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Types of DUI Tests in Sonoma County

Breath and blood tests–law enforcement officials use a variety of tests to determine if they should charge a driver with DUI in California. But only one County in the State of California, Santa Clara County has a pilot project of sending first time offenders (upon the discretion of the arresting cop)  to “sober stations” where a nurse or counselor makes every effort to get you signed up for an alcohol treatment program. 

This saves you your license and jail time, but Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Solano counties are not doing this, so you need to read on unless you are were arrested in San Jose or Santa Clara County.

Measuring your breath

Although the word breathalyzer is actually a trade name for a specific type of breath testing device, people now use it generically to describe all types of alcohol breath tests. There are differences in the way each of these tests work, however.

No matter what the test, it’s important to remember that breathalyzers don’t really measure your blood alcohol content, but instead provide an estimate of your BAC based on the amount of alcohol that’s in your exhaled breath sample.

No matter what type of breathalyzers police use, there are several factors that can affect their reliability:

  • Mouthwashes, breath freshers breath sprays and similar kinds of products can raise the BAC reading, since they contain alcohol.
  • All these devices need to be calibrated regularly by qualified personnel. Lack of calibration can invalidate test results.
  • The presence of fumes from paint, varnish (spilled nail polish) and other chemicals in the area or clost vicinity where the test is administered can skew the results.
  • The temperature of your breath can impact BAC readings with breathalyzers.
  • Diabetics and people with hypoglycemia may have more acetone in their breath, while people on low-carb diets (competitive bodybuilders and other athletes) may produce more ketone. Both substances can lead to false positive readings on a breathalyzer test.
  • You will be required to take a deep breath before blowing into a breathalyzer to test the air from the lungs. A shallow breath may invalidate the results. But that may be the result of a medical condition.


Law enforcement officials are supposed to follow certain procedures when administering a breathalyzer:

  • The police officer must have taken the required training in administering the breathalyzer test using that specific breathalyzer model.
  • The officer must observe the person for 15 minutes before administering the test. During that time, the officer must ensure that the person does not eat, drink, vomit or regurgitate.
  • Properly trained technicians are required to calibrate the breathalyzer every 10 days or 150 uses, whichever comes first. If the breathalyzer is dropped it should be reported and noted.

Failure to follow these procedures can invalidate the breathalyzer test results.

Blood tests

Blood tests measure the amount of alcohol (in the form of ethanol) in your body. They’re generally regarded as the most accurate type of tests for measuring BAC. But their results are not always the most accurate because there are several factors that can influence the blood test results.


  • When drawing a blood sample, a technician will generally swab the area from which he/she is going to draw blood with alcohol to ensure that it is clean. But alcohol from that swab can contaminate the sample and result in a higher BAC reading.
  • Faulty seals on blood sample storage containers can also result in contamination of the samples and lead to inaccurate readings.
  • Blood samples that sit too long or are stored at the wrong temperature before processing can provide inaccurate BAC readings. The combination of yeast, sugar and bacteria that are normally found in your blood can result in the formation of more alcohol when samples aren’t stored under the right conditions.
  • As with breathalyzers, some substances like cough syrup and herbal medicines can get into your blood stream, boosting your blood alcohol content so that the reading isn’t accurate.
  • Alcohol content in the blood continues to rise for 30 to 60 minutes after you’ve stopped drinking. It usually takes at least that long for technicians to administer a blood alcohol test. That means you could have been driving with a BAC of less than 0.08 –under the legal limit—but the BAC rose beyond that limit by the time they took your blood sample. We will be happy to discuss the “rising blood alcohol” defense to help vindicate or reduce your charges under certain circumstances.

In California, failure to comply with a police request to submit to a breath test or a blood test can result in you losing your license for a year (for a first offense) and for two years for a second offense or with a previous DUI conviction.


Contact Fiumara and Milligan Law today at 707-571-8600 or 415-492-4507 if you or someone you love has been arrested and charged with a DUI and need our help now!

Since 1992 we have successfully handled thousands of DUI cases throughout NORTHERN CALIFORNIA.

CLICK HERE for more DUI related information and how we can help you.

The Long-Term Effects of A DUI in Sonoma County?

When individuals are faced with a DUI, they often are so concerned about being arrested, put in jail, having their license suspended, hiring an attorney, heavy fines, penalties and DUI school that they fail to comprehend the long-term ramifications of their actions.

Here are just some of the problems a DUI conviction can create for you:

-If you are a truck driver, a chauffeur, a delivery person or have a company car, you might lose your job. The reason for this is that the liability of having someone drive their employer’s trucks, vans, limos or cars, after having a DUI conviction, is too great.

-If you are seeking employment, your permanent criminal record showing a DUI conviction can cause employers to pass you over. The hiring process will normally involve credit checks and criminal background checks, and this could prove to be fatal in your attempts to gain meaningful employment.

-A DUI conviction can cause you a problem of gaining admission to college or university. It also can serve to disqualify or hinder you if your job requires state licensing or certifications, such as for attorneys, doctors, real estate agents and teachers. Your college financial aid may even be jeopardized.

-Your automobile insurance will likely skyrocket. Your driver’s license will be suspended, (or even revoked) and you will need to obtain a California SR22. This is proof of having met the state’s minimum requirement for automobile liability insurance. This can be very expensive and because of a DUI conviction you will typically wind up in a high-risk insurance pool. But we have a way to help keep your insurance rates from rocketing out of control. During your FREE Consultation we will explain.

-Following a DUI conviction, spouses, family, friends, co-workers and employers may lose some respect for your ability to make good decisions. This can result in embarrassment, humiliation, depression and anxiety. Additionally, some will simply assume that you have a problem with alcohol.

