Informational video on what to expect when facing a DUI charge in Santa Cruz County.
FILE NAME: SANTA CRUZ DUI ATTONREY-MICHAEL REHM-(831) 431-0986
DURATION: 21:35 minutes
Hi. My name is Michael Rehm. I'm an attorney.
I practice DUI defense, and this video today is an informational video to ideally assist you in understanding what you're going to be expecting in court, what are the potential penalties, reductions, and how to best handle your situation from this point on. And it's specifically dealing with Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz County. It's not a guarantee of an outcome or any kind of an implied result or anything to that extent. It's just based on my personal experience handling DUI defense cases in Santa Cruz.
First off, you need to take care of the DMV. You should have been given a pink piece of paper–it's a temporary driver's license–when you were arrested. What that driver's license in essence says is that piece of paper is valid for 30 days from the day of the arrest. What it also says, though, is the ten-day rule. It refers to what we refer to as the ten-day rule.
The ten-day rule basically means you have ten days from the day of the arrest to set a hearing up with the California DMV to contest the driver's license suspension. Now if you don't do that, they're going to take your license 30 days from the day of the arrest, assuming of course there's enough evidence that they have that shows that you were driving a vehicle with a 0.08 or more blood alcohol level in your system at the time of the actual driving. One of the first things you have to do, it happens right away, but I can't emphasize enough how crucial it is.
You're going to hear a lot about how or I have a lot of people thinking that I don't even want to fight this case. Why do I have to set the hearing? Or, I don't have a license in the first place. Why do I want to set this hearing?
Well, there are a couple of advantages. First off, if you do have a license, it extends how long you can drive because, once you set the hearing up, you no longer lose your license 30 days from the day of the arrest. You get to keep your license through the outcome of the hearing.
It's entirely common for these hearings to get delayed. Many times the DMV has to request a continuance to obtain more evidence or something to that extent. Your defense attorney many times has to request a continuance for the same reason, to request evidence or they might have a court conflict, something to that extent. In the meantime, you're able to drive for that whole time, so that can obviously keep the status quo going for as long as possible in your life.
The other advantage is that you can get what's called discovery. Discovery is the police report, blood test results, breathalyzer results, all the information in the case. Ideally, you can get it in advance of court.
Normally on a criminal case or a DUI case, if you don't set the DMV hearing, you're going to be walking into court on the first day without having access to the police report or anything to that extent. Legally, the first opportunity you have to request it is at the arraignment, the first court date. With DUI cases, if you have your ducks in a row and you actually set up the DMV hearing within ten days, they will mail you the police report whenever they get it, and generally it's before the first court date. It's not always before the first court date, but generally it is.
If you're not going to lawyer up — I'll do it; any other attorney you hire will do it. We'll set the hearing for you and take care of all this. But if you're not going to do it yourself, you need to do this initially. All you have to do is call. You're going to call the San José Driver's Safety Office. That's who handles Santa Cruz County DUI arrests. (408) 229-7100 is the number to call.
Call them. Tell them you were arrested for a DUI. They're going to ask what are you contesting. Ideally, have the temporary driver's license on you because they're going to want information off of that. They're going to ask what are you contesting. Just tell them you're contesting everything because they have a tendency from time-to-time to try and attempt to persuade people not to set up the hearing. Tell them you're contesting everything, and tell them that you want two things: a stay and discovery.
As I discussed earlier, a stay means your suspension gets stayed pending the outcome of the hearing, and discovery is the police report, blood test results, breathalyzer results, whatever. Whatever evidence they have you'll get. Like I said, ideally you get it before the court date. All you have to do is say, “Stay and discovery.” They'll know exactly what you're talking about.
That's what you do initially with the DMV. You have to do that within ten days.
Court: what you're going to be dealing with in court, first off the court's address is 701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz, California 95060. Watsonville Courthouse doesn't handle the criminal cases in Santa Cruz. Currently it's just the courthouse in downtown Santa Cruz. You're either going to be in Department 1 or Department 2, and you're not going to find that out until the day of the arraignment hearing.
