures here in Sonoma County which often vary widely in different counties. For example, a standard no-defenses second DUI in Sonoma County is typically sentenced to thirty days of jail, but all of the time may be served by volunteering with the county if you are not otherwise ineligible. By comparison, in Marin County the typical sentence for the same charges is fifteen days instead of thirty, and four days must be served in actual custody. Napa's typical sentence for a second DUI is only ten days of jail, all of which may be served with a jail alternative. Local Santa Rosa lawyers who actually live and practice in Sonoma County know Sonoma County DUI practices and procedures.

If you don't see how the wrong DUI lawyer can be a castatrophe, click here to see an authentic Bad DUI Lawyer Email Sent to Jake complaining about a remote lawyer, missed court appearance, arrest warrant, ridiculous DMV phone hearing resulting in a two-year license suspension, total disaster.

Ask questions, and choose carefully; here's another real statement, from one of Jake's former clients: "I also wanted to share something that you may or may not wish to add to the testimonial (if you've used it). Since being in the DUI program, I've come across a wide range of folks who have had varying experiences with their lawyers. Every time someone shares a story, I am even more grateful than ever that I sought you out and that you agreed to take my case. I've heard stories from people whose lawyers won't answer any questions after court, who wouldn't appear for them in court (it's possible that they weren't allowed to I suppose) or who gave such minimal information that they have been left to navigate much of the DUI laws and DMV processes by themselves. So, thank you again for all of your help, your honesty and bluntness, and your follow up."

Don't pay extra by being fooled into hiring a smooth talking "big name" criminal lawyer based in another county like San Mateo, Marin, San Francisco or Los Angeles to whom you pay more money so that he or she can hopefully accomplish the exact same result as a Sonoma County DUI defense attorney, or worse yet they turn around and hire a local Sonoma no-name contract lawyer to appear for you. The quality of representation might be adequate but still a waste of additional money and an unwanted additional layer of people and miscommunications.

If you wish to test whether your prospective lawyer is truly knowledgeable and local, ask how many offices he/she has, where his/her primary business office is located, how often he/she appears personally in Sonoma as compared to other courts, when was the last time he/she physically stood in front of a Sonoma County judge on behalf of a client arrested for DUI, at which DMV office he/she conducts DMV hearings, and what is his/her personal understanding of a standard no-defenses DUI sentence in Sonoma County. The answers should be immediate, specific, and confidently provided to you.

Don't go to court for a DUI. Let your lawyer go instead.

It is much easier for you (and well worth it) if you do not have to take time off work and attend a stressful and confusing appearance in Santa Rosa Superior Court if your DUI attorney determines that there is no other reason for you to attend. Most court appearances are boring for non-lawyers, and the first appearance in Sonoma County is usually only meant to trade papers and information and set new dates, not to argue anything of substance. Typically in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County you are not required to attend a misdemeanor court or DMV hearing unless there is a substantial proceeding where evidence is to be formally introduced (usually only a contested hearing or actual trial proceedings). A DUI arrest need not ever result in a requirement that a defendant appear in court, not even for sentencing in Sonoma County. This is also true in our surrounding counties of Marin, Napa, Mendocino and Solano.

Will your absence be noticed by the court or required by your attorney? No, as discussed above, in most cases court appearances are strictly procedural. Unless special circumstances are present (such as a high blood alcohol level alleged, multiple priors, or a violation of probation), judges do not wish to speak to a defendant at such proceedings. Clients who live in Santa Rosa or elsewhere in Sonoma County, rarely, if ever, come to court in typical DUI cases. This doesn't mean you'll be left in the dark about your case. A good attorney will explain the entire process. To start, click here to see Jake's comprehensive Anatomy of a Sonoma County DUI flowchart. In addition, Jake's tech know-how can be very helpful to avoid the need for client travel, meetings or appearances, especially at the procedural beginning of a case. If requested, we .pdf police reports and other case documents to you after court appearances so that you can examine these important documents and provide feedback to help us to help you.

Sting Photo by JakeYou can (and should) closely follow the progress of your Sonoma County case by regularly communicating with your DUI lawyer before and after Santa Rosa court appearances, and follow your case separately online by clicking on Resources on this site and then find your local court under "Superior Courts" by clicking on the county where you were arrested (for example, Sonoma, Marin, Napa or Mendocino), and search your name. Sonoma Courts have a case history summary online, typically a few days before your first court date, listing case number, charges, and the first (or next) court date and time, as well as the assigned Judge in your Sonoma DUI case. Napa Courts and Mendocino Courts have daily online calendars. Marin Courts have San Rafael appearances online weeks in advance.

Beware the driver license sting operations.

