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Top Ten Tips > First 48 Hours

2. Hire a Mendocino DUI Lawyer

Protect your own interests

Getting a local Mendocino County DUI lawyer gives you your best shot at beating a DUI in the local Mendocino Superior Court, and protecting your driver's license at the Ukiah DMV. All of the other parties to your case have their own agendas: the arresting officer, the DMV, the Mendocino County District Attorney and the Mendocino County Judge. For a more detailed discussion of the police agenda, see Jake's discussion in this Top Ten Tips series: Don't Follow Bad Advice. The judge and assistant district attorney who are examining your case are both highly disciplined and experienced lawyers, and, together with the DMV hearing officer assigned to your case, all of these local DUI authorities who are about to make decisions about the outcome of your matter are guided by much broader public safety considerations than just you or your own personal hardship, family needs or future job security.

Mendocino County DUI attorneys are specifically hired to protect you in every practical way. Not only can the outcome of a Mendocino County DUI affect you for the rest of your life, but in addition, all kinds of unexpected complications in Mendocino DUI cases can trip you up, and all kinds of shortcuts exist making it easier for you to comply with far less pain at the end of the day; only Mendocino DUI lawyers are uniquely positioned to navigate you through this situation, and no one has the expertise to go it alone.

Would you perform medical procedures on yourself? Engineer your own home? Fix your own plumbing or electrical problems? Sue a big company without a good lawyer on your side? We hire professionals to address and properly fix all kinds of problems in our lives, expertly and correctly from beginning to end, with minimum confusion and stress, with maximum information and flexibility, the options and execution you need right now. Don't follow casual advice from friends or try to do this yourself; you should have a Ukiah DUI lawyer looking out for your own best interests and easing the consequences so that you may move on with the least stress and inconvenience.

Public defenders. If you really cannot afford to hire a private Mendocino County DUI lawyer, then it's almost always advisable to appear at the first court date in the Mendocino County courthouse and when your case is called by the judge, don't try to explain your case or circumstances or ask for a break, but rather, at the very first moment that you are permitted to speak, simply ask for the Mendocino County Public Defender to be appointed.

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Note: Mendocino County public defenders do not handle DMV proceedings in Ukiah or elsewhere, and typically you are not permitted to speak with them prior to your first court appearance. Also, typically you have to physically go to court for the first appearance and every proceeding in your case, as opposed to private Mendocino DUI lawyers who go for you while you go to work or stay home. However, although public defenders get a bad rap because they typically can't spend as much time with you as compared to a private DUI lawyer, nevertheless their service is excellent and highly valued.

Representing yourself. Although you have a constitutional right to represent yourself according to the US Supreme Court's Faretta Ruling, understand that in any civil or criminal case, it is nearly always considered a mistake to represent yourself in court. This is because the other side (in Mendocino County criminal cases, the other side is the State of California) has its own highly trained lawyer (the District Attorney), with a bank of assistant lawyers and staff, but you don't have such support if you represent yourself, and therefore you are at a severe disadvantage. In addition, one is always biased and sympathetic to one's own personal situation, and unable to objectively advise yourself of your own best interests. This is true even for defendants who are themselves lawyers and is the fundamental reason why "a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client." See also the Sonoma County Superior Court's Faretta Waiver advisements and warnings if you still wish to consider this ill-advised alternative to affordable counsel.

DUIs are actually very complicated

If you don't see how involved and complex even a first DUI can be in Mendocino County without a lawyer, then click on our Mendocino DUI Lawyer Anatomy of a DUI on this site and see the many different directions a Mendocino case can go, as well as the collection of obligations, timetables and tasks to perform. A local Mendocino DUI attorney who can guide you through the maze of bureaucratic doo-doo, not to mention the possibility of getting charges reduced or dismissed, is well worth the expense. Your situation requires an attorney knowledgeable in the precise area of the law in which you find yourself. Consider just a sample listing of possible DUI defenses on this site by clicking on Ten Tips for Fighting a Mendocino County DUI. A DUI should be handled by a criminal defense lawyer who regularly defends DUI cases in your courtroom.

