Also known as Metro Court, the Metropolitan Court is one of the busiest criminal courts in Los Angeles County. The court is situated near the Staples Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center. It prosecutes traffic cases as well as criminal traffic cases, such as Duis. This court has jurisdiction over Central Los Angeles including parts of the Hollywood area. Generally, the Metropolitan Courthouse handles misdemeanor charges including most driving under the influence (DUI) cases in central Los Angeles. However, it occasionally handles some felonies on a limited basis. If you have a criminal case in Metropolitan court, it is wise to reach out to an experienced attorney familiar with the city prosecutors and the Judges at the Court. At The Law Office of Ann Gottesman, Ann strives to achieve the best possible outcome for all her clients.
Traffic Violations and DUI Charges at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Court
Most misdemeanor driving under the influence cases are prosecuted in Metropolitan Court if the arrest occurred in the Metro court’s jurisdiction. The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office generally staffs each courtroom with at least one Deputy City Attorney that appears routinely in every division. Usually, the prosecutors present their offers to the defense at the arraignment, depending on the circumstances present in each DUI case.
Typically, two arraignment courtrooms are operating in the Metropolitan Court, including:
- Division 60 for arrestees released on their own recognizance or who posted bail.
- Division 66 for arrestees who are in jail.
Those without a private defense attorney will have to appear early at 8:30AM and check in with the Bailiff. The courtroom staff will play a recording once you are in an arraignment courtroom. The recording generally will give the details of your constitutional rights. The most crucial rights regarding your arraignment include the following:
- The right to a speedy trial.
- Your right to an attorney, including the right to have a public defender appointed to you if you cannot afford a private attorney.
Defendants Behind Bars
You could go to jail if your DUI arrest involved aggravating factors like:
- Probation, parole, or immigration holds.
- Prior DUI convictions.
- Driving on a suspended driver's license or driving without a driver's license.
- Driving at excessive speeds.
- Having a child under 14 as a passenger in the car while driving under the influence.
- Causing an accident while intoxicated.
- A refusal to submit to a chemical blood or breath test.
- An exceptionally high blood alcohol concentration.
You will personally appear in Division 66, and if you previously sought the services of a private attorney, your attorney will also be present. If you have not, you will have a chance to represent yourself or speak with a public defender attorney.
Defendants That Are Out Of Jail
If you were arrested and released from jail with a citation to appear in court, then you will appear on the court date shown on your ticket. In many misdemeanor DUI cases, your attorney can appear without you. However, if you fail to secure the services of an attorney, you must personally attend. In this case, you will have a chance to represent yourself or speak with a public defender. It is never recommended to represent yourself. If there were aggravating factors the Judge may consider issuing bail or requiring O.R. conditions.
Arraignment Offers at the Metropolitan Court
The arraignment hearing allows you to plead guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere to your charges, regardless of whether you are in or out of jail. The Metropolitan Court prosecutors often give arraignment offers, usually the lowest DUI plea bargain deals. This could be the minimum drunk driving penalty imposed by the law depending on the case. It could also be a lesser charge if your DUI case has substantial flaws or problems of proof. Oftentimes a defendant wants to just take the initial offer and plead guilty or no contest. Unfortunately, this line of reasoning has some potential flaws, including:
- Not all arrestees should plead guilty to their offenses.
- Guilty defendants also have a right to present a defense.
- The arraignment may be the first chance for your attorney to obtain the police report and additional discovery that serves as evidence in your case. This means your attorney will not have had an opportunity to examine the charges to know whether pleading guilty to the DUI charges is in your best interest.
Once an experienced criminal defense attorney commences their investigation, the attorney may discover flaws in the case’s evidence. Your lawyer will evaluate if there are any legal defenses that will assist in fighting your case in trial, preparing pretrial or trial motions or working out a favorable disposition with the city prosecutor.
The following are the typical Metropolitan court DUI arraignment offers. A standard first-time DUI without aggravating factors constitutes:
- A six-month driver's license suspension, although you can often secure a restricted license that allows you to drive to and from work — you could continue operating without restrictions if you agree to have an ignition interlock device "IID' installed.
- Completion of a California DUI school class.
- A fine that does not exceed $390. However, the fine could end up three times the set amount because of the penalties and assessments.
- Mothers against Drunk Driving (“MADD”) program.
- 36 months of DUI probation.
A standard second-time DUI initial offer may include:
- Installation of an IID per DMV.
- A two-year license suspension that you could convert to a restricted license after one year. You could also continue driving without restrictions if you agree to have an IID installed.
- Completion of the SB38 18-month DUI school class.
- A fine that does not exceed $450.
- At least 96 hours in a county jail.
- 48 months of informal probation.
A standard third DUI initial offer may include:
- Installation of an IID.
- Designation as a habitual traffic offender.
- A three-year license suspension: you could continue driving without restrictions if you agree to install an IID installed.
- Completion of the SB38 18-month DUI class.
- A fine that does not exceed $510.
- At least 120 days in a county jail.
- 60 months of informal probation.
The above penalties could increase if there are aggravating factors. Generally, the increments could be:
- For a first offense, an increment of 48 hours of jail.
- For a second offense, an increment of ten days in jail.
- Thirty days in jail for a third or subsequent DUI arrest.
California DUI School
California DUI School constitutes any of the five alcohol programs approved by the court. The specific program you will be sentenced to is based on whether it is your first conviction, or whether you are facing multiple DUI convictions or suspensions within a ten year going backwards from the date of arrest. The five drinking and driving programs include:
- A twelve-hour program — Typically, this program is imposed for the first "wet reckless" charge or, at times, with a "dry reckless" conviction.
- A three-month program — Is also known as the AB541 program. Often, this program is imposed for a standard first-time DUI.
- A nine-month program — If your blood alcohol concentration is high on your first offense, the judge may order you to attend this class, although in Metro Court, any longer DUI class is typically a result of a negotiated disposition with the prosecutor. You may also be instructed to participate in this class if you are charged with a "wet reckless," and you have a prior "wet" or DUI conviction within the previous ten years.
- An 18-month program — Is also known as the SB38 program. Generally, the court could order you to attend this program if it is your second or third DUI conviction. The DMV requires you take this class to obtain a restricted license.
- A 30-month program — Currently, this program is only offered in Stanislaus and Los Angeles Counties. The court could impose this program on you if your blood alcohol concentration is high in a second DUI. The court could also order you to attend this program if it is your third DUI and you have already completed the 18-month program.
You are required to refrain from drugs or alcohol once you are in any of the above programs. In addition, the program leader will expel you for probation violation upon suspecting that you are under the influence.
The court could also routinely impose on you Alcoholics Anonymous "AA" meetings along with DUI school at the time of arraignment if the BAC was high and/or there was a collision. The Hospital and Morgue Program (“HAM”) is another program that may be requested by the prosecutor in exchange for a reduced punishment or lessor charge.
Usually, the Metropolitan Court DUI offers can vary depending on your criminal record and the specific facts of your case. Your DUI defense attorney could request to' continue' the arraignment to a later date. This may be strategically wise so your lawyer can present a mitigation packet after reviewing the discovery obtained from the initial arraignment court date or the DMV discovery process. In this case, the prosecutor could 'hold open' the initial offer to the later arraignment, which could be one month ahead. During this period, your attorney could evaluate your charges and review the offer with you.
During the later arraignment, the charges against you could be settled or the case could be set for pretrial. If there is no resolution to the case then your case will go to jury trial or court trial. Your attorney may find it appropriate to file motions such as a motion to suppress evidence pursuant to Penal Code section 1538.5 if the facts support such a filing.