Both departments are fairly consistent with the offers and the sentences. In some counties you'll have multiple departments handle DUI cases, and you can see a range, a big range of discrepancy as far as the sentences. Certain judges in certain courtrooms give different sentences and so forth. Santa Cruz is pretty consistent in each one.
What is a sentence on a first offense DUI in Santa Cruz? Now keep in mind this is just based on my personal experience handling DUI defense cases. This isn't a guarantee as to outcome or any kind of an implied result, but based on the cases that I've handed and that I've seen, this is what you're to expect. This is for a first offense.
You're going to have four things, basically, is what it comes down to: time, a fine, the DUI school, and informal probation. If you break this down, let's look at time. You're going to read a lot of websites from attorneys, and you're going to probably hear a lot of talk about how there's a minimum of 48 hours in jail on a first offense DUI. Now, technically that's true. If you read the statute, that's what it says. But if you read another statute, it shows that that 48 hours actually in custody can be served on what's called Sheriffs Work Release, which is the road crew, whatever assignments the sheriffs have you doing, or if for some reason you're not medically fit to do that, you could potentially qualify for what they call EMP. EMP is in essence ankle monitoring.
Now I'm not saying your sentence is going to be 2 days, but the range of sentences in Santa Cruz County on a first offense DUI, whether it's 2 days, 10 days, 15 days, you're going to get sentenced to the jail on those. It's going to be 2 days jail, 10 days jail, 15 days jail. But then they'll give you the right to apply for this work release or the EMP. In order to successful, to get that, you basically have to be physically fit. They don't want any kind of a liability as far as health-wise if you're going to be out there working in the sun or anything to that extent.
Every once in a while, if you have a resisting arrest or some sort of a battery on a peace officer charge associated with the DUI, then obviously they're going to be less willing to allow you to do it on that. But in my personal experience representing, I've never had a client go to jail on a first offence DUI, and I've rarely really heard of anyone going to jail on a first offence DUI unless they just totally screw up this work release or ankle monitoring. And, for the most part, most people don't get denied from the work release. Most people, even if you're not extremely physically fit, they have what's called light duty work release where they just have you doing non-physical labor activities.
Whatever the sentence may be as far as time, that's going to be, that should be, at least, your option in Santa Cruz County. Now as far as how much time you're going to get, this is where Santa Cruz is disproportionate really to the rest of the Bay Area, northern California in general. It's a very, or it has a reputation and is a very liberal area. But in Department 1 and Department 2, if you're facing a first offence DUI, you wouldn't really know it because their standard offers on these cases, really, I've seen a lot of it kind of starts around ten days many a times. It can go lower. You see sometimes two days. But I see a lot of ten-day offers. I see a lot of 15-day offers. That's not always ultimately the sentence, of course, but the district attorney tend to offer far more days than most counties surrounding Santa Cruz, really any county that I've ever practiced in California at least.
You're looking at anywhere from 2 to 10 to 15 days, even potentially higher if you have any kind of a high blood alcohol or if there's another charge associated with it or driving on a suspended license or something to that extent. You could even get up to 25, 30 days. I've seen it as high as 45-, 60-day offers on first offense DUIs in Santa Cruz County.
Now that was never ultimately the sentence, but it's somewhat shocking if you're an attorney and you handle DUI defense cases in multiple counties. You're not necessarily expecting such a high offer, and you get those high offers in Santa Cruz. Keep in mind, no matter what it is, you're not going to actually have to do the custody time unless you completely screw up signing up for work release or something to that extent.
You're going to be facing a fine. It's going to be around $2,000. $2,000 to $2,500 is around the fine range, and that's nonnegotiable for the most part. On a first offense DUI, that's what you're looking at.
Every once in a while you can convert this fine to time. Meaning, instead of paying the fine, you're going to do extra time, either on the work release or on the ankle monitoring. Keep in mind the work release and the ankle monitoring cost money as well. A lot of times you're not saving a great deal of money. They will let you make payments on the fines, and they'll set up a payment schedule right then and there in court. They'll ask when do you want to start it. How much a month can you afford? Can you afford $50, $100 a month, and then you'll set it up there. That's what I would normally advise people to do as opposed to converting it to time.
