DUI  Lawyer Serving Hayward, San Jose, San Leandro, Castro Valley, Union City, and Other California Bay Area Cities

When you get a DUI /Driving Under the Influence charge, you need an attorney who will be by your side throughout the entire process. Hiring One of America’s Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyers Sergio H. Benavides means that you have a dedicated warrior who will fight for you and your best interests.

I am proud to have helped thousands of people—both adults and juveniles—in DUI  and other criminal defense cases. All of my clients get my closest personal attention, and even my cell phone number. When I am defending you, I am always available to answer questions and provide guidance.

If you got a DUI , you are probably wondering what comes next. I’m here to help. Here’s what you need to do right now:

  • Contact the DMV Driver Safety Office in your local area to request an Administrative Hearing. At the hearing you will be given a chance to save your license from being automatically suspended. If you don’t call within 10 days of your DUI arrest, your Driver License will automatically be suspended for 4 months or longer.
  • If you retain me at my firm, I will not only take care of the DMV Administrative Hearing, I will represent you at the hearing to fight to keep your Driver License.

Here’s how the DUI process works:

  • The first thing to do is request a DMV hearing to try and fight to keep your driving privilege.
  • Next, hire a dedicated, professional, experienced DUI / Criminal Defense Attorney, to go over all the facts of your case, and to brainstorm possible best outcomes. At my law office, all first-time clients with active court charges are given a free 30 minute in-office consultation that is private and confidential.
  • If you have any medical conditions, bring documents and proof to your attorney consultation.

DUI  laws differ from state to state. In California, expect the following:

  • You have 10 days to call and request an Administrative Per Se Hearing, a forum where you can try to keep your license. This hearing is distinct and separate from the criminal court hearings. Publicly-appointed attorneys will not help you in the DMV hearing process. I will.
  • On a first time DUI in California, expect to get anywhere from 2-10 days of jail, or work alternative programs, 3 years of probation, and the requirement to do 3 months of DMV educational classes.
  • On a second time DUI, you will face 18 months of  DMV classes, five years of probation, more jail time, and the orders to place an Ignition Interlock Device on any vehicle you drive.
  • On a third time DUI within 10 years, you will be required to do no less than 120 days of jail.  Often, I can negotiate with judges and District Attorneys to find rehab alternatives to jail.
  • A fourth DUI within 10 years will be felony, where you may face anywhere from 16 months to 3 years of prison at the local county jail.

Not all lawyers will defend you against a DUI charge in the same way. As one of America’s Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyers, you get more when you hire me to defend you.

  • I will educate you every step of the way. I explain things fully to clients so they don’t feel lost. I don’t rush through client meetings or court.
  • I will communicate promptly, whether via telephone, text, or email.  My clients get my cell phone number, and know they can immediately reach me and get their questions answered promptly.
  • I will discuss strategy with you in ways you understand so you can make informed decisions about your case.
  • I will inform you of possible motions to be written and filed, and spot possible defenses.
  • One of our Attorneys will attend court for every hearing, so you don’t have to. No lost time from work, so you can keep making money, supporting you and your loved ones, and remain a productive member of society.
  • I will spend the time to carefully analyze all the facts of the case, and do the legal research and write motions that might be required to aggressively fight for your rights and get you the best resolution from your case.
  • I can negotiate for the best possible outcome, or navigate the treacherous waters of a jury trial when needed.

What to expect from my firm:

  • Expect to have a warrior by your side who is not afraid of fighting the system to make sure your rights are protected.
  • Expect an experienced America’s Top 100 Criminal Defense Lawyer who has handled hundreds of DUIs, who is very comfortable in court, and who knows how to process and analyze a case.
  • Expect to receive the respect and dignity you deserve, even when judges, police officers, and district attorneys pile up on you and don’t.
  • Expect an attorney who is down-to-earth, easy-going, and friendly, who treats clients with the respect they deserve. I speak to people in plain language and treat everyone as equals.

My Clients Are #1 To Me
“I understand the court system can be cruel and scary, but my experience allows me to enter the courtroom with confidence. My clients are #1 to me—when you hire me, you get all of my attention, experience, and expertise working for you.”

DUI / Driving Under the Influence - Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a DUI /DWI ? Is there a legal difference between the two in California?

There is no difference. DUI / DWI is the same thing in California.