The judge or the prosecutor could order you to attend Alcoholics Anonymous "AA" meetings once or twice a week as part of a plea or as an O.R. condition, even if you are not an alcoholic. Your attorney can argue that such meetings are not appropriate in your case. The court will provide you with an attendance verification form. On every session you attend, your meeting director must "sign off." However, online AA meetings are often accepted. If you fail to obtain a valid signature on the verification form, proof of online attendance, or fail to attend meetings, this could amount to a probation violation or a violation of O.R. terms.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) "Victim Impact Panel (VIP)
The court could impose the MADD VIP program on you as a DUI probation condition. The courts often order first-time offenders to attend this program, but it depends on the county in which you are convicted. Some counties impose this program as a discretionary condition of probation. Oftentimes the prosecutor requests this class as part of a plea agreement.
The MADD VIP program usually takes two and one-half hours. It constitutes a presentation from at least one individual whose drunk-driving behavior has negatively affected their life. It could also include a slide show or a video presentation. There could also be a presentation from a police officer or a drunk driving offender, but it depends on the county.
Hospital And Morgue (HAM) Program
Metropolitan Court often refers first-time offenders to its Los Angeles Hospital and Morgue (HAM) program. The coroner's office usually runs the HAM program. This program involves a four-hour visit to the hospital, often in the emergency room, and a four-hour visit to the morgue. The program attempts to instill the dangers from drinking and driving by showing those charged with DUIs first-hand evidence of the kind of serious injuries and death DUIs can cause. This program costs around $300-$350 which must be paid prior to starting the program.
Metropolitan Court Bench Warrant for Probation Violation
Often, the court could require you to provide evidence of enrollment in programs that serve as conditions of DUI probation. This includes Cal-Trans, community service, and DUI classes, among others. You must also provide evidence of compliance with other probation requirements, like payment of restitution or fines. If you fail to provide this evidence by the due date, the assigned Judge at the Metro Court would issue a bench warrant for your arrest. The bench warrant allows the police to locate, arrest, and take you to the issuing judge. Once you are presented before a court, the judge will may set a probation violation hearing to determine if you willfully violated a term of your probation, and if so, what the punishment will be. The reasons why a bench warrant could be issued against you in cases of DUI probation include failing to:
- Appear for any post-conviction appearances.
- Pay victim restitution.
- Pay fines.
- Attend court-ordered alcohol programs or community service, or labor.
- Show evidence of completion.
- Show proof of enrollment.
Of course, failing to appear at the initial arraignment date will also result in a warrant. Your attorney can have your case added-on to the calendar and request the warrant be recalled
The Process Of DUI Pretrial At The Metropolitan Court
If not resolved at the arraignment, your case will advance into the pretrial stage and be sent to another courtroom. At this stage, your attorney should be obtaining the complete discovery, consider whether the facts support the filing of any pretrial motions, and deciding whether the case will likely go to trial. A plea can still be worked out with the prosecutor and sometimes an initial offer can get better as the case moves closer to a trial date. However, it is also possible that the offer made by the prosecution at the arraignment court will no longer be available. If the case is not resolved at the pretrial stage then it will proceed to a jury or court trial.
Pretrial motions will be heard in the pretrial court or in the trial court, prior to starting trial. DUI pretrial motions that may be filed (depending on whether the facts in your case support the motion) include, a Motion to Suppress Evidence under Penal Code 1538.5, a Pitchess Motion, and a McNeely motion, to name a few.
Motion To Suppress Evidence
Your DUI or criminal defense attorney may file a Motion to Suppress Evidence per PC 1538.5, in order to:
- Have an opportunity to question the arresting officer to secure his or her statements under oath, which the attorney may be able to use to impeach the officer's testimony at trial.
- Contest the validity of the traffic stop by questioning if the officer had reasonable cause to stop you,
- Contest the legality of the arrest by questioning whether the officer had probable cause to arrest you.
Your attorney files a Pitchess Motion to determine if other individuals have complained about the arresting officer's misconduct. Your attorney could trace the individuals to come and testify if it is true. However, this could undermine the prosecution's case. On the other hand, your attorney could use this to convince the prosecution to reduce or dismiss your DUI charges.