The DUI school: the DUI school, you have to understand if you're convicted of a first offense DUI, the California DMV is going to require you to complete a DUI school regardless, even if the court doesn't order it. But the court is going to order it, and they're going to order one of two schools: either the three-month or the nine-month school.
It's whatever the school is is based on what your blood alcohol level was. If you're a 0.20 or higher, you're going to be ordered to do the nine-month school. If you're 0.19 or under, you're going to be ordered to do the three-month school.
Now this is negotiable. Keep that in mind because you get a blood test result back. It shows you're a 0.21. That doesn't necessarily mean you were 0.21 at the actual time of driving. A lot of times you'll see these cases negotiated where myself or whoever your defense attorney is and the district attorney stipulates on a lower blood alcohol level of 0.19, something to that extent, and in return you'll get the three-month program. Either way, you're going to do one of the two: either a three-month or a nine-month. It's based on your blood alcohol level, but your blood alcohol level in a sense is negotiable as far as dealing with these cases.
Informal probation, and I have the word informal underlined. There are two types of probation. There's formal and informal. They're both as they sound. Formal is formal. You have a probation officer. You can get drug tested. You have to check in, things to that extent. Informal is informal. You don't have a probation officer. You're not going to get drug tested. You don't have to check in, nothing to that extent.
There are some conditions of probation. You have to have no alcohol in your system when you drive. That's one of them. You can't refuse any kind of a chemical test, which you really can't do regardless. They give a catchall provision: obey all laws, which in essence you're going to have to get another misdemeanor or obviously a higher felony case. Technically, they could violate your probation under that obey all laws provision for some sort of an infraction, but I've never personally had that happen to any of my clients, and I've never heard of it happening. I've never seen it done.
Then they're going to give what's called the SR22 requirement. SR22 is just auto insurance, basically. It's proof of high-risk auto insurance. You're going to be on a catch situation where if you don't have this SR22, this proof of auto insurance on file with the DMV, then the DMV is going to suspend your license.
The court is not saying that you have to get an SR22 certificate and driver's insurance. They're simply saying that if you want a valid license, you do. If you don't plan on driving, you don't have to get it. But if you want a driver's license, you're going to need the SR22. Your insurance company is supposed to electronically forward that information to the DMV, but if you miss a payment, if you have it on direct debit, something to that extent and something goes wrong and they take back that SR22, then you're going to get your driver's license suspended. You can just go down there and get it back, of course, but it's still a condition of probation.
The probation length is five years. It's another unique aspect to Santa Cruz County. Most counties in the Bay Area, northern California, are three years informal probation on a first offense DUI. A couple of them have four years. But five is the maximum they can give you by law. It's very rare to see a county that would actually give five years informal probation, but Santa Cruz does. And so all those terms, the obey all laws, the no refusal, the zero tolerance when you're driving, the SR22, those are all going to be valid for five years.
In summary on that, you're looking at four things. You're looking at the time, whatever it is, 2, 10, 15 days, whatever it may be. You're looking at time. And that time, you should be eligible. Like I said, I've never seen anyone not eligible necessarily for what they call either work release or EMP. You shouldn't be going to jail on a first offense DUI is the bottom line.
The fine, around $2,000 to $2,500, you can make payments on the fine, and you have 5 years to pay it off, so the payments is always the ideal solution on that. Unless you could pay the whole thing up front, then you should just knock it out.
The DUI school, that's either going to be the three-month or the nine-month program. That's based on the blood alcohol level. And then informal probation. The time is negotiable. The fine really isn't negotiable. The DUI school is somewhat negotiable.
Informal probation, there are circumstances when you can potentially get less than five years, but you're going to have to show extreme circumstances. A lot of times I've had clients going into the military where the military won't allow you to be on probation, so you can negotiate some sort of disposition to reduce probation a significant period of time. But, generally, I've had, in return, the clients had to be willing to do quite a bit more time, generally usually by EMP, by ankle monitoring in that situation. But for the most part, informal probation is nonnegotiable. There are rare circumstances, but for the most part you're not going to qualify for those circumstances.
There are four things you've got to worry about. Santa Cruz County on a first offense DUI, you don't have to install a breathalyzer or anything to that extent.