What do “intoxicated” and “under the influence” mean in terms of the law?

The terms are basically interchangeable. In court hearings, police officers and criminalists will always argue that a person is “under the influence” or “intoxicated” once their BAC level reaches .08%

“Intoxicated” or “under the influence” driving can also result in a conviction when there is no BAC level of .08% or higher, when the police can testify they observed dangerous or bad driving that was influence by alcohol or drugs or a combination of both.

How do DUIs differ for drugs and alcohol?

With an alcohol-related DUI, the D.A. (the government) relies on chemical tests that produce Blood Alcohol Content per liter of blood (B.A.C.). Whether it is a breathalyzer, urine, or blood test, they will have to prove that at the time of driving, you were at a BAC of .08% or higher.

With a drugs-related DUI, the BAC may be .07% or lower, or even 0%. Here, the government must show that there was poor or dangerous driving, and that it was directly influence by drugs, or drugs and alcohol combined. These types of case also have blood or urine tests, but the results will show the presence of either an illegal or a prescription drug in the driver’s system at the time of driving.

What are the penalties of DUI? For a first time offense? Repeat offenses?

DUI cases: are “priorable” for 10 years. This means the previous DUI can be used as a reason to increase punishment for a subsequent DUI if it occurs within 10 years.

1st time offense:

  • 3 years of informal probation (called “bench probation”)
  • Up to 6 months of jail
  • A 3-months or more DMV DUI educational program *(Required by DMV in order to reissue the driver license)
  • A possible 4-month driver license suspension
  • $1963 in fines

2nd time offense:

  • 3 to 5 years of informal probation
  • Up to 1 year of jail
    • 10-20 days of jail is usuallly given (can be converted to work alternative program)
  • An 18-months DMV DUI educational program (in order to regain the driver license
  • A 1-year or longer driver license suspension
  • $1963 in fines
  • Ignition Interlock Device must be installed in any vehicle driven by the defendant

3rd time offense:

  • Same as for 2nd time offenses except:
    • 120 days of jail minimum required by law
    • A 2-year or longer driver license suspension

4th time offense:

  • Becomes a felony punishable by anywhere from 16 months to 3 years of prison *(To be served in the local county jail)

Does it matter if the drug was a prescription prescribed to you?

It does not matter if the drug is in your system legally or illegally. What matters is whether that drug made your driving impaired.

Can you get a DUI if you weren’t driving?

Yes. If a person parks the car on the side of road, or anywhere, and stays in the car, sometimes they will have police contact, and if alcohol is admitted to or detected, people may get DUIs. This type of situation may be defended, but with the help of an experienced attorney.

Can you get a DUI if you were not on a public roadway (e.g., in a private parking lot)?

Yes. You can be in a parking lot of a commercial strip mall or an apartment complex and still get a DUI.

Can a DUI be plea-bargained down to a less serious offense?

Yes. An experienced, astute attorney can spot the issues where the D.A.’s evidence or their case, may have weak spots, and this could be a good opportunity to either go to trial or negotiate a lesser charge.

Lesser included offense: Wet Reckless. A “Wet” is a drinking-related driving charge that carries ½ the possible jail time, ½ the DMV required classes, and ½ the fines of a DUI. It is not considered a DUI by the courts, but may be so by your car insurance carrier. A “Wet” is often a good plea bargain result for a DUI.  It could also have beneficial Immigration consequences.

What can you do to avoid jail time? Are there alternatives?

Yes, jail time is avoidable. You can often ask for, and obtain, a work alternative program, where you pick up trash for a day, and that counts as a day of jail.

Sometimes, for more frequent or serious offenders, the only way to avoid jail time may be placement in a live-in drug or alcohol rehabilitation program.

What is an ignition interlock device and when do people have to use one?

They are devices that attach to the ignition system of a car.  You blow into the unit, and if it detects any alcohol at all, the car will not operate. Courts will order IID’s on all DUI offenders. The DMV may also require it at times.

What happens if you refuse to take a BAC test offered by the officer?

If you refuse a breath test, the DMV will punish you with an automatic one year suspension of your driving privilege; this is true even if you go to trial and beat your DUI charge in criminal court.  You can refuse the first breath test, before being arrested.  After arrested, you must give a blood, breath or urine sample, or lose the driving privilege for a year.