Metropolitan Court Trials And Sentencing
DUI jury trials usually last three to five days at the Los Angeles Metro Court — most times, a court trial could run in the afternoon or morning only to accommodate the other cases in the court. The prosecution's witnesses could include members of the LAPD, CHP, Scientific Investigation Division (SID), the arresting officer, the victim(s) and any other pertinent witnesses.
Since Metro Court City Prosecutors file most DUI cases in their jurisdiction, they oftentimes run into the same arresting officers and toxicologists with whom they have worked in past. The local defense attorneys typically have worked on cases in the past with the same the prosecutors, forensic analysts and judges as well. Ann Gottesman has practiced and represented DUI clients at the Metropolitan Court house for over 16 years. She has a positive rapport with those in the courthouse and Los Angeles City Prosecutor’s Office.
At the jury trial, if the jury fails to reach a unanimous judgment, the judge will declare a mistrial and the prosecutor will decide whether to refile the case for a new trial. This could happen if even one juror votes in a way such that the verdict is not unanimous. If most of the jurors indicate they favored a not-guilty verdict, then the judge may dismiss the charges in the interest of justice and the prosecutor can not refile. If the jury was leaning mostly towards a guilty verdict, then the judge is unlikely to dismiss the charges.
If convicted of any charge at trial, the judge would sentence you, similarly to jhow you would be sentenced at the arraignment if you pled guilty. However, after a trial the judge is the one to determine the sentence, whereas in a negotiated plea deal the defense attorney and prosecutor negotiate a sentence. The judge has the power to impose a harsher sentence on you than the one that the prosecutor may have offered at the arraignment. However it is unconstitutional for the Court to punish you for exercising your constitutional rights to a trial. The judge could issue a more severe sentence than what was initially offered if more details came out during the evidence presented at trial demonstrating the facts were more aggravated than initially thought. Also, the Court could sentence you to the same or similar terms that were initially offered. Of course, if you obtain a dismissal or not-guilty verdict from the jury, your case will be dismissed and you will not have to worry about being sentenced. Some of the reasons a sentence may be harsher after a conviction following a trial compared to the offer originally made by prosecutor include:
- If additional damaging facts come up during the trial that was previously not divulged.
- If you decide to testify and the judge believes you committed perjury by being dishonest.
Most first-time misdemeanor DUI convictions with no injuries will NOT result in a jail sentence. Even in cases where the Court wants jail time, your defense lawyer can argue for alternative sentencing options such as:
- Performing community labor or community service.
- House arrest.
- Electronic monitoring.
- Serving time in a private city jail like the Pasadena City Jail or the Beverly Hills Jail instead of serving time in the general population of Los Angeles County jail, su jail like the Twin Towers.
This is why you should retain the services of a skilled attorney to handle your case. An attorney can persuade the court to grant you an alternative sentence if jail is being recommended. Of course, a good criminal defense lawyer will fight for your case and present the best evidence to instill reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury. In cases for which a trial is not the best option for the client, securing the best possible plea disposition is the goal.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me-Attorney Ann Gottesman is Here to Help You!
The Metropolitan Court in Los Angeles routinely handles traffic tickets and misdemeanor traffic violation offenses including DUIs (VC 23152), Suspended license (VC 14601.1), and Hit and Run cases per VC 20002. Hundreds of people enter this courthouse on the busiest days. If you receive a misdemeanor DUI ticket in the Metropolitan area in downtown LA and the surrounding area, there is a high likelihood that your case will go to this courthouse. Usually, the name and address of the court you will attend is marked at the bottom of your ticket.
You can always check the status of your traffic ticket and the location of the court online. If you have to appear in the Metro Court for a DUI or other misdemeanor traffic violation, you should retain an attorney who has handled similar cases in this court. At the Law Office of Ann Gottesman, Ann has represented many clients facing DUIs and other criminal traffic charges that were filed in Metro Courthouse. She has a strong rapport with the prosecutor and Judges as a result of the years of practice in this court. Ann is compassionate and works hard for her clients. She understands they may be facing the scariest time in their life.
Call Ann for a free consultation about your case. Call 626-710-4021 to speak to attorney Ann Gottesman directly.