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A Sacramento DUI Lawyer tells you what to expect on your first day in court

If you were arrested for a DUI in Sacramento County then you most likely signed a "Promise to appear" form stating that you agree to show up on a given court date, at a certain time and in a specific department.  It is a white piece of paper and it is usually included in with your personal possessions when your are released from the jail.  Most misdemeanor DUI cases, first offense, seconds and thirds (without injury to another person) are usually released on their own recognizance, that is without posting bail.  This does not mean that bail will not be imposed at your first court appearance. Your Sacramento DUI attorney should advise you before your first court appearance whether you will have to post bail so that you are not taken into custody at your first appearance.  Generally, this is only a concern in Sacramento DUI's which are not first offenses.  If you have a prior DUI within 10 years the court may desire to impose bail.

Sacramento Misdemeanor DUI's

Most misdemeanor DUI cases in Sacramento are sent to either Department 3 or 4 on the second floor of the main courthouse located at 720 9th Street, Sacramento, CA 95818. Your case will be either on an 8:30 or a 1:30 calendar and you are expected to be there on time.  That being said it is not uncommon to be waiting outside those departments and for the doors to remain locked until 8:45 or 1:45.   In short, it's o.k. if the court is late but attorneys and clients must be on time.  Allow extra time for parking, getting through the metal detector and unexpected delays. A cushion of 15 minutes should be sufficient to get you there on time depending on the distance you are traveling.

When the Sacramento County Sheriff's bailiff finally opens the courtroom doors and directs you inside the courtroom you will be asked to remove all hats, sun glasses and chewing gum.  Usually the first row of the courtroom is reserved for attorneys and you are NOT to sit in it. Shortly after being seated the bailiff will usually call out the names on the calendar and ask if anyone's name was not read.  If your name was not read be certain to tell the bailiff.

A brief video will be played after the bailiff reads the names, explaining some of the process and welcomes you to Sacramento DUI court.  The judge will usually take the bench at the end of the video and begin calling the cases.  Generally speaking the court will call private attorney cases before calling the rest of the calendar.

If you have hired a private Sacramento DUI attorney you do NOT have to appear in court on a misdemeanor DUI.  You are permitted to appear "through your attorney".  Appearance through your attorney, without you being present, is specifically permitted by California Penal Code Section 977.  You have the statutory right to appear through your attorney and you will not be punished in any way for exercising this right.  The legislature understands that misdemeanors are of a lesser severity and wants to permit those accused of such violations the option to continue with their work/lives/school without the necessity of personally appearing.

If you do appear in court you should dress respectfully as though you were attending a church service.  You do not have to wear a coat and tie but do dress respectfully.  No Budweiser shirts, pot leaf shirts, or foul language.

Appear by yourself without lawyer?

If you appear by yourself without an Sacramento DUI Lawyer the court will likely ask if you if you are going to retain private council or if you qualify for the services of the public defender.  While it is true that you can represent yourself it is strongly discouraged.  If you are interested in learning about getting your DUI dismissed consulting an experienced DUI lawyer is a must.

Parking: There is metered street parking all around the Sacramento county courthouse but that is not recommended unless you know that you will be out in time.  It is better to park in the public parking off 8th and G street or the public parking off the alley way on the 9th Street side of the courthouse.

What Can Happen If I Go to Court for a DUI Without a Lawyer In California?

Drunk driving charges, also known as driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), can have severe consequences in California. If you find yourself facing a DUI charge, it's essential to understand the potential risks and consequences of going to court without legal representation. While you may be tempted to represent yourself, it's crucial to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages before making that decision.

The Importance of Legal Representation

Understanding the Complexity of DUI Laws

DUI laws in California are intricate and continuously evolving. They involve various legal statutes, regulations, and procedures that can be challenging for a layperson to comprehend fully. A proficient DUI lawyer possesses in-depth knowledge of these laws and stays updated with any changes, allowing them to navigate the legal landscape with expertise.

Navigating the Legal System

The legal system can be intimidating, especially if you lack legal training and experience. A DUI lawyer understands the intricate workings of the system and can guide you through the process. They know the paperwork required, deadlines to meet, and court procedures to follow, ensuring that your case proceeds smoothly and efficiently.