First time DUI offenders are normally charged with a misdemeanor DUI. However, the facts and circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest can increase penalties and jail time depending upon your Blood Alcohol level, if there was any “bad driving,” whether you are a repeat offender and worse if there was an accident injury where someone was seriously injured! In any of these scenarios you may be facing a felony DUI.

A felony DUI charge can also result from multiple DUI convictions, DUI with injury and a vehicular manslaughter charge. Felony DUI charges all carry considerable time in the California State Prison.

If you or a family member have been arrested for a DUI, you cannot afford to get a conviction. You need to immediately seek the advice of an experienced and highly skilled DUI defense attorney who is experienced in handling DUI cases especially in the counties where you have been arrested and charged.

Fiumara & Milligan Law has been around since 1992 and are experienced DUI attorneys who have represented thousands of California residents (and citizens of other states who have been arrested for DUI in California) who have been in your situation.

Our attorneys will work hard for a dismissal, a not guilty verdict or reduced charges. Very often we find that there was an unlawful stop, malfunctioning breathalyzers and inaccurate blood alcohol content (BAC) tests.

Let us be by your side. We will be with you every step of the way.

Contact Fiumara & Milligan Law IMMEDIATELY at 707-571-8600 or 415-492-4507 for a no obligation consultation.  “The Right Attorney Makes all the Difference!”

CLICK HERE to see more info on DUI and how we can help you.

What Evidence Does the Prosecutor Have in a Sonoma County DUI Case?

One of the most important variables in a Sonoma County DUI case is that of the evidence that can be presented against you. When your case goes to Court, you will present your case, and the prosecutors will present theirs. Each side of the case will hinge upon evidence and the stronger the evidence, the stronger your case will be.

One of the biggest pieces of evidence is that of the officer’s report. Often called discovery, the officer’s report establishes a crucial part of your case, the reason for the stop or detention and ultimately the arrest. When you are pulled over, there are mandated procedures and legal standards that law enforcement officers must follow.

Sonoma County DUI case

If they fail to follow these procedures, the case could be dismissed, or the prosecutor could be more inclined to reduce the charges.  Because of this, law enforcement officers attempt to carefully monitor their conduct and strive to accurately record all the pertinent facts in their report. This police report will then be carefully scrutinized and analyzed by the Sonoma County DUI Lawyer you retain to represent you.

For example, an officer must have reasonable cause to stop you in the first place. If they do not have reasonable cause, it is not a valid stop. There are several ways officers can meet this procedural requirement. One way is if you violate a traffic law. This could be speeding, running a red light, failing to stop at a stop sign, or even not having your headlights on at night.

Is A "Wet Reckless" Plea Bargain By The District Attorney Really A Good Deal?

Another way is if you are pulled over at the side of the road with car trouble or perhaps after an accident. This qualifies as a welfare check. Officers have the right to stop and check to see if you are alright and if you need any assistance.

Officers must articulate and document the reasons why they stopped you in the first place in their report. If they did not have a valid reason, any evidence gathered thereafter is not admissible in court, and your case could be dismissed.

Officers must also have reasonable cause to ask you to submit to an alcohol screening test. They cannot arbitrarily ask you to submit to one. This is a very subjective area. The reasonable cause could be based on the observations of the officer alone.

Many times, this requirement is met by the officer simply stating in his report that he smelled alcohol, or that the driver appeared to have symptoms that indicated he or she was under the influence—slurring speech, watery eyes, staggering gait, et al.

Fortunately, many police vehicles are now equipped with recording devices and there is audio and/or video recording in evidence. More importantly, many officers themselves are required to turn on their body worn cameras (BWC) pursuant to an arrest so this evidence can now be compared to the police report narrative.

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All evidence that the prosecutor acquires for their case in chief is available to you to review prior to entering a plea.  It is up to your Sonoma County DUI Lawyer to obtain all the discovery, police reports, supplemental reports and every bit of audio and video evidence before either settling your case or setting it for a trial.  

Having the benefit of an experienced and knowledgeable professional reviewing your discovery, ensures that you can prepare the strongest case possible, and prepare for the weaknesses in your case. All these steps will ensure that you give your case the strongest possible fighting chance.


Contact Fiumara and Milligan Law today at 707-571-8600 for a free case evaluation. Since 1992 ‘We have been a powerful advocate for Good people who sometimes make bad choices…

Please CLICK HERE to read more about DUI and how we can help with your case.

How to Get Your Driving Privileges Back After a Sonoma County DUI

California driving under the influence (DUI) penalties are harsh. Complex state statutes control DUI driving penalties, with a range of possible sentences.

A DUI can result in thousands of dollars in fines, jail time, mandatory alcohol treatment programs, and loss of driver’s license. The maximum fine for a first time DUI conviction in California depends on which county in which you are convicted (approximately $2,500 in Sonoma County).

Sonoma County DUI

The maximum jail time is six-months with a license suspension ranging from as low as 30 days to a two-year revocation period depending upon your age, Blood Alcohol Concentration [BAC] and whether you are deemed a multiple offender! In addition, you will be subject to vehicle impoundment for 30 days, and a mandatory and expensive interlock breathalyzer device installed in your vehicle.

If you’re about to lose your driver’s license or driving privileges after a DUI in Sonoma County, here’s what you need to know.

