The Law Office of


(619) 326-8161
The Law Office of


(619) 326-8161

What to do First

The Department of Motor Vehicles

2 Issues

The California Court System

What To Do First After Getting a DUI

No one ‘plans’ on getting a DUI. So if this is your first DUI, you’re not alone in feeling confused, possibly frightened and overwhelmed. You’re likely asking yourself the same question almost every person that comes to see me asks… “what do I do next?”

The first thing to do is to understand that just about everyone who gets a DUI will be faced with prosecution in two separate areas. Both 1) Criminal charges in court, and 2) Administrative actions by the DMV which can result in a loss of your driving privileges.

Another issue to be dealt with is that the rules are very different for each. Because the facts of each DUI case is different, (such as, did you receive your DUI at a DUI Checkpoint, were you weaving while you were driving, did you break a traffic law, etc.) it is impossible to give you information that can apply to every situation. However, this is a general brief overview of what you can expect and how to prepare for both issues.

If you have questions, I have been an assistant to two Judges; am a former Deputy District Attorney, and have taken countless cases to trial. I have the knowledge, experience and skills to aggressively challenge your DUI case. Please don’t hesitate to call my office for your free individualized case evaluation.

Issue #1

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

FIRST – Schedule

The first thing to do is get your DMV Administrative Per Se (“APS”) hearing scheduled.

You only have 10 days to schedule this hearing.

Although it is your Constitutional Right to be afforded this hearing, if you allow the 10 days to lapse you’re considered to have waived this right.

If you would like, we can schedule your hearing for you and appear for you.

If you retain our office to represent you, you can, but are not required to, be at the hearing. Additionally, because what you say during your hearing might subsequently be introduced against you in court, it may be a strategic choice for you not to be present at the hearing. This is a choice that can only be reached after having an in-depth conversation with your attorney.

Second – Decide

The second issue you’ll need to make a decision on fairly quickly, is if you want to hire an attorney to represent you at your DMV APS Hearing.

You don’t have to, but you do have the right to be represented by an attorney at your San Diego DMV APS hearing.

If you believe that you are going to ‘eventually’ hire an attorney to represent you, there is no question. YES – YOU SHOULD have an attorney represent you at your DMV APS Hearing.

The reason being, that almost all statements made at the hearing and evidence presented may be subsequently presented in your court hearing. Depending on the evidence and/or the statements, this could be either extremely beneficial or detrimental to your DUI court case.


I have decided to structure my fee schedule to best benefit you. Absent some extenuating circumstance, if you retain me, my representation of you at your DMV APS Hearing is included.

THIRD – Prepare

The next thing to do is prepare for your APS Hearing. Immediately after hiring me I will begin constructing my plan of attack on your case depending on its specific facts.

As soon as possible I will meet with you to get as much information, both favorable to you as well as unfavorable, in order to building as strong defense as possible.

As soon as you can, sit down and write down as many facts you can remember about that day surrounding your DUI arrest. Starting with the moment you woke up.

    Make note of facts such as:

  • What did you eat that day and when?
  • What did you have to drink and exactly when?
  • Did you see friends, relatives, etc? When, for how long?
  • Where were you driving from and to?
  • What were the weather conditions that day?
  • How was your health that day?
  • What was the reason you were detained?
  • Were you speeding?
  • Were you weaving?
  • Were you arrested at a DUI checkpoint?
  • What did the officer say to you?
  • What did the officer make you do?
  • What did you say to the officer/What did s/he say to you?

This is not a conclusive list, but rather an idea of what facts may be important.

The more that is known about the facts that took place before and during the DUI arrest event, the better chance you’ll have of successfully challenging your DUI case.

FOURTH – Prepare

Yes – I know the task I just listed also said “prepare”, but San Diego DMV APS Hearings are nothing to take lightly, so prepare, prepare, prepare.

Not only are the rules applicable to San Diego DMV APS Hearings different than the rules that apply to court hearings, but the administrative governing personnel have different training and follow different governing guidelines than the court system. The DMV APS Hearings in San Diego can be unpredictable at best.

The purpose of the San Diego DMV APS Hearing is to determine, because of your DUI arrest, if and/or for how long your driving privileges will be taken away from you (i.e. – how long your driver’s license will be taken away/suspended).