Important!! If you have a suspended license, don't drive, and if you drive to court in Sonoma, you stand a chance of being arrested in one of Sonoma County's sting operations where Santa Rosa and Sonoma County police agents watch in court and radio to officers hiding in the shadows nearby, waiting to stop you when you drive away from the courthouse.

These stings typically happen at random times throughout the year and result in huge additional headaches (including impounded vehicle and more jail time) for those caught. Click here if you don't believe it! Santa Rosa Court Sting. This photograph was taken by Jake outside of his office, just one block from the courthouse, on December 21, 2010, as CHP and Santa Rosa Police Department motorcycle cops waited for radio descriptions of suspended licensees driving away. According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, in an article questioning such aggressive tactics, 10 people were arrested that day, and the police have continued these stings at least a few times per year ever since then. One DUI client told his Sonoma County DUI lawyer about a similar sting at the DUI program classes. A recent Napa Register news article announced such a court sting in Napa County. Have a local DUI lawyer appear for you in court instead of risking new charges.

Bail companies and lawyers. Sonoma DUI bail

Typically people arrested for DUI in Sonoma County are either released by police on their own recognizance ("OR") after being processed, or post bail to be released. Bail is supposed to be set by the jailer pursuant to the Sonoma County Bail Schedule which lists most possible charges and the presumptive bail amount for each charge. You can click here to see Sonoma County's specific 2017 Bail Amounts for DUI and other Vehicle Code Charges. These amounts can go up or down depending on a variety of factors relating to a case, and can also change from year to year. If someone arrested for DUI is not released on OR, or cannot bail out and is due to appear in court while still in custody, then most likely bail would be set at the first court appearance, or the person arrested for DUI may be released on a more comprehensive form of OR called "Supervised Own Recognizance" ("SOR" or "Conditions of Pre-Trial Release"), where the Santa Rosa judge imposes special SOR Conditions on the defendant's release. Often a Sonoma County DUI attorney may take the opportunity to save an arrestee or family large sums of money by arguing that such conditions will be better for the defendant and the community than posting lots of bail money.

Santa Rosa DUI Bad Boys CarSometimes, someone arrested for a DUI in Sonoma County may not be able to get out of jail immediately, or at all, unless they post bail. A friend or loved one can usually post 10% of the stated bail for someone who is in jail. See, for example, the San Rafael's Zig Zag Bail Agreement & Application. See also Santa Rosa's Aladdin Bail Bonds FAQ's for answers to frequent quetions about bail. See also Santa Rosa's Romelli Bail Bonds FAQ's. Good Sonoma DUI lawyers will tell you that some Sonoma County bail companies will refund money to you if you hire a private Santa Rosa DUI lawyer. Most bail companies offfer an 8% rate rather than a 10% rate (they will give you back 20% of what you paid, typically a $100 refund on the normal $500 bail premium) if you hire a private Sonoma County DUI attorney, probably because it's more likely the case will resolve properly with a local DUI lawyer involved. Greg Rynerson Bail Bonds and Bad Boys Bail Bonds actually offer a 7% rate if you hire a private Sonoma County DUI lawyer.

You can call or visit your Sonoma bail company office to inquire about its rate chart (California Department of Insurance states such fees are to be posted in a visible location in every bail bond office) and see if obtaining a DUI lawyer (or being a member of a union or the military) gets you a lower rate. Click below to see examples of the forms used by local bail companies in Sonoma County:Sonoma DUI Aladdin Car

Bad Boys Certificate of 7% Premium

Aladdin Certificate of 8% Premium

Romelli Certificate of 8% Premium

Liberty 20% Discount Statement

Typically, you can only qualify for the lower Sonoma County private DUI defense attorney rate if you act within a specified time. For example, Aladdin's lower private attorney rate is usually only available if the private lawyer was retained within 30 days of the date that the bail was issued and proof of such retention is received by the bail company within a reasonable time.

Good DUI lawyers will inform you that laws related to right to bail by people arrested for a DUI in Sonoma County are generally found in Penal Code Sections 1268-1320.5. Bail companies are regulated by the California Department ofSanta Rosa DUI Liberty Bail Bonds Insurance. Department regulations may be found in the California Code of Regulations at Title 10, chapter 5, subchapter 1, article 2, sections 2053-2104. You may find bail company license information and any recent enforcement actions by the Department by clicking on Bail Agent License Status, and answers to some of the more common questions by clicking Bail Faq's. Click on Court Appearances to see a discussion on this site regarding how bail companies and Sonoma County DUI lawyers can help efforts to clear a warrant for a failure to appear in court following a DUI arrest.

Don't pay a reimbursement bill from a police agency or hospital before speaking to a lawyer!