Understanding DUI License Suspension Penalties in California

Speak to a qualified and experienced DUI attorney to avoid or minimize penalties, such as the following:

  • An officer confiscated your driver’s license upon arrest. At the end of your suspension or revocation period, you must pay a $125 reissue fee ($100 if you were under the age of 21) to get your license back from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)—These fees are subject to change. Also, before your license is reinstated for you, you must file proof of financial responsibility—and your insurance premiums can double or worse!
  • You were 21 years old or older, took a BAC test, and the results showed 0.08% or higher. If you failed a chemical BAC test, your first offense for DUI could be a four-month conditional suspension with at least a 30-day hard suspension. Subsequent offenses within 10 years could result in a one-year suspension.
  • You were under the legal drinking age of 21, took a BAC test, and it showed 0.01% or more. California’s Zero Tolerance Law enforces a penalty of a one-year driving privilege suspension for underage DUI drivers. But there may be a hardship exception that you should discuss with your attorney.
  • You refused to take a chemical BAC test at the time of the traffic stop. Refusal to comply with a BAC test in California automatically results in a one-year license suspension for first-time offenders, two-year revocation for second offenses, and three-year revocation for a third or subsequent offense within 10 years. What qualifies as a “refusal” is subject to interpretation under the law.

There are two occasions when officials may take away your driver’s license and driving privileges: upon arrest and upon conviction. At the time of your DUI arrest, police may take Administrative Per Se action against your driving privileges only. This is a DMV suspension or revocation that is independent of penalties from the court.

When A DUI Results in A Death

Following a court conviction, the courts can order a mandatory action to impose additional fines, jail time, or license suspension/revocation. A highly skilled Santa Rosa DUI lawyer can help you understand the specific penalties for your individual case and walk you through the process of getting your driving privileges back as soon as possible.

Restricted Driver’s License After a DUI

The courts may give you an order of suspension or revocation with a temporary license. You may use this temporary license to drive for 30 days if you have an active California driver’s license. You have 30 days to drive with this license until the period of your suspension or revocation goes into effect.

At this point, you may apply for a restricted driver’s license. It is possible to redeem limited driving privileges after a DUI-related license suspension or revocation to drive to and from work, school, court-ordered programs, and religious meetings.

Once your 30-day waiting period ends, you may file for a restricted license with your county DMV. If this is your first DUI offense, you must show proof of enrollment in a California DUI program, pay a $125 fee, (subject to change) and show proof of financial responsibility. If the DMV approves you for a restricted license, you may only drive to and from your place of employment, court-ordered programs, school, or church. If you refused to take a BAC chemical test, you do not qualify for a restricted license.

When A DUI Results in A Death

Getting Santa Rosa, San Rafael or any other Urban Center Without a Vehicle

If you lose your license due to a DUI, how will you navigate our county’s country roads and disjointed public transportation system without massive inconvenience and expense? License suspension can hamper your work or even force you to quit a job or gig.

Here are alternatives for getting around on a suspended or revoked driver’s license:

  • City and County buses. Take the bus for services throughout Sonoma County. Learn the maps and timetables of the city of Santa Rosa bus system, purchase a member pass, and take the bus almost anywhere.
  • Taxis. Calling Yellow Cab, United Taxi, or Independent Taxi Cab Co. can get you where you need to go. However, a cab as your regular source of transportation can get expensive.
  • Rideshare services. You need a smartphone to use rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, but they can be a more affordable alternative to traditional taxis.

How to Get Your License Back as Soon as Possible After A Sonoma County DUI

Stay on top of your suspension or revocation. The DMV does not automatically reinstate your driver’s license at the end of your suspension or revocation period. You must wait the full term of your DMV and/or court sentence—that is why a skilled and experienced attorney can make all the difference!


Once your suspension period has passed, you’ve served your full jail or prison sentence, competed a DUI program, and fulfilled all other sentencing conditions, you may apply for license reinstatement.

You need to insure your car before you apply for reinstatement, using a special type of insurance. You need to bring proof of this insurance – a form SR-22 from your car insurance company. You also must pay a reinstatement fee. This will be $125 or $200, depending on your age. At this point, you should be able to complete the application for reinstatement and successfully redeem your driving privileges.

If law enforcement impounded your vehicle due to a prior DUI record or another circumstance, you need to get your car back as soon as possible. The state charges a fee for every day your vehicle is impounded, and it is not uncommon for daily impound fees to exceed $400.

Do not wait until the end of your license suspension to retrieve your car from impound.  As soon as you can, visit the place that is holding your vehicle. Bring your proof of title, registration, insurance, temporary driver’s license, and money to pay the impound fee (typically cash). The facility will only release your vehicle to the registered owner.

Speak to a qualified and experienced Santa Rosa DUI attorney at Fiumara and Milligan Law, PC to keep the impound period as short as possible and get you back on the road as soon as possible.

At Fiumara & Milligan Law, we know that good people make bad choices, but that is no reason to keep an individual from earning a decent living and providing for his or her family. We are all in this together so are attorneys and professional staff treat our clients like we would “family.”

When A DUI Results in A DeathWhen A DUI Results in A Death

Contact the Sonoma County DUI lawyers at Fiumara and Milligan Law for IMMEDIATE help at 707-571-8600.

The Right DUI Defense Attorney Makes All the Difference” We have been around since 1992 and have successfully handled thousands of DUI cases—so this is not our first rodeo!

Please CLICK HERE to read more about DUI in Sonoma County and how we can help you! 

DUI costs in Sonoma County

The Costs You May Incur In A DUI Case In Sonoma County

Paying the fines and court costs for a DUI conviction in Sonoma County could leave you struggling to make ends meet.

And that doesn’t include the other expenses that you could face along the way for legal fees, spikes in your insurance premiums, lost work time, the installation and rigorous maintenance cost of an interlock ignition device, and more.