There are three 3 questions that your DMV APS Hearing Officer will be seeking the answers to, based on the facts of your situation:

  1. Were you driving a motor vehicle?
  2. Was the detention and/or arrest of you – lawful?
  3. Was your blood-alcohol level (your B.A.C.) a .08% or above – at the time you were driving?

Without getting into it here, depending on the facts of your case, almost every single word in the above questions represents a challengeable element. It is my job to find which element(s) might the specific facts of your particular case, support a strong attack against.

Issue #2

The California Court System

Following is a brief overview of the various stages that are generally part of a DUI criminal case. Depending on your situation, not every step/stage may take place but this will give you an idea of the steps that might take place.

The Arrest

Although there are times where a warrant is issued for someone’s arrest, in DUI situations the person is generally arrested and booked for driving under the influence all in the same chain of events.

Police may arrest a suspect on the spot or later if the officer has probable cause to believe a misdemeanor or felony was committed. The police may refer the case to the prosecutor’s office suggesting potential charges.

The Prosecutor’s Office (either District Atty / City Atty) Reviews The Case

A prosecuting attorney will determine whether a person should be charged with a crime by thoroughly reviewing all reports and records, witness statements, and the suspect’s prior criminal or traffic record. The criminal case is either charged or declined.

Criminal Charges Are Issued Or Declined

If a case is charged, the prosecutor issues a criminal complaint charging the suspect with committing a misdemeanor, felony, or both. Persons charged with a misdemeanor may be able to post bail and be released from jail. Persons charged with a felony crime must wait for their initial appearance in Arraignment Court.

Initial Appearance

This is the first court hearing after someone has been arrested and charged with a crime. The judge or court commissioner informs the defendant what the charge(s) are, maximum penalty if convicted, and their rights to an attorney. If the defendant is still in jail, bail and any other conditions are set. Often a “No Contact Order” will be imposed, which prohibits the defendant from having any contact with a person who is a victim or a witness in the case.

Entering A Plea

In misdemeanor cases, the defendant is asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. In felony cases, a date is set for a preliminary hearing.

Status Conference

A court hearing to determine the status or progress and direction, of a case.

Preliminary Hearing

This is an evidentiary hearing in which the prosecutor (District or City attorney) must prove to a judge or court commissioner that there is enough evidence to believe the defendant committed a felony.


A criminal defendant’s first appearance on the formal charges before a judge. The defendant is formally charged and enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. This occurs at the initial appearance in misdemeanor cases and at some point following bind over at preliminary hearings in felony cases.

Readiness Conference / Hearing

A court hearing to resolve issues in advance of a trial; courts sometimes will accept entry of pleas of guilty or no contest at these hearings.

Plea Hearing

A hearing at which the defendant responds to a criminal charge by entering a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. A plea agreement or plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant for the defendant to plead guilty or no contest under certain terms and conditions, which must be approved by the judge, to prevent going to trial.


A hearing at which evidence is presented to a judge or jury to determine whether the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A defendant may be found guilty of all, some, or none of the criminal charges.


A court’s decision as to the penalties appropriate for crimes established by convictions.


If there has been a material and prejudicial error of law or fact, a defendant has the right to appeal their case after sentencing.

Post-Conviction Motion Hearing

A defendant may be revoked for not following the terms of his probation. Post-Conviction Motions may be filed to deal with any post-conviction issues.

Although a particular case may differ slightly, these are the typical stages the DUI case will follow through the court system.

Because memories fade, people can move, and evidence sometimes becomes unavailable, it is better to contact our office sooner than later so that we can begin constructing as strong of a case in your favor as possible.

Whether you have been charged/arrested for a San Diego DUI, Poway DUI, La Mesa DUI, Santee DUI, Mission Valley DUI, Clairemont DUI, Point Loma DUI, La Jolla DUI, Carmel Valley DUI, Mira Mesa DUI, Pacific Beach DUI, Del Mar DUI, Carmel Valley DUI, Encinitas DUI, Oceanside DUI, Ocean Beach DUI, Escondido DUI, Vista DUI, San Marcos DUI, Carlsbad DUI or El Cajon DUI, if you’re looking for San Diego’s Best DUI Defense Attorney, you must speak with Attorney Chris Sohovich as soon as possible.

Contact the Law Office of Chris Sohovich now for a free case evaluation at 619-326-8161.