Here's what a Mendocino County DUI lawyer does for you

A private DUI lawyer will go to Mendocino Superior Court or traffic court for you and in most Mendocino County cases you don't ever have to appear. This is particularly helpful if you don't live in Mendocino County. A private Mendocino DUI lawyer should also handle the DMV case for you so you don't have to yourself (these hearings are usually litigated in the Santa Rosa or Petaluma satellite DMV offices). The value of this convenience and the possibility of a Mendocino DUI lawyer successfully obtaining lower or dismissed charges and protecting your driver license, is well worth a reasonable Mendocino attorney fee (typically in the $1500-$2500 range for any straight-forward 1st or 2nd DUI in Mendocino County).

Any good Mendocino County DUI defense lawyer will closely examine the Mendocino County Superior Court complaint against you and the police report completed by Mendocino County law enforcement, looking for any glaring or less obvious defenses, and then sit down with you for as long as you need, explain everything to you and ask you to make your own decisions after you understand the issues, likelihood of success, possible additional costs if any, and probable risks and consequences. A good Mendocino DUI lawyer will help you navigate the minefield of possibilities, get you through the bureaucratic mess which is present in every Mendocino County DUI arrest case, help you understand the multiple tasks facing you, and coordinate the timing of tasks and resolutions, to get all of this behind you from arrest to resolution with the least amount of stress and pain. See Jake's Short Video "Hire a DUI Lawyer!" here: Jake's Video Shorts.

Why is using a local attorney so important? Choose carefully

Bad Lawyer EmailA local DUI lawyer who lives and practices in Mendocino County is far better than one based in Marin, San Francisco or LA, because lawyers who regularly practice DUI law in Mendocino know how the Ukiah DMV, and how the Mendocino County judges and Mendocino County District Attorney react to certain cases, and we know the available options and procedures here in Mendocino County which often vary widely in different counties. For example, a standard no-defenses second DUI in Mendocino County is typically sentenced to thirty days of jail, but all of the time may be served by volunteering with the county if you are not otherwise ineligible. By comparison, in Marin County the typical sentence for the same charges is fifteen days instead of thirty, and four days must be served in actual custody. Napa's typical sentence for a second DUI is only ten days of jail, all of which may be served with a jail alternative. Local Ukiah lawyers who actually live and practice in Mendocino County know Mendocino County DUI practices and procedures.

If you don't see how the wrong DUI lawyer can be a castatrophe, click here to see an authentic Bad DUI Lawyer Email Sent to Jake complaining about a remote lawyer, missed court appearance, arrest warrant, ridiculous DMV phone hearing resulting in a two-year license suspension, total disaster.

Ask questions, and choose carefully; here's another real statement, from one of Jake's former clients: "I also wanted to share something that you may or may not wish to add to the testimonial (if you've used it). Since being in the DUI program, I've come across a wide range of folks who have had varying experiences with their lawyers. Every time someone shares a story, I am even more grateful than ever that I sought you out and that you agreed to take my case. I've heard stories from people whose lawyers won't answer any questions after court, who wouldn't appear for them in court (it's possible that they weren't allowed to I suppose) or who gave such minimal information that they have been left to navigate much of the DUI laws and DMV processes by themselves. So, thank you again for all of your help, your honesty and bluntness, and your follow up."

Don't pay extra by being fooled into hiring a smooth talking "big name" criminal lawyer based in another county like San Mateo, Marin, San Francisco or Los Angeles to whom you pay more money so that he or she can hopefully accomplish the exact same result as a Mendocino County DUI defense attorney, or worse yet they turn around and hire a local Mendocino no-name contract lawyer to appear for you. The quality of representation might be adequate but still a waste of additional money and an unwanted additional layer of people and miscommunications.

If you wish to test whether your prospective lawyer is truly knowledgeable and local, ask how many offices he/she has, where his/her primary business office is located, how often he/she appears personally in Mendocino as compared to other courts, when was the last time he/she physically stood in front of a Mendocino County judge on behalf of a client arrested for DUI, at which DMV office he/she conducts DMV hearings, and what is his/her personal understanding of a standard no-defenses DUI sentence in Mendocino County. The answers should be immediate, specific, and confidently provided to you.