Let’s look at a potential first time DUI when there is no accident or personal injury involved—as the basis for estimating your expenses.

blood or breath test

These figures are only approximations. The true costs will depend on many factors, and vary from County to County, but these factors are determinants:

  • Whether this is your first DUI, or whether you’re a repeat offender;
  • Whether you violated other laws in the process (e.g. driving under age, hit and run, DUI with injury, evading the police or running a stop sign);
  • The quality of your legal defense;
  • Whether your insurance company approaches your situation punitively and hikes your premium rates significantly or allows you some leeway;

Fines and court costs ($2,480.00)

For a first-time DUI offender in Sonoma County, the minimum penalty a court can impose is a fine of $390, as well as additional add-ons, assessments, levies, court costs, restitution fees and the like.  You will be looking at costs that can easily exceed $2,500 especially if you must pay towing and storage fees for your car.  

This figure also does not include attorney fees.  Some attorneys charge more than $5,000 for a first time DUI.  The maximum penalties and costs for a first time California DUI are substantial.


DUI Driving School ($600)

When the court finds you guilty of your first DUI offense in California, you’ll be required to attend a DUI driving school whose expense can vary depending upon how high the blood alcohol concentration was at the time of the driving. 

The length and price of the driving school also depends upon several other factors one being if this was your first, second or third offense.  Judges may require repeat offenders to attend up to 90 hours of DUI school.

The state licenses AB 541 first offender programs, and it issues guidelines for their curriculum, but each program can approach DUI issues with some latitude. For instance, they can charge whatever tuition they feel is appropriate.

The average cost of such programs is about $600 or more; they generally range from $300 to $1,800. These numbers are subject to change and variation, but you are always welcomed to come in for a free no obligation consultation

Ignition interlock device ($310–$1,500)

As of January 1, 2019, California law will require all first time DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicles for six months. The cost of installing an IID varies from $310 to $1,500,  and has gotten very expensive, while the devices can run anywhere from $60 to $80 a month for regular maintenance.


Legal expenses can vary greatly—Some lawyers charge from $3,500 to over $10,000 for a first or second DUI

Hiring a lawyer to defend you in a DUI case is usually a good idea, especially if you’re going to contest the charges. But there’s no easy way to put a figure on what legal representation is going to cost you. Legal fees will vary tremendously based on factors such as:

  • Whether it is your first offense;
  • Whether your DUI case requires the calling of expert witnesses;
  • Whether your case is exceptionally complex (e.g. Did your DUI result in someone’s death or serious bodily injury);
  • Your attorney’s qualifications and experience.

Getting your license back ($125)

Law enforcement will confiscate your driver’s license at the time of your DUI arrest. To get it back—after the expiration of any suspension or revocation period—you’ll have to pay the California DMV $125.

Before you can drive after a DUI conviction, you’ll also need to have your insurance company file an SR-22 form with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

An SR-22 is a certificate of financial responsibility—a document that tells the DMV that you have at least the minimum automobile insurance required to drive a car in California. An SR-22 also alerts the insurance carrier that you were convicted of a DUI and you most likely see a substantial jump in your insurance premiums.

The insurer will charge you a fee for filing the SR-22; the average cost is around $25. But we employ an outside private agency that can do it for you for free and they will also find a suitable insurance carrier with much lower premiums—thus saving you a lot of money!


Impoundment charges (two days) ($665)

Police officers have the discretion to order your car impounded subsequent to your DUI arrest. They may allow a non-inebriated passenger in your vehicle to drive it back to your home or they may allow you to call another licensed driver if they can get to the site within 10 or 15 minutes.

In some cases if you have been very polite and cooperative, the officer may drive your car to the side of the road or onto a parking lot for pick-up at a later time.

But if your car is impounded by the police who call a private tow company you will pay the towing fees for them to transport it to an impoundment lot, a daily storage charge, a City of Santa Rosa release fee (adding insult to injury) taxes and even interest!

For this example, let’s assume you have been arrested for DUI on a Saturday evening, and you can’t rescue your car until Monday.

  • Towing charges ($239 for the first hour plus $120 for $359 each fraction of an hour)
  • Mileage rate ($7 per mile times 15) $105
  • Storage charge standard vehicle: $39 per day times two $78
  • City of Santa Rosa release fee $115

But as a rule, impoundment fees can add anywhere from $250.00 to $350.00 a day to your overall bill for a DUI.

Increased insurance costs ($843)

According to the Value Penguin website, the average cost of auto insurance in California is $1,962 per year. (Of course, this number varies greatly depending on your age, the type of car you drive, your previous driving record, where you reside, how many miles you drive, etc.)

Value Penguin also estimates that the multiplier used to determine the amount of a rate increase in California after a DUI is 1.43. That would make your new annual premium about $2,805—an increase of about $843. 

But we have seen insurance rates climb by over $1,000 a year for three years which would add another $3,000 over the course of the insurance bump up.  You are viewed by the insurance industry as a higher liability risk. 


Time missed from work ($320)

It’s hard to gauge how much time you’d have to miss from work due to your DUI arrest and conviction. But let’s take a conservative approach and suppose that it’s two days—16 hours to deal with everything from the aftermath of your arrest and court hearing to picking up your car at the impound lot and heading to the DMV to get your license back.

That’s 16 hours, assuming you work a regular eight-hour day. We’ll also assume you make about $20 an hour (an annual wage of $41,600.) That’s $320 in lost wages. Again, this is an extremely conservative number.

The figure is probably a lot higher when you think about how much time you may have lost when you couldn’t bail out of jail right away, thus losing additional time from work. 

Also, you need to search for an attorney and take time off to hire and retain one. The stress of a DUI looming over you can cause an increase in sick days and lost time from the job.  Finally, attending your first Offender DUI classroom sessions may cause you to lose additional time from the office. 