Protecting Your Rights

When facing a DUI charge, you have constitutional rights that deserve protection. An experienced lawyer knows how to safeguard your rights throughout the legal process. They ensure that law enforcement followed proper procedures during your arrest, protect you from unlawful searches and seizures, and guarantee fair treatment during questioning.

Potential Consequences of Going to Court Without a Lawyer

Opting to represent yourself in a DUI case can lead to several negative outcomes. It's crucial to understand these potential consequences before making a decision.

Increased Risk of Conviction

DUI charges carry severe penalties in California, including fines, license suspension, mandatory DUI programs, probation, and even jail time for repeat offenses. Going to court without a lawyer puts you at a higher risk of conviction. Prosecutors are experienced in presenting evidence and building cases against defendants. Without legal expertise, you may struggle to challenge the evidence or present a strong defense.

Harsher Penalties

If convicted of a DUI, the court imposes penalties based on the severity of the offense, prior convictions, and other aggravating factors. Without a lawyer, you may receive harsher penalties than if you had proper legal representation. A skilled DUI lawyer understands how to navigate the legal system to minimize the potential consequences and negotiate for lesser penalties.

Limited Knowledge of Defense Strategies

Developing an effective defense strategy requires an in-depth understanding of DUI laws, scientific evidence, and legal precedents. Without a lawyer, you may lack the necessary knowledge to identify and employ strong defense strategies. A DUI lawyer can analyze the circumstances surrounding your arrest, challenge faulty breathalyzer or blood test results, question the legality of the traffic stop, and explore other defense avenues.

Inadequate Negotiation Skills

Negotiating with prosecutors is a crucial aspect of DUI cases. Prosecutors are often reluctant to offer leniency to defendants representing themselves, as they perceive them as having limited knowledge and bargaining power. A DUI lawyer possesses the negotiation skills and legal acumen necessary to engage in fruitful discussions with prosecutors. They can advocate for reduced charges, alternative sentencing options, or even dismissal of the case if appropriate.

The Benefits of Hiring a DUI Lawyer

Considering the potential risks of going to court without a lawyer, it's wise to explore the benefits of seeking legal representation for your DUI case.

Expertise in DUI Laws

DUI lawyers specialize in defending clients against drunk driving charges. They possess extensive knowledge of DUI laws, including the intricacies specific to California. Their expertise allows them to analyze the evidence, identify potential weaknesses in the prosecution's case, and leverage their knowledge to build a strong defense on your behalf.

Building a Strong Defense

A DUI lawyer has the experience and resources to investigate your case thoroughly. They can interview witnesses, review police reports, analyze breathalyzer or blood test results, and gather any additional evidence to support your defense. By meticulously examining every aspect of your case, they can construct a robust defense strategy aimed at achieving the best possible outcome.

Negotiating with Prosecutors

Prosecutors often prefer resolving cases through negotiation rather than going to trial. A skilled DUI lawyer has established relationships with prosecutors and understands their negotiation tactics. They can engage in productive discussions, leveraging their knowledge of DUI laws and the specific circumstances of your case to secure favorable plea agreements or reduced charges.

Representing You in Court

If your case goes to trial, having a DUI lawyer by your side is invaluable. They are skilled courtroom litigators who can present your defense effectively, cross-examine witnesses, challenge the prosecution's evidence, and deliver compelling arguments to the judge and jury. With their courtroom experience, they can navigate the complexities of trial proceedings and work towards securing an acquittal or mitigating the potential consequences.

When to Consult a DUI Lawyer

While it is always advisable to consult a DUI lawyer when facing charges, certain circumstances make legal representation even more crucial.

Arrested for a DUI in California

If you have been arrested for a DUI in California, it is essential to seek legal advice immediately. A DUI lawyer can guide you through the initial stages, ensuring that your rights are protected during questioning and any subsequent legal proceedings.

Facing Serious Penalties

If your DUI offense involves aggravating factors such as excessive blood alcohol concentration (BAC), accidents causing injury, or previous DUI convictions, the potential penalties become more severe. In such cases, it is vital to have a DUI lawyer who can fight to minimize the consequences and protect your rights.

Prior DUI Convictions

If you have previous DUI convictions on your record, the stakes are higher. California has strict penalties for repeat offenders, including longer license suspensions, mandatory jail time, and increased fines. Having a DUI lawyer who can navigate the complexities of your case and potentially challenge prior convictions is crucial to minimize the impact on your life.