Don't go to court for a DUI. Let your lawyer go instead

It is much easier for you (and well worth it) if you do not have to take time off work and attend a stressful and confusing appearance in Mendocino superior court in Ukiah or Fort Bragg if your attorney determines that there is no other reason for you to attend. Most court appearances are boring for non-lawyers, and the first appearance in Mendocino County is usually only meant to trade papers and information and set new dates, not to argue anything of substance. Typically in Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma Counties, you are not required to attend a misdemeanor court or DMV hearing with your DUI lawyer unless there is a substantial proceeding where evidence is to be formally introduced (usually only a contested hearing or actual trial proceedings). In Marin County you must only attend sentencing if you live in Marin or a bordering county.

Will your absence be noticed by the court or required by your attorney?

No, as discussed above, in most cases court appearances are strictly procedural. Unless special circumstances are present (such as a high blood alcohol level alleged, multiple priors, or a violation of probation), judges do not wish to speak to a defendant at such proceedings. Clients who live in Ukiah, Fort Bragg, Point Arena, or towns in Mendocino County, rarely, if ever, come to court in typical DUI cases. This doesn't mean you'll be left in the dark about your case. A good DUI attorney will explain the entire process. To start, click here to see Jake's comprehensive Anatomy of a Mendocino County DUI flowchart. In addition, Jake's tech know-how can be very helpful to avoid the need for client travel, meetings or appearances, especially at the procedural beginning of a case. If requested, we .pdf police reports and other case documents to you within 24 hours after court appearances.

You can (and should) closely follow the progress of your Mendocino County case by regularly communicating with your DUI lawyer before and after Ukiah court appearances, and follow your case separately online by clicking on Resources on this site and then find your local court under "Superior Courts" by clicking on the county where you were arrested (for example, Mendocino, Sonoma, Marin, or Napa), and search your name. Mendocino Courts have an online calendar for Ukiah appearances several days in advance, by courtroom number, listing date, name, type of hearing, and case number. Sonoma Courts publish a daily online calendar listing name, courtroom number, case number and one charge for your case. Napa Courts have a similar online calendar. Marin Courts have San Rafael appearances online weeks in advance.

Beware the driver license sting operations. Sting Photo by JakeImportant!! If you have a suspended license, don't drive, and if you drive to court, you stand a chance of being arrested in sting operations where police watch in court and radio to officers waiting for you when you drive away from the courthouse. These stings have been conducted in Napa and Sonoma County at random times throughout the year and result in huge additional headaches (not to mention more jail time) for those caught. The picture taken (left) by Jake was an example of such a sting operation in Sonoma County. Click here if you don't believe it! Santa Rosa Court Sting.

Don't pay a reimbursement bill from a police agency or hospital before speaking to a lawyer!

You might get a bill from the police. Some police agencies routinely mail reimbursement bills to attempt to recoup costs for arresting you! Even though you may be a Mendocino County taxpayer and may have already paid for the police department, the police car, and the salary of the police officer whose arrest you are now fighting, still, in these tough economic times Mendocino County agencies may try to bill you for reimbursement of their costs for the actual DUI arrest incident pursuant to Government Code Section 53150. Click here to see a CHP Invoice, a CHP "Second Notice", or here Santa Rosa Police Invoice.

Although an invoice pursuant to this law may be valid if emergency personnel were required to respond (for example an ambulance, paramedics or fire trucks responding to a DUI accident scene, or more CHP or Ukiah officers to manage traffic interruption), nevertheless, the California Court of Appeals for Mendocino County has ruled that an ordinary arrest for DUI is not a sufficient trigger event to require reimbursement to Mendocino County law enforcement under this law. See, California Highway Patrol v. Superior Court (Allende) (1st Dist 2006) 135 C.A.4th 488.

A recent example. A recent CHP invoice received by one of Jake's DUI clients who was subjected to a typical, uneventful DUI arrest, states that "the defendant herein shall pay to CHP the total indicated below" listing 5.2 personnel hours and a total due of $469.33. After reviewing this client's incident, and the invoice received, Jake was outraged by the intimidating and misleading "defendant shall pay CHP" language in the invoice from an agency whose leaders are sworn to uphold and enforce the law; he advised this particular client not to pay her bill based on the individual facts in her case, and fired off a Counsel's Reply Letter on her behalf.

Although failure to pay may result in a debt collection lawsuit (civil, not criminal case), or may cause an item to be referred to the franchise tax board or a collection agency risking a negative credit incident (many if not most people may never hear from the police agency again, especially if the arrest was in fact uneventful), such possible risks may be addressed, minimized and/or negated with vigilance and protest when the claimed debt is disputed and invalid on its face.

