Possible Penalty: Dishonorable Discharge from the U.S. Army
Case Result: Military Diversion followed by a dismissal of all criminal charges
This case involves active-duty military personnel. It began with a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer pulling over our client one night after a minor accident (property damages only – no injuries to our client or any third party).
Specifically, our client was driving erratically at an unsafe speed on a freeway in Los Angeles when he struck a moving vehicle. Upon questioning by the CHP officer, our client immediately confessed to having consumed alcohol earlier that same evening. The officer thereafter administered an FST, which, unfortunately, our client failed. Consequently, he was arrested at the scene and days later charged with misdemeanor First-Time DUI by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office (DA’s Office) ( https://da.lacounty.gov).
Typically, this charge does not result in automatic jail time. But for military personnel, the result upon conviction of even this relatively minor offense would almost certainly be a dishonorable discharge. This, in turn, would mean the total loss of one’s military career and a drastically reduced possibility of securing employment in the future. (It essentially is the equivalent of having a felony conviction on your record.)
We therefore relentlessly fought for over one year to avoid a conviction and its consequences. Our first win was compelling the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/ to maintain the defendant's driver's license/driving privileges.
Eventually, Ninaz Saffari managed to secure Military Diversion for him. It meant zero time in jail for our client, only informal or summary probation, weekly counseling sessions, a small court fine, and restitution (for the other driver’s property damages). After eighteen months, we managed to have our client's criminal charge dismissed, leaving his criminal record clean.
The Case of a Client Facing Charges for Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Effect of Drugs; Possible Penalty: A Year in County Jail
Case Result: Drug Diversion and a Case Dismissal
We received a rather unusual case that our chief attorney, Ms. Saffari, had not dealt with in the past. This case involved the arrest of “Miss C” one eventful night. She went out one evening to meet with a friend (“David”), whom she had only recently met. Sadly, the man secretly laced her drink with drugs. She blacked out, only to wake up the following morning with extreme heart attack symptoms, including a wildly pumping heart and shaking body. She was afraid she would die since it was her first time experiencing symptoms like those. Note that our client had never done drugs in her entire life.
In fact. her record confirmed that Ms. C had never even been arrested before. She was an all-around upstanding and law-abiding citizen who held a respectable, full-time banking job. Not surprisingly then, out of sheer panic, she jumped into her vehicle in the hope of finding help from an officer on patrol. A few moments later, she indeed saw a police officer so she pulled over and told him what she had been through. Unfortunately, the officer did not believe her.
The officer performed an FST on her, which she understandably failed. He took the DUI/ DUID -- Driving Under the Influence of a Drug (California Vehicle Code section 23152(f): https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/vehicle-code/veh-sect-23152.html) suspect to a nearby hospital. There, she voluntarily submitted to drug testing. Sure enough, she tested positive for methamphetamine. The officer consequently arrested her for suspiction of under the effects of drugs under Calif. V.C. § 23152(f). If found guilty, she would receive a maximum one-year jail sentence in the Women's Central Jail Los Angeles County -- Century Regional Detention Facility: https://lasd.org/crdf-combating-covid19/.
But fortunately Ninaz was able to obtain Judicial Diversion for Ms. C under California PC 1001.95. The diversion program included weekly drug/alcohol treatment for 90 days and only a single two-hour session sponsored by MADD. In the end, our client did not even receive informal/summary probation, was not sent to jail, and was not even required to pay any fines. When she completes the diversion, the court will automatically dismiss her criminal charges.
Possible Penalty: A Minimum of 24 months in Jail
Result: Reduced Plea to First-time DUI Misdemeanor, No Incarceration, Probation Only, and Mandatory AA Classes
A young lady in her 20's was arrested for Excessive Speed on a Highway (California Vehicle Code section 22349: https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/vehicle-code/veh-sect-22349.html) and Reckless Driving (California Vehicle Code section 23103: https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/vehicle-code/veh-sect-23103.html) through the West Side of Los Angeles, near a residential area.
The lady was highly intoxicated and suspected of being high on cocaine and heroin. As bad luck would have it, she banged into a parked vehicle. Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) ( https://www.lapdonline.org) arrested her at the scene of the accident. If she had driven away and arrested thereafter, she would have been charged with misdemeanor Hit and Run with Property Damage but No Injuries (California Vehicle Code section 20002: https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/vehicle-code/veh-sect-20002.html).
She, of course, failed the FST and was therefore charged with misdemeanor DUI under California VC 23152.
Even more fortunately, she had not injured anyone and driven away, which would have resulted in her facing a felony Hit and Run with Injury or Death (California Vehicle Code section 20001: https://codes.findlaw.com/ca/vehicle-code/veh-sect-20001.html) charge. But she did, however, face charges for two more misdemeanor counts for possession of controlled drugs since she had in her possession heroin and cocaine in small quantities for personal use (which were recovered during a body cavity search at the jail). Additionally, she faced a misdemeanor charge for DUID under VC 23152(f).
If convicted of sentenced to all charges, the young woman could receive more than two years of jail time.
The evidence against our client was overwhelming since she had clearly and inarguably operated a vehicle with a BAC of over 0.08% when the accident occurred. Thus, our chief attorney had to negotiate a plea deal with the DA for a 1 st-time DUI. The case result was no jail, informal probation only, a relatively small fine, and a year of once-per-week Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) ( https://www.aa.org) classes. The court dismissed her DUID and drug charges.
Possible Penalty: Jail Time (48 Mos. in Prison)
Case Result: Community Service and a Fine Only
Our client, “A.S.”, was facing charges for felony DUI causing injury under California VC 23153. The maximum sentence for this is four years of prison time.
Ms. Safari sought to prove mitigating factors to help lower the client's charges and potential penalties. She presented her findings to the LA Co. DA's office. Consequently, she managed to negotiate with the DA for a drastically reduced plea, thereby getting the client's charges dropped to a misdemeanor first-time DUI under VC 23152.
This resulted in no jail, forty hours of community service, a small fine, and weekly AA classes for only six months.
Possible Penalty: 48 Months of Jail Time
Case Result: Misdemeanor DUI with only community service; no jail time
The client faced charges of felony DUI for operating while intoxicated and causing an injury under California VC 23153. The maximum penalty for this is four years in a penal institution, excluding the following sentence enhancements:
- Failing to agree to BAC chemical testing, under California VC 23612; and
- Inflicting significant physical injury, under California PC 12022.7
Ms. Saffari successfully negotiated for a no-prison, no-jail deal with only community service. The client managed to have their sentence reduced to a misdemeanor first-time DUI under VC 23152.
Possible Penalty: Loss of Enlistment in the Military
Case Result: Charge reduction to Dry Reckless, resulting in 60 AA Classes and a fine. The client managed to enlist in the military
In this case, our client was arrested for suspicion of driving while intoxicated/under the influence of alcohol. It was established that he was driving with a Blood-Alcohol Concentration of 0.20%, which is two-and-a-half times more than the allowed legal limit. It was also his 2nd DUI charge in ten years.
The prosecutor – a Deputy City Attorney from the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office (CA’s Office) ( https://www.lacityattorney.org) therefore filed misdemeanor second-time DUI charges against him under California VC 23540. This is punishable by:
- A maximum jail time of one year;
- A minimum of 36 months of misdemeanor probation;
- Several thousands of dollars in fines;
- A minimum of 1.5 years in a DUI program for multiple offenders or SB38; and
- Mandatory installation of an IID in all vehicles he drives
Additionally, the defendant wished to enroll in the military but would not be eligible to do so with a drunk driving conviction – even a misdemeanor DUI -- on his criminal record (his first misdemeanor DUI conviction had been expunged).
Our chief attorney, Ms. Ninaz Saffari, presented a motion in court to suppress the state's evidence under PC 1538.5. She based her petition on the fact that the traffic stop by the police was invalid.
The results were a charge reduction to Dry Reckless under VC 23103, no incarceration, a fine, and 60 AA meetings. The defendant was also able to enroll in the military.
Possible Penalty: A Felony Conviction and Likely Loss of Professional License & Livelihood
Case Result: Charge reduction to a standard DUI, dismissal of a felony charge, Client able to keep professional license
The case involves a licensed lawyer based in California. The lawyer, facing charges for DUI, failed to submit to a breathalyzer, hence facing additional charges under VC 23612. Also, the attorney was facing felony charges for illegally possessing cocaine under California H&S 11351.
The penalty for these charges would be:
- Four years in prison for felony drug charges;
- A maximum of one year for a misdemeanor DUI charge;
- An additional 48 hours in jail for failing to submit to DUI testing;
- Suspension of driver's license for 12 months by DMV; and
- Permanent revocation of professional license — which means a disbarment from the California State Bar Association.
Miss Saffari persuaded the prosecutor to drop the client's charge for refusing to submit to DUI testing and only give him a misdemeanor for the first DUI under California VC 23152. His punishment for that was only misdemeanor probation.
Miss Saffari also persuaded the Deputy District Attorney in charge of the prosecution to place the defendant on informal diversion for the drug possession charge, under PC 1001.94, with forty-five AA meetings. The client completed the diversion program, and the court dismissed his drug charge completely.
Additionally, the client managed to keep his law license since his DUI charges were reduced to a misdemeanor -- an offense not considered to be a crime of moral turpitude under California law or under the State Bar’s Rules of Professional Responsibility and other ethical guidelines.
During probation, the client was not under supervision, was not to submit to random drug or alcohol tests, and did not perform community service. After paying the required fine and halfway through with probation, he was qualified for early probation termination under California PC 1203.3. His conviction was expunged after that, leaving him with a clean criminal record.
Possible Penalty: Prison Time, Possible Deportation, and an almost certainty of losing a High-Security Clearance
Case Results: A charge reduction to Reckless Driving, the client kept his job and was not deported
A female adult immigrant – more specifically, a green-card visa holder with a lucrative government job and a high-security privilege, was facing charges for vehicular manslaughter under California PC 191.5(c). She was also accused of consuming alcohol a few moments before the accident, which elevated her charges to vehicular manslaughter with intoxication under PC 191.5(b). The maximum penalty for this charge is six years of imprisonment in a California penitentiary, followed by deportation, and almost certain job loss.
Miss Saffari began the defense process and investigation by engaging the help of an accident reconstruction expert, whose report served as solid and convincing evidence in the matter. The accident reconstructionist expert's report revealed that the other person involved – the purported victim/decedent -- was to blame since they had been speeding.
Miss Saffari also attacked the validity of the BAC results, which initially read .08%, which supported a DUI charge or enhancement, as under California VC 23152. During the initial hearing, Ms. Saffari attacked the state's evidence by cross-examining the breathalyzer technician, demonstrating that the device had not been historically well maintained or serviced, and that the logbooks had not been properly completed and were technically out of order. She also proved that the technician had insufficient skills, training, and experience in operating the breathalyzer. Consequently, the judge gave a ruling against the DUI charge and its enhancement.
When the case was sent to trial, the Deputy District Attorney agreed to reduce the defendant's charge to a misdemeanor for Reckless Driving Resulting in Injury pursuant to VC 23104. It was obviously a far less severe criminal conviction. Though it led to additional points to the client's DMV record, it was not severe enough to impact her career, immigration status, or high-security clearance. The only punishment the client received was community service for three hundred hours. She was able to keep her job and residency in the U.S.
Possible Penalty: Jail Time, Losing their Nursing License
Case Results: Charge Reduction to California Wet Reckless, Client Kept their Nursing License
Our client, a certified nurse, faced the vert likely possibility of losing their professional license if sentenced to even a first-time DUI. The defendant’s arrest occurred at a DUI checkpoint in the San Fernando Valley on a holiday weekend (Fourth of July) while driving with a BAC of 0.12%, which is 50% beyond the allowed limit. Thus, she faced a misdemeanor charge for the first-time DUI under Vehicle Code 23152, carrying a maximum penalty of:
- Six months of jail time;
- At least thirty-six months of misdemeanor probation;
- 90 days in a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Program: https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/individuals/Pages/DUI.aspx;
- A fine; and
- 180 days of driver's license restriction or suspension.
Ms. Safari negotiated with the DA supervisor for a charge reduction to Wet Reckless under Vehicle Code 23103. The charge reduction will not affect the client's nursing license. Unfortunately, however, the DA’s Office could not agree to a charge for Dry Reckless due to the high BAC level.
Find an Experienced DUI Defense Attorney Near You
Are you or someone you care about facing DUI charges in Los Angeles? Our chief attorney, Ms. Saffari, has over seventeen years of experience successfully defending all types of DUI charges. She is highly skilled and effective in attacking prosecutors' cases and saving her clients from doing jail time, avoiding felony convictions, and losing their driver's licenses in DMV hearings, among other penalties. Her best strategy during the trial is to attack the state’s evidence, including BAC results through a variety of methods, including but not limited to the following:
- Challenging the initial police stop and FST;
- Attacking the credentials of the breathalyzer clinician and the chemical test machine itself;
- Putting her own impeccably credentialed and unimpeachable experts to support her client’s defense; and
- Presenting mitigating factors to reduce the charges.