Complicated Circumstances

Certain circumstances surrounding your DUI case can make it more complex. For example, if there were issues with the breathalyzer or blood test results, if you believe you were wrongfully arrested, or if you have a medical condition that could have affected your ability to perform field sobriety tests accurately, consulting a DUI lawyer becomes even more important. They can investigate these factors, gather evidence, and build a strong defense tailored to your unique situation.

Can I Beat a DUI Without a Lawyer In California?

While it is technically possible to represent yourself in a DUI case, the chances of successfully beating the charges without legal assistance are minimal. DUI cases involve complex legal procedures, scientific evidence, and nuanced defense strategies that can be difficult for a layperson to navigate. The lack of legal knowledge and experience can severely hinder your ability to mount an effective defense.

Courtroom procedures, rules of evidence, and the legal standards for DUI cases require expertise to understand and utilize effectively. Without a lawyer, you may struggle to present a strong defense, challenge the prosecution's evidence, and navigate the intricacies of trial proceedings.

It's important to recognize that prosecutors have extensive experience in handling DUI cases and are skilled at presenting evidence to secure convictions. To level the playing field and increase your chances of a favorable outcome, it is highly recommended to hire a DUI lawyer who can utilize their expertise and legal acumen to build a strong defense tailored to your case.

Facing a DUI charge in California is a serious matter with potential long-term consequences. While it may be tempting to go to court without a lawyer, the risks outweigh the benefits. Hiring a DUI lawyer provides invaluable legal representation, ensuring your rights are protected, and giving you the best chance at minimizing the consequences of the charges.

A skilled DUI lawyer understands the intricacies of DUI laws, knows how to build a strong defense, and can effectively negotiate with prosecutors. They will guide you through the legal process, safeguard your rights, and fight for the best possible outcome on your behalf.

If you or someone you know is facing DUI/OVI charges, don't hesitate to contact the Law Offices of John Campanella for professional assistance. With their expertise in DUI cases, they can assess your specific situation, provide expert legal advice, and vigorously represent your interests throughout the proceedings.

Law Offices of John Campanella

OFFICE LOCATION: 901 H St. Suite 301, Sacramento, CA 95814

Hours: 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM, Monday to Friday

Phone: (916) 498-8460

Fax: (916) 476-6350

By reaching out to the Law Offices of John Campanella, you can receive the necessary support and guidance to navigate your DUI case effectively. Remember, having a dedicated and experienced DUI lawyer by your side can significantly impact the outcome of your case.


  • Is it mandatory to hire a DUI lawyer for a DUI case in California?

While it is not mandatory to hire a DUI lawyer, it is highly recommended due to the complex nature of DUI laws and the potential consequences involved.

  • Can't I just rely on a public defender instead of hiring a lawyer?

Public defenders provide legal representation to individuals who cannot afford private attorneys. While they are competent professionals, their caseloads can be heavy, which may limit the time and attention they can devote to your specific case. Hiring a private DUI lawyer allows for more personalized and focused representation.

  • How much does it cost to hire a DUI lawyer in California?

The cost of hiring a DUI lawyer can vary depending on various factors, such as the lawyer's experience, reputation, and the complexity of your case. It is advisable to discuss the fees and payment arrangements during the initial consultation.

  • What factors should I consider when choosing a DUI lawyer?

When choosing a DUI lawyer, consider their experience in handling DUI cases, their track record of success, their knowledge of local laws and procedures, and their communication style. It's important to find a lawyer who you feel comfortable with and who will provide dedicated and personalized representation.

  • Can a DUI lawyer help me avoid a license suspension?

A DUI lawyer can assist in navigating the process of contesting a license suspension. They can analyze the circumstances of your arrest, challenge the legality of the stop, the accuracy of the chemical tests, and explore any potential defenses to help minimize or avoid a license suspension.

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DUI Defense Since 1994
The Law Office of John Campanella is available to assist you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please call today at (916) 498-8460 for a free consultation to go over the details of your case.

Office Location

Law Office of John Campanella
901 H St. Suite 301
Sacramento, CA 95814
Hours: 8:30 – 5:00 M-F
Phone: (916) 498-8460
Fax: (916) 476-6350
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