You might get a bill from the police. Some 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 DUI arrest you are now fighting, still, in these tough economic times Sonoma County agencies may try to bill you for reimbursement of their costs for the actual DUI arrest incident pursuant to Government Code Section 53150. Click below to see examples:

CHP DUI Invoice

CHP DUI Invoice-Second Notice

Rohnert Park Police DUI Invoice

Petaluma Police DUI Invoice

Santa Rosa Police DUI Invoice

Sebastopol Police DUI Invoice

Although an invoice pursuant to this law may be valid if emergency personnel were required to respond to a DUI incident (for example an ambulance, paramedics or fire trucks responding to an accident scene, or more CHP or Santa Rosa police officers responded in order to manage traffic interruption due to a DUI incident), nevertheless, the California Court of Appeals for Sonoma County has ruled that an ordinary arrest for DUI is not a sufficient trigger event to require reimbursement to Sonoma County law enforcement 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 received by one of Jake's DUI clients who was subjected to a typical, uneventful DUI arrest, stated that "the defendant herein shall pay to CHP the total indicated below" listing 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 intimidating and misleading "defendant shall pay CHP" language in the DUI invoice from an agency whose leaders are sworn to uphold and enforce the law; he advised this individual client not to pay the bill based on the facts in her case, and fired off a Counsel's Reply Letter on her behalf.

Although failure to pay may result in a debt collection lawsuit (civil, not criminal case), or may cause an item to be referred to the Franchise Tax Board or a collection agency (click to see City of Santa Rosa Refers to Collection Agency and a Sample Reply Letter), risking a negative credit incident (many people may never hear from the police agency again, especially if the arrest was in fact uneventful), such possible risks may be addressed, minimized and/or negated with vigilance and protest when the claimed debt is disputed and invalid on its face.

Update: 2011 Allende II Ruling: On December 9, 2011, the Court of Appeals for Sonoma County DUI cases re-examined the issue of when CHP can recoup costs for DUI-related incidents, in Allende v. Dept of California Highway Patrol ("Allende II"), and upheld the CHP's latest policy, to seek DUI cost recovery "for any incident in which an officer is dispatched to a call resulting in a DUI arrest of a driver."

Santa Rosa Accident

To the dismay of Sonoma County DUI lawyers, the Allende II court embraced the CHP's "Fox Guarding the Chicken Coup" approach to when CHP can collect money from citizens whom they arrest for DUI, writing about the circular "wisdom of deferring to CHP expertise" in this self-interested cost inquiry, noting the CHP's stated internal policy where "the CHP has instituted an internal appeal process under which arrested drivers may challenge an officer's initial determination that an incident qualifies for cost recovery. According to the evidence presented to the court, "when [the CHP] send[s] out an Emergency Response Cost invoice under the CHP's Cost Recovery Program, and disputes arise over the propriety of the invoice, [it] has established procedures for investigating, reviewing, and resolving such disputes . . . ." For example, if "the dispute involves a contention . . . that no emergency response to an incident was involved, [the CHP] will put the invoice on hold and forward a copy of the invoice file (including the dispute letter) to the area office from which the incident arose. Information is requested from the area office so that an appropriate response can be made. If it is determined that the invoice was mistakenly issued, [the CHP] will cancel the invoice and inform the disputant of that fact. If the area office believes the invoice was properly issued and the disputant does not agree, or if the contention involves a dispute regarding the Government Code, the matter may be referred to the CHP's legal office. The CHP's counsel will then review the materials. When the CHP's counsel concludes an invoice was not appropriate, the charges are cancelled."

Allende II also upheld the specific formula for determining the amount of reimbursement in a Sonoma County DUI arrest, where "CHP calculates annually a standard hourly rate for its officers by taking the monetary wages paid to a mid-step traffic officer, adding the cost of benefits (retirement contributions, health insurance, workers compensation and Medicare contributions) and dividing that amount by an officer's "total actual working time," which includes the total number of hours an average officer works after subtracting paid time off for holidays, vacations and other leave."

Although the latest case law has emboldened police agencies to invoice DUI arrestees more often, Santa Rosa DUI attorneys are following these developments and are in the best position to advise someone arrested for a DUI in Sonoma County who subsequently receives a bill from a local police agency for the type of DUI cost recovery described here. It is still possible to dispute the most overreaching invoices: see, for example, a "middle finger" letter written by Jake on behalf of Santa Rosa DUI client regarding a CHP invoice for an alleged DUI incident which was never charged in court or pursued at DMV: Dispute Letter When No Charges Filed. You can see that hiring a Sonoma DUI lawyer can be very beneficial to deal with all manner of unanticipated challenges.

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.

Testimonials

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

Our DUI Lawyers

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