Some DUI defendants are even fired from their jobs when it is learned that they are even facing a DUI conviction since the employer may view this as a greater liability risk. 

Bail expense

Even a first time DUI defendant can pay a $10,000 bail or $1,000 out of pocket in fees.  This can be even more substantial if there is a high blood alcohol concentration, an accident or the defendant is a multiple DUI offender. The bail could easily be $30,000 or higher.


Cost of alternative transportation ($165-$300)

When you’re arrested for a DUI, you’ll lose your license for at least 30 days. How will you get to work during that time? If you take mass transit (bus or train), it will cost you. Uber may be a little bit less expense than a taxi ride.

But you’ll also need to go grocery shopping, doctor appointments and run other errands during that time. Let’s say you take an Uber twice a week to handle those trips, and that a five-mile trip to your preferred shopping area takes 10 minutes.

The basic Uber service will cost you 15¢ per minute ($1.50) plus 9¢ per mile ($.45) plus a $2.10 service fee. The grand total for a one-way trip would be $4.05, and a round trip cost $8.10.

Multiply $8.10 x 2 (twice a week) x 4 weeks for your license suspension, and your Uber costs would run about $65. (And that doesn’t even count money spent to get to doctor, dental and other appointments, for visiting family and friends, etc.

The grand total

If you add up all these expenses and then some—and they are just the bare minimum—you’re likely to be out of pocket at least $10,000 just for a first DUI. Add in any other complicating factors—time in jail (and lost wages); property damage or injury you’ll have to pay for, etc.–and your total bill could climb much higher.

That also doesn’t consider the intangible costs of a DUI, including the threat to your job and the embarrassment of having to face family and friends.

So, the next time you think you’re okay to drive—but really aren’t sure—compare the cost of a cab or an Uber to everything you could lose if you are picked up for a DUI. It makes alternative transportation seem like a real bargain.


Contact Fiumara & Milligan Law today at 707-571-8600 if you or someone you love has been arrested and charged with a DUI in Sonoma County.

We will fight to get your charges REDUCED OR DISMISSED altogether! WE will fight to get you back on the road again driving as soon as possible— “The Right Attorney Makes all the Difference.”

Please CLICK HERE to read more about DUI in Sonoma County and how Fiumara and Milligan Law can help! 

Blood or Breath Test during a DUI Stop in Sonoma County?

During a DUI stop in Sonoma County, a police officer will likely ask you to take a portable breath test. The best thing to do is to refuse this test, but if you are placed under arrest, you are required to submit to chemical tests under California’s “implied consent” law.

So, you’re placed under arrest and you must take a blood or breath test. Which one should you take?

blood or breath test

What is More Accurate: Blood Tests or Breath Tests?

Whether you should request a blood or breath test depends upon many factors. If you strongly feel that you are under the legal blood-alcohol content limit of .08%, you will want to choose a blood test because it is more accurate, and it can be RETESTED later by your attorney.

Breath tests have a greater margin for error. They can be skewed or affected by mouthwash, cough syrup, or other products that contain alcohol. Even certain non-alcoholic products like energy drinks can create falsely higher BAC test results.

If you think that you may be below the legal BAC level but aren’t quite sure, you may want to choose a breath test. Your attorney can and should challenge the accuracy of Breathalyzer test results because of their tendency to be inaccurate, poorly calibrated or maintained from reviewing past records and logs.

In any case, it is best to be aware of how alcohol that you consumed. For an average male, each drink you consume raises your BAC about .02 to .03 percent per hour.

For women on average, it will rise at a slightly higher rate. After drinking, but before driving, it would be wise to use a phone app to calculate your BAC or a hand-held breathalyzer.


Have You Been Drinking?

Breathalyzers test for the presence of alcohol in your system, and only for alcohol. If you’ve taken any kind of drugs, a breath test will not detect this. However, a blood test will show results for drugs, including prescription medications.

Even if you think you did not take enough drugs to impair your driving ability, a blood test could detect these drugs and the results could be used as evidence against you that you were “impaired.” 

If you have taken any kind of drugs, it may be best to avoid a blood test and have officers administer a Breathalyzer test instead.

Time is of the Essence

When it comes to calculating BAC, timing is everything. The absorption of alcohol continues to rise for up to two hours after your last drink before your BAC starts to fall.

If you’re driving while your BAC is in the declining stage, a blood test might work to your advantage depending on the time of your last drink and your location.  

For example, it may take a while for the officer to transport you to a facility where your blood can be drawn. That delay could be enough to allow your BAC level to fall below the legal limit.

Meanwhile, a breath test can often be administered on the spot. If your BAC level is rising even though you felt unimpaired, this could still produce higher Breathalyzer test results.

Call the DUI Defense Attorneys at Fiumara and Milligan Law

If you or a loved one has been charged with DUI, you need to contact an experienced DUI defense attorney at Fiumara and Milligan Law. Our skilled attorneys have been successfully defending clients facing DUI charges for over 25 years. We’ve helped thousands of clients in their time of legal need, and we can help you now.

Call us today at 707-571-8600 for a FREE case evaluation and we will do everything we can to help get your charges REDUCED OR DISMISSED! Why deal with this alone! 

For more info relating to DUI in Sonoma County and how we can help you, CLICK HERE


While every defendant has a constitutional right to a jury of his or her peers, criminal charges rarely go to trial in Sonoma County or in California County for that matter. Most criminal cases are resolved by a plea bargain or plea arrangement. 

A plea bargain is when the defendant pleads guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) to criminal charges. The process may begin when the prosecutor agrees to dismiss some of the charges in exchange for a plea to the remaining charges.  


Or the defense counsel may insist upon the prosecutor or the District Attorney to reduce the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor. In other cases, defense counsel will persuade the prosecutor to reduce a Penal Code 422, a criminal threat, to a simple disturbing the peace or a Penal Code 415.

Sometimes, the plea will include an offer of a low-end sentence or probation in exchange for the plea. These are called conditional pleas. An open or unconditional plea is one where the defendant pleads guilty with no promises made to him or her for the plea.

But in many cases, defense counsel knows how the judge will sentence a defendant based upon the judge’s custom and practice and the defendant’s lack of criminal history and the like. Or counsel can simply ask for an indicated sentence.


The judge has very little to do with the conditional plea process and, in fact, in California, the judge is not allowed to engage in any plea bargaining. However, at the time the plea is entered by the defendant in court, the judge can reject the plea agreement, but the judge cannot change the terms of the agreement.

Open pleas can be made to the court and the judge can, in that instance, indicate the sentence he or she will levy against the defendant. If that sentence is not imposed, the defendant can withdraw the plea.

Following the acceptance by the judge of the defendant’s plea of guilty or no contest, whether after a plea bargain with the prosecutor or an open plea, the court will enter judgment, that is, the judge will enter the conviction pursuant to the plea.

Most plea bargains are conditional pleas. These pleas are treated as a contract between the defendant and the prosecution and governed by general contract principles. Because it is a form of contract, neither party can easily back out unless the plea agreement violated certain principles under contract law or is violative of the State or Federal Constitutions.  


Examples of this may include that the agreement was vague or ambiguous, was not fulfilled as promised, was fraudulently made or was entered (by the defendant) under coercion. The Penal Code at section 1018 permits a defendant to withdraw his/ her plea within a certain time frame and for good cause– good cause generally relates to contract principles of law.

Many criminal justice reform advocates believe that the high rate of plea bargains suggests a fundamental unfairness in the system. It appears common that prosecutors charge a defendant with every possible crime for the offense and make each charge as severe as possible with the idea that the built-in plea bargain process will result in “justice.”

But if a poor defendant does not have the resources to hire an aggressive, experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney this “plea down” process disfavors them, and they end up serving much longer jail sentences.


On the other hand, advocates of the plea bargain process maintain that it conserves resources and taxpayer money. If every defendant went to trial, counties would quickly run out of money. Court trials are expensive.

Already, the taxpayers foot the bill for court operations, judges’ and bailiff salaries, the prosecutors’ salaries, and the public defenders’ salaries—just part of the vast public resources that are expended for the judiciary and the administration of justice.

Plea bargains often result in a favorable outcome for the defendant. The alternative is to take each case to the jury and depending on the crime and the sympathies of the jury, this can be a risky choice. Sonoma County jurors are known for their inclination towards law and order.

Sonoma County jurors are neither liberal or conservative—it depends on the particular jury pool and the luck of the draw, but one thing is certain, older and more conservative people usually sit on Sonoma County juries because they have more time than younger folks who have young children or jobs that they need to attend.


A good defense attorney who can spot weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and who is a skilled negotiator often makes a significant difference in plea bargaining with the prosecutor.

For example, the criminal charges may indicate a prison sentence, but a defense attorney who can drive a “hard bargain” can often get probation for his or her client instead.


Fiumara and Milligan Law has been driving hard bargains with the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office since 1992 and continues to fight for each of our clients. We will work hard to get the best outcome in your case—don’t settle for anything less.

Call us today at 707-571-8600 for a FREE CONFIDENTIAL CONSULTATION.

For more info relating to jail alternatives in Sonoma County, CLICK HERE

To view some of our recent case results where we were able to help our clients get a significantly reduced sentence or even dismissal, CLICK HERE

When A DUI Results in A Death

It’s the scenario we all hope never happens—and one that in truth should never happen.

Someone has a lapse in judgment, gets behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or another substance, gets into an accident—and another person dies as a result.

Aside from the overwhelming sense of loss and guilt of knowing his/her actions have caused a death, now the intoxicated or impaired driver may be facing very serious felony criminal charges on top of the DUI.

When A DUI Results in A Death

In a perfect world, you should never find yourself in this situation, but if you are charged in California with a DUI involving a fatality, what can you expect? What, exactly, are you facing?

Three Possible Charges

By California law, when a DUI results in someone’s death, you may be charged with one of three serious felony crimes in addition to your DUI. In order of severity, they are:

  • Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated;
  • Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated; and
  • DUI Murder

Let’s examine each of these in more detail.

Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated

The lightest of the three possible charges, Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated is described in California Penal Code Section 191.5(b) PC as “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, in the driving of a vehicle…but without gross negligence.”

In other words, the only factor separating this charge from Gross Vehicular Manslaughter is the degree of negligence involved. If your actions in your DUI case appeared to be an arbitrary lapse of caution (ordinary negligence), rather than a flagrant disregard for the safety of others (gross negligence), the prosecution may choose to charge you with the lesser crime of Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated.

When A DUI Results in A Death

Proving Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated

To prove this crime in court, the prosecution must effectively demonstrate four things:

  1. You had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or greater;
  2. You violated some other law in the course of your DUI (for example, speeding or running a stop sign);
  3. You acted with “ordinary negligence”; and
  4. Someone died as a result of your actions.

What Are the Penalties?

Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated is a “wobbler” under California law, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances and your previous criminal history.

If convicted of the misdemeanor, you could face stiff fines, community service, mandated alcohol counseling, restitution for the victim’s family and up to a year in county jail.

For the felony, you could face up to 4 years in prison (plus another 6 if other people sustained serious bodily injury), plus a fine of $10,000 and victim restitution.

When A DUI Results in A Death

Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated

The second-most severe offense, Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated, is covered in California Penal Code Section 191.5(a) PC. It’s effectively the same charge as Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated, with the following exceptions:

(a) it alleges “gross negligence” versus “ordinary negligence”;

(b) it is always a felony; and

(c) the penalties for conviction are more severe.

To best understand the difference between these two charges, let’s discuss the legal differences between ordinary and gross negligence.

Ordinary negligence refers to a failure to use reasonable caution, while gross negligence alludes to a conscious disregard for potential risk—typically meaning something that likely will result in another’s injury or death—and it is something that others could easily identify as reckless.

For example, if you were driving aggressively, speeding or swerving between lanes at the time of the crash, you would be much more likely to be charged with Gross Vehicular Manslaughter. This would especially be true if your bad driving took place in a crowded residential or school zone where the risk of harm is greatest to members of society.

 However, if your accident occurred as a result of a momentary distraction (e.g., failing to notice a red light or a brief moment of looking down at your car radio), it could be argued that you were not acting with ordinary negligence for a moment and you might be charged with the lesser offense.

When A DUI Results in A Death

Proving Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated

To demonstrate this elevated charge in court, prosecutors must begin by proving you were above the minimum legal BAC limit, violated another ordinance or statute and caused someone’s death. Then, the prosecutors must provide ample evidence that your actions were grossly negligent as opposed to an ordinary level of negligence.

What are the penalties?

If convicted of Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated, you may face fines of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Call Fiumara & Milligan Law Today for Help

Regardless of the severity of the possible charges or penalties, the most important takeaway to remember is that driving while impaired, intoxicated or under the influence of any substance always puts other lives in danger, whether the prosecutor claims you knew the risks.

When you seriously consider how even one of these charges could ruin your life (not to mention the lives of others), you will understand that even a simple DUI conviction could lead to devastating consequences.

When A DUI Results in A Death 

Why face these alone—CALL US 24/7!

If you do find yourself charged with someone’s death due to a DUI, don’t face the charges alone; let us help you navigate these treacherous waters.

Call Fiumara and Milligan Law Today at 707-571-8600 or 415-492-4507. 

Please CLICK HERE to see more on DUI related matters. 

The Immediate Benefits of Having a Santa Rosa DUI Lawyer Represent You Immediately After Arrest

Many times, people do not see what benefit a Santa Rosa DUI Lawyer can provide when you have been arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence.

People in this situation often take their time deciding if they want legal representation, and shopping around for an attorney that offers them the best price. Keep in mind that valuable knowledge and experience is NOT something that should be bargained for under the circumstances. 

Is A "Wet Reckless" Plea Bargain By The District Attorney Really A Good Deal?

I cannot imagine a patient who needs a complex surgical procedure going to the cheapest or least expensive medical doctor?  There are many benefits to having a highly skilled and experienced attorney on your side as soon as you have been arrested who will provide you with immediate benefits right from the onset of your case. 

The first benefit is your DMV Hearing.

The DMV hearing is a separate hearing from your criminal court case. It is handled solely by the DMV and falls under the DMV’s laws and regulations. It needs to be scheduled within ten days of your arrest, if it is not scheduled, you lose your right to have a hearing regarding your driver’s license.

You need to determine which DMV department to call and schedule a hearing, and you need to make sure you have done it in a timely manner. Having chosen an experienced Santa Rosa DUI lawyer right off the bat, will assure that this deadline is not missed, the correct DMV department has been contacted, and that you will have legal representation at this hearing.


Our law firm contacts and schedules your DMV appointment by written FAX so there is no question that your hearing will take place timely which allows you to drive until your matter is finally resolved.

Another benefit to having a skilled and knowledgeable attorney represent you is to assure that all discovery is immediately obtained from DMV, the Police and the District Attorney’s Office so that you get a fair DMV hearing as well as criminal court hearing.

Discovery is any type of evidence that was gathered by law enforcement officers during the arrest and information the prosecutors have used to file charges against you. This includes surveillance video or audio and a police report. Body worn cameras are included for obvious reason.  


Generally, these may be obtained at your first court appearance. But when you hire an attorney, the attorney can contact the prosecutor’s office prior to any court hearing and give the prosecutor a heads-up on the discovery request and any retained property that the client needs returned right away.

This quick attorney involvement allows the attorney to contact any witnesses or speak to anyone that can punch holes in the prosecutor’s case. With that added advantage, the attorney can walk into the first court appearance BETTER prepared and keep the case moving forward quickly, rather than have to continue the hearing.

Another big advantage in having an attorney represent you in Court is that the attorney can appear on your behalf. YOU don’t have to be present if it is misdemeanor charge.  It is already stressful enough to having charges filed against you, but then having to take time off from work to be in court can cause you to be fired. It is an added burden to be placed in a situation for which you are not familiar.  

Santa Rosa DUI Lawyer

All of this is enough to give anyone unnecessary stress. But when you have an attorney present to represent you, that stress is alleviated because in most cases the attorney can appear on your behalf. You do not need to take the day off work and put yourself in a situation that causes you more stress.

The attorney will go to court and call you with an update afterwards or send you a text or email whether is your best mode of communication.

We aim to please at Fiumara & Milligan Law.  An attorney will never enter a plea of ‘no contest’ or a ‘guilty plea,’ without your knowledge or consent, so you can rest assured that your case is in good hands.

There are many perks to having a Santa Rosa DUI Lawyer represent you immediately after an arrest. Take steps to ensure your future is given the best possible chance and contact Fiumara and Milligan Law at 707-571-8600 or 415-492-4507 to schedule your free consultation!

