How to Plead Guilty to Your Own DUI Case Without Hiring An Attorney

DUI Arraignment coming up in a couple of days? Well, if you think you may have a defense, this article is not for you. But if you know you are guilty and just want to end the case fast and correctly, this is for you.

If you are charged with a typical First Offense DUI in California, and you were drinking and driving, you may not need to come up with a couple grand to pay a Defense Attorney if you get prepared.

A first offense DUI is usually charged by a Complaint with 2 Counts:  1) a violation of Vehicle Code sec. 23152(a) and 2) a violation of Veh. Code 23152(b).  If you have other charges, this article is not for you.

In California, and in many states, first time DUI / DWI offenders get nearly identical sentences. And at least 90% of all persons charged with a DUI end up pleading guilty, or no contest eventually. Most Defense Attorneys will not tell you that, but we just did.

Attorneys will happily charge you to review all of the evidence and try to find some weak point in the case, but enforcement is getting better and better.  The documentation is getting better, and the penalties more routine.

Very few DUI cases actually go to trial.  And most that do go to trial, result in convictions.  Very few cases just get dismissed suddenly.  It’s super rare.

Are you wondering is you really need to pay an Attorney to review the police report?  Might be a bad one?  Dont really want to have to pay an attorney to get that blood sample, because you already know what’s in it?  Dont really want to pay an attorney to search DMV for the real owner of your car? Want to know what happened, but pretty sure the truth will not help you?  

Good News – you can do it! Kill the case at the first court date yourself.

Recommended Self Help Video by Defense Attorney: How to Plead Guilty to Your Own DUI.

Even if you qualify for a Public Defender assignment, they are not completely free. You have to apply first.  Then go back to court. The court will, in the end, force you to pay a fee based on your income for that Attorney’s work.  And who wants to go down to the Public Defender’s office without a driver’s license to explain why you were stopped?

If you know you are guilty, and you want to skip all of the crap and go straight forward to the rest of your life, it is completely possible to plead guilty to a first offense DUI at the first court appearance without an attorney, and get the routine first offense penalty.

In California, the current first offense penalty in nearly every county is:  1) a jail term suspended and not carried out sol long as you complete probation; 2) informal probation of 3-5 yrs consisting of the following terms:

a) some days of jail with credit for time served;

b) 12-18 weeks of Sheriff’s Work Program;

c) pay a fine of $2000+; d) Substance abuse counseling 12-18 mos.;

e) possibly an ignition interlock device;

f) community service hours;

g) do not drive without a valid drivers license and insurance;

h) obey all laws; and maybe a few other terms.

The maximum penalty for a DUI charge (Vehicle Code 23152(a) or 23152(b)) is 1 year in the county jail and a fine of $2000+.  Most first offense DUI cases in CA have both Veh. code 23152(a) and 23152(b) as charges.  Most courts will dismiss one of them if the Defendant pleads guilty.

By asking for an Indicated Sentence when the judge calls your case, you can find out what the judge will sentence you to before you plead guilty. So before you plead guilty, get an indicated sentence to make sure you know what you are pleading to.

Once you know what the judge is going to do, you can decide with confidence if you want to plead guilty or not. If so, just tell the judge you want to plead guilty and go home.

California Courts require a defendant to sign a “Waiver” Form prior to pleading guilty to make sure that the defendant understands and gives of his/her rights to a trial, etc.  If you tell the judge you want to plead guilty, they will direct you to the waiver form to fill out.

You have to give up your right to a jury trial if you decide to plead guilty. If you need time to decide to plead guilty, ask for it. The judge will give it to you.

Make sure you listen carefully to what the judge says during your sentencing, because there are sure to be deadlines to follow.

The Drivers License suspension part of a DUI case in CA happens through DMV separately from the court.  You do not have to worry about drivers license issues, such as getting a restricted drivers license, while in court. DOnt even waste your time asking for a restricted drivers license in your DUI arraignment.

You have to deal with DMV separately for the drivers license problem and to apply for a restricted drivers license.  Contact the DMV Driver Safety office if you want to challenge the suspension. You must call them within 10 days of your ARREST.  But if you just want the suspension to start ASAP, just make sure they have your correct address at all times.

For more detail, and to get fully prepared for your first go it alone court date (Arraignment) – I strongly recommend my Self Help Video: How to Plead Guilty to Your Own DUI.  It costs $50, but can save you thousands, and will definitely help you avoid costly mistakes.  Get in, get out fast, get out right is the goal.

Pleading guilty to any misdemeanor may cause immigration problems if you are not a US citizen. But you will have to research that elsewhere. And if you are guilty, you’re guilty.

Self Help Video

This free legal self help article was written by a licensed Criminal Defense Attorney and brought to you by:

About Attorney Christopher Dort

Public Interest Attorney. CA State Bar #196832. Licensed to practice law in California 1998, and then the US Federal District Court in 2000. Civil Litigation Trial Attorney (Insurance Defense Firms) 2000-2003. Private practice 2003 - present. First Solo Criminal Jury Trial 1998 (Santa Cruz County). First Civil Jury Trial 2002 (Orange County). Santa Cruz County Public Defenders Office 1996-1999 (law clerk). BA in Politics from UC Santa Cruz, 1995. JD, University of California, Hastings, 1998.
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2 Responses to How to Plead Guilty to Your Own DUI Case Without Hiring An Attorney

  1. Nelson duarte says:

    Hi I got arrested 2 days ago for a DUI my alcohol level was .10 at the time I was driving at mutang gt and lost control ! Spung out , didn’t hit anybody or anything just hit the curb . Cop followed but didn’t turn his sirens on as soon as I pulled into a street I had 7 cop cars with 1 helicopter on me.. I’m just wondering what should I do? I don’t wanna go to jail or anything I just wanna do what I have to do and move on with my life. What should I do? And how much is it going to cost me?

    • DortLaw says:


      Thank you for the new ad space.

      Do you want me to redact your last name? Probably.

      Wow. I cant believe you survived. You sprung out of a Mustang GT and had a helicopter land on you! Holly crap.

      Or did you mean that you spun out and crashed when the cops where chasing you and that you had a 0.10 BAC at the time? Dont remember the cops trying to catch you?

      You need to consult with a skilled trial attorney in detail, with all the facts.

      Or you can get my self help video for:

      How to Plead Guilty to Your Own DUI

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