Miscellaneous issues, the high blood alcohol, we can start with that. High blood alcohol basically means you're a 0.20 or over. That can come with additional time. That can come with the nine-month school. We kind of already discussed that.
A second offense DUI, here's what you're looking on a second offense in Santa Cruz. You're looking at all this. You should still be able to do your time on work release or EMP. Many times in Santa Cruz that's the sentence. It's generally a range between 30 to 60 days, sometimes 90 days on a second offense. A lot of that depends on if you're still on probation for the first offense. If you're on a probation in Santa Cruz County for the first offense, you're also going to be facing a violation of probation. The recency of the prior, in general, if it's not in Santa Cruz County, or if it is, the blood alcohol level, the driving pattern and so forth.
On a second offense, you're looking at 30 to 60 and 90 days and, once again, it should be either on the work release or the EMP. The fine is around the same. The DUI school is going to be what's called the SB38 Program, which is an 18-month program as opposed to either a 3- or 9-month school. The first 12 months of the 18-month program is going to be at least once a week. The last six months is going to be once a month. That's really the first 12 months are the most strenuous.
Then probation, like I said, the max they can give you is five years informal probation, and that's what they're going to give you on a second offense. There's really not that much difference on a second offense DUI other than you're going to get a lot more time, and you're going to be in that DUI school for 18 months as opposed to either 3 or 9 months.
A wet reckless: you can get wet recklesses in Santa Cruz County. What they look at as far as whether or not you're going to get a wet reckless, they usually take into consideration everyone's unique circumstance. Santa Cruz is pretty good about that. But you generally have to have a 0.10 or under. Every once in a while a 0.11 might fly, but you've got to kind of have that 0.10 number and under, and sometimes even a 0.09 and under to qualify for that. They're going to look at that.
They're going to look at your driving. Were you driving poorly at the time? If you weren't driving that poorly or you got pulled over for a reason independent of driving, then that puts you in good line to get a wet reckless based on that factor.
Then they're going to look at character. If this is your third DUI, second DUI, you can still get a wet reckless, but it can be much more difficult. If you have a lack of a criminal record, it can be easier. If you have an extensive criminal record, it could be more difficult. You're basically looking at character. You're looking at the blood alcohol level, and you're looking at driving.
That's basically it as far as the first thing you've got to do – the DMV. You have to call them at (408) 229-7100. You've got call them within ten days. You tell them you want to set the hearing up. You want to contest everything. You're requesting a stay and discovery.
Time, fine, DUI school, informal probation: you're looking at all those on a first and second offense DUI.
Time on a first offense is generally around 2 to 10 days, maybe 15 days. A lot of it, like I said, depends on the blood alcohol level and the driving and the character, once again. Those three factors come into play whether you're asking for a wet or you're asking for just damage control on a first or second DUI, third offense DUI, whatever the situation may be. Those are kind of the big three factors that are looked at.
Like I said, no matter what the level is, you should be eligible to do it on the work release or EMP. The court is going to at least, in my experience, allow you to sign up for those. Also, in my experience, I've rarely seen a client get denied for those. I don't know if I ever have. I've seen clients not sign up in time and screw up the process like that. But I've never seen them necessarily get denied.
The fine, the DUI school, informal probation. The court is at 701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz. You're going to either be in Department 1 or Department 2.
A wet reckless, like I said, the same factors to get a wet reckless come into play is whether or not you're just trying to get a reduction in sentence.
There's a lot more that goes into a DUI defense. There are specific ways to fight the blood test, to fight the breath test, but that's a whole different video. But just for your own anxiety level or just knowledge, what you need to do right now is set up a hearing with the DMV or call myself or another lawyer to do it. Michael Rehm – (831) 431-0986. It's a local number for Santa Cruz residents. And take it from there.
This is what you're looking at in court. You're not going to jail. For the most part, in my experience, I've never seen that happen. If that's your big concern, don't have too much anxiety because you really have to screw up the process in order to go to jail.
I offer free consultations if you have any questions. You can call me any time. I wish you luck. Thanks.
Out of County DUI Resources: