Criminal Matters

Your Rights in a Criminal Matter:

  • Right to a speedy and public jury trial
  • Right to confront and cross-examine all witnesses against you
  • Right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself
  • Right to subpoena and produce evidence
  • Right to be sentenced by a judge
  • Right to be represented by an attorney at all stages of the proceedings. This includes questioning by police or other government agency.
  • Right to have a court appointed attorney at no charge if you cannot afford an attorney
  • Right to delay sentencing not less than 6 hours nor more than 5 days after entry of a plea
  • Right to an interpreter

Potential Punishment:

The punishment you may face for a felony or misdemeanor may be stated by the specific statute (code) under which you are charged. If you know under what statute you are being charged, you may use the link in this website to California Codes. If the punishment is not stated in the statue, the law provides as follows:

In cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a felony, or to be punishable by imprisonment in a state prison, is punishable by imprisonment in any of the state prisons for 16 months, or two or three years; provided, however, every offense which is prescribed by any law of the state to be a felony punishable by imprisonment in any of the state prisons or by a fine, but without an alternate sentence to the county jail, may be punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or by a fine, or by both. Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.

Driving under the influence:

In California, when you are charged for a DUI / DWI, two separate cases are opened: (1) a criminal matter in superior court, and (2) hearing by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Although both cases are extremely serious, the DMV case is far more time-sensitive. Motorists accused of drunk driving in California have only 10 days from the date of their DUI / DWI arrest to request a hearing with the DMV. Anyone arrested for DUI or DWI in California who does not request a hearing within the required time period, will have his or her driver's license suspended automatically on the 30th day following their drunk driving arrest.

The criminal case filed against California DUI / DWI defendants consists of two different statutes: California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a), and Vehicle Code Section 23152 (b).

In California, a conviction for the offense of DUI (Driving Under the Influence) carries stiff penalties and punishments. Most counties have similar provisions for DUI penalties and punishments. There are minimal DUI penalties and punishments the court can impose. In order to receive the minimal penalty and punishment, however, you probably will need someone to advocate on your behalf. In addition, keep in mind that there are "aggravating" factors, which result in the penalties and punishments to significantly increase. The aggravating factors can include: a child in the car (under 14), speeding, driving on a suspended or restricted license, accident, injuries to third party, high blood alcohol content (over .20), etc.

As of 2005 the period for prior DUI offenses is 10 years. Regardless of when a prior DUI offense occurred, and what the DUI law was at the time, if it was within ten years it counts as a prior DUI offense. The date is calculated from arrest date, not the date you plead or were convicted. This means that anyone arrested for drunk or drug driving within 10 years of the last arrest date will be charged with a second offense, with increased penalties and punishment. The punishment in court for a second or third drunk driving conviction is much harsher than for a first offense - a multiple-offense drunk driving conviction can carry mandatory jail time, an 18-month alcohol education program, a required ignition interlock device (such as Smart Start), and more.

As a first time offender, there are several issues that you have to keep in mind. The following is for reference only, and each county does vary somewhat and the laws regarding DUI punishment change rapidly:

First time DUI/DWI offender
(For General Reference Only)

3 to 5 years of Court Probation This means no probation officer to report to, but absolutely no drinking and driving during that time period.
Fines & Fees
A fine, including court fees and costs of $1400 to $1800 This can be paid over time for an additional charge, or in full within 45 days. In some courts people can work off part of the fine through community service, or other alternative sentence.
Driver License
6 month loss of California Driver’s License As of 2004, it will be up to the Department of Motor Vehicles to decide if a restricted California Driver License should be issued. A suspension means absolutely no driving, a restriction allows driving to and from work or school.
DUI School
DUI School Depending on your Blood Alcohol Level DUI school may be as low as 12 hours or as much as 45. 6 month program if the blood/breath alcohol content is a .20 or higher, or if there is a refusal to test. Mandatory alcohol education if under 21. Possible first offender school for 3-6 months, depending on BAC level. This is dependant on your attorney as well. The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs maintains a list of DUI Schools.
Jail Time
There is a required 48 hours of jail time on a first offense DUI. It is possible to have this time converted to work service. Depending how long you were in jail, you may be able to apply time served as credit.
Other consequences:

Criminal record.

Insurance Consequences: DUI/DWI affects your car insurance. You may be labeled a "high-risk driver."

Vehicle Impound: Court may order impoundment.

Ignition Interlock Device: The Court may order use of interlock device.

Community Service: In some courts, you may work off some of your fees/costs by doing community service.

Service areas:

Our office can represent criminal defendants throughout California. Mr. Gortinsky has been retained in Los Angeles County. Our office is conveniently located near the following counties: Sacramento, El Dorado, Yolo, Solano, Placer, Nevada, Yuba, Sutter, Napa, Sonoma, Amador, Calaveras, Alpine, San Joaquin, Contra Costa, Marin, Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne.


A felony is a crime which is punishable with death or by imprisonment in state prison. Every other crime or public offense is a misdemeanor except those offenses that are classified as infractions.

When a crime is punishable, in the discretion of the court, by imprisonment in the state prison or by fine or imprisonment in the county jail, it is a misdemeanor for all purposes under the following circumstances:

 (1) After a judgment imposing a punishment other than imprisonment in the state prison.

 (2) When the court, upon committing the defendant to the Youth Authority, designates the offense to be a misdemeanor.

 (3) When the court grants probation to a defendant without imposition of sentence and at the time of granting probation, or on application of the defendant or probation officer thereafter, the court declares the offense to be a misdemeanor.

An infraction, includes for instance a speeding ticket, is a violation of the law, although not punishable by incarceration. The infraction typically involves a fine and the violation will be on your record for a limited time.

About Alex Gortinsky

Mr. Gortinsky was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He speaks Spanish. His family has also maintained their Russian heritage. Mr. Gortinsky is also fluent in Russian. He is married. Mr. Gortinsky and his family live in Sacramento, California.