Ukiah Accident

2011 Allende II ruling: On December 9, 2011, the Court of Appeals for Mendocino County DUI cases re-examined the issue of when CHP can recoup costs for DUI-related incidents, in Allende v. Dept of California Highway Patrol ("Allende II"), and upheld the CHP's latest policy, to seek cost recovery "for any incident in which an officer is dispatched to a call resulting in a DUI arrest of a driver."

To the dismay of Mendocino County DUI lawyers, the Allende II court embraced its "Fox Guarding the Chicken Coup" approach to when CHP can collect money from citizens whom they arrest for DUI, writing about the "wisdom of deferring to CHP expertise" in this inquiry, and noting the CHP's stated internal policy where "the CHP has instituted an internal appeal process under which arrested drivers may challenge an officer's initial determination that an incident qualifies for cost recovery. According to the evidence, "when [the CHP] send[s] out an Emergency Response Cost invoice under the CHP's Cost Recovery Program, and disputes arise over the propriety of the invoice, [it] has established procedures for investigating, reviewing, and resolving such disputes . . . ." For example, if "the dispute involves a contention . . . that no emergency response to an incident was involved, [the CHP] will put the invoice on hold and forward a copy of the invoice file (including the dispute letter) to the area office from which the incident arose. Information is requested from the area office so that an appropriate response can be made. If it is determined that the invoice was mistakenly issued, [the CHP] will cancel the invoice and inform the disputant of that fact. If the area office believes the invoice was properly issued and the disputant does not agree, or if the contention involves a dispute regarding the Government Code, the matter may be referred to the CHP's legal office. The CHP's counsel will then review the materials. When the CHP's counsel concludes an invoice was not appropriate, the charges are cancelled."

Allende II also upheld the specific formula for determining the amount of reimbursement in a Mendocino County DUI arrest, where "CHP calculates annually a standard hourly rate for its officers by taking the monetary wages paid to a mid-step traffic officer, adding the cost of benefits (retirement contributions, health insurance, workers compensation and Medicare contributions) and dividing that amount by an officer's "total actual working time," which includes the total number of hours an average officer works after subtracting paid time off for holidays, vacations and other leave."

Ukiah DUI attorneys are following these developments and are in the best position to advise someone arrested for a DUI in Mendocino County who subsequently receives a bill from a local police agency for the type of cost recovery described here.

You might get a bill from the hospital. Often a DUI arrest involves a blood test, because a breath test was unavailable, or because you chose the blood test rather than the breath test, or because the officer informed you (as they are required) that the breath-testing equipment does not retain any sample of the breath and that no breath sample will be available after the test which could be analyzed later by you or your DUI lawyer, and because no breath sample is retained, you have the opportunity to provide a blood or urine sample that will be retained at no cost to you so that there will be something retained that may be subsequently analyzed for the alcoholic content of your blood. See Vehicle Code Section 23614.

The fact that the police do not have access to their own medical staff, or to a paramedic response (many police agencies do have such access), does not mean that you should have to pay for alternative hospital staff to perform the blood draw while you are in state custody exercising a right protected by law which specifically states that there will be no cost to you. If you received such a bill (click here for an example of a hospital bill for blood draw), then you should discuss it with a Ukiah DUI attorney before paying it. Always discuss your individual circumstances with a Mendocino County DUI lawyer because they may affect the actual advice given to you in your unique case.

DUI defendants should always consult with a Ukiah DUI lawyer about the individual circumstances of an arrest before being intimidated into paying any such invoice from Mendocino County or state law enforcement agencies.


Any result portrayed was dependent on the facts of that case, and the results will differ if based on different facts.

Our DUI Lawyers

Dave Jake Schwartz is an Honors Graduate from UC Hastings Law School, and UC Davis, former Federal Judicial Clerk, and Nationally Qualified Sobriety Tests Practitioner. Member of the California Bar for 30 years, North Bay resident for over 20 years, handles only DUI cases, including thousands of North Bay DUIs and DMV hearings: first/multiple offenders, minors, seniors, tourists, undocumented immigrants, veterans, probation violations, suspended license, public intoxication, open container, minor in possession, child endangerment, collisions, hit and run, evading, resisting arrest.


Dave Jake Schwartz