Please see our dedicated DUI page, CLICK HERE

How to Avoid Trial for DUI Charges in California

If you are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it does not necessarily mean you will be convicted, but it also doesn’t mean your case will automatically go to trial.

In fact, your best option may be to agree to a plea bargain before the case goes to trial.

An experienced DUI defense attorney can help you negotiate a favorable plea agreement, which could result in reduced charges and lesser penalties without the risks of going to trial. If there is no benefit to advancing the case to trial, then we don’t waste our clients’ money or time.

How to Avoid Trial for DUI Charges in California

Under a plea deal our experienced DUI attorneys will further reduce any jail time by applying day for day credits for time that you may have spent in jail before bail or until you waited for your first court appearance. But most importantly our DUI attorneys will fight all jail alternative for our clients during the plea negotiation process that includes:

  1. Any county work release jail alternative program so that you may work on the weekends instead of spending time in Jail;
  2. Negotiate for any electronic monitoring or GPS based program so that you can avoid jail altogether;
  3. Negotiate all jail alternatives available and this varies county to county. SEE our link to: JAIL ALTERNATIVES.

Avoid Trial for DUI Charges

A DUI conviction has serious consequences. A first-time conviction carries up to six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine or both.  The fine varies in each county because of add-ons so speak to your criminal defense attorney about the ultimate payout.  

Additionally, you could also lose your driving privileges for a year or longer depending upon the facts in your case:  Is this your first offense only? Did you refuse to give a breath or blood sample? 


If you are convicted of DUI there are so many negative consequences to list here, but speak to one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys, but here are just a few:

  1. DUI classes depending on the 3, 9 or 18-month variety are expensive and time consuming;
  2. Your ultimate fines to the Court in Sonoma County alone top $2,500!
  3. An ignition interlock device may be required to be installed in your car or cars at your expense. The maintenance is pricey, and it is embarrassing. On a date or in front of your boss or colleagues you will have to blow into a monitor before your car starts!
  4. Your insurance rates will skyrocket, but we have a solution for that so come into our office for your free and confidential consultation—NO OBLIGATION.
  5. You will be on Court Probation for three years, but that can be shortened so ask us.

However, your attorney may be able to protect you from facing all these harsh consequences by negotiating a plea deal with the prosecution.

A plea deal is when you agree to plead guilty or no contest to the charges against you in exchange for the prosecution agreeing to reduce the charges you face or push for a much more lenient sentence. If you agree to plea bargain, you will not have to risk being convicted at trial. You avoid trial fees, wasted time and added trial fee expense.

DUI classes these days can consist of a 6 month program, usually required by DA’s as part of a plea deal when the client has out of time priors or other aggravating circumstances.

As part of your plea bargain, you will likely be asked to plead guilty to one of the following crimes:

Wet reckless driving: A wet reckless charge is a lesser included offense to a standard DUI conviction. It is treated as such so your fines are a fraction of the $2,500 fines mentioned above. Although you can technically face 90 days county jail time, in these types of offenses jail time is substantially reduced and sometimes not imposed at all depending upon our experienced defense attorneys skilled negotiation.

Is A "Wet Reckless" Plea Bargain By The District Attorney Really A Good Deal?

A wet reckless allows you the ability to take a much shorter in duration first offender/ wet reckless program or class saving you additional time and money.

Your Court Probational period will be substantially reduced from 3 years to 18 months depending.

A wet reckless conviction does not require a mandatory suspension of your driver’s license. However, if you are convicted of another DUI within 10 years, a wet reckless conviction will be treated as a DUI conviction, which would result in harsher punishment and more jail time for you.

 Dry reckless driving: The probation period and penalties for this crime are very similar to a wet reckless conviction, but there is no mandatory jail time for a dry reckless driving conviction. Additionally, a dry reckless does not count as a prior DUI offense if you are charged with a DUI again within 10 years.

Exhibition of speed: An exhibition of speed conviction is punishable only by a fine.

Traffic infraction: The best possible outcome for a plea agreement would be a reduction to a traffic infraction. Your DUI charge would be amended by the prosecutor to an infraction for an unsafe lane change or speeding, and you may be able to remove the infraction from your driving record by going to traffic school.

Contact the DUI Defense Attorneys at Fiumara and Milligan Law Today

An experienced DUI defense attorney could make a huge difference in your case and save you a lot of time and grief, never mind money!  Criminal defense attorneys like ourselves who know the prosecutors and judges in the court where your case will be heard are in the best position to negotiate a favorable plea bargain for you so that you do not have to face the harsh penalties of a DUI conviction.


At Fiumara and Milligan Law, our skilled DUI defense attorneys have been successfully defending clients facing DUI charges for almost three decades in Sonoma, Marin, Napa, Solano and throughout most of northern California.

Contact our offices today at 707-571-8600 or 415-492-4507 for a free consultation.

For more info on DUI related matters in the North Bay, CLICK HERE. 

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Case Results

  • DUI- Hung Jury
  • Felony Assault - JURY ACQUITTAL
  • Domestic Violence - JURY ACQUITTAL
  • Felonies - REDUCED to 1 MISD.
  • Felonies - REDUCED to 1 MISD. NO JAIL
  • Sex Felonies - REDUCED/NO JAIL
  • Prostitution - DIVERSION/NO JAIL
  • 2nd Theft - DISMISSED
  • Drug Felonies - NO JAIL
  • Resisting Arrest - DISMISSED
  • Juvenile Sex Felonies - DIVERSION
  • Multi-ED CODE Charges - REMAIN IN SCHOOL
  • 1st Degree Burglary - REDUCED

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