If a DUI fee creates an extreme financial hardship, can it be reduced?

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022

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If a DUI fee creates an extreme financial hardship, can it be reduced?

After the judge wouldn’t consider a possible diversion county mental health was in support due to the situation, wrote letters and had 2 reps there, she verbally insulted me and my character in court, and then gave me a very high penalty. Being a disabled single parent on a fixed income the fines were more severe on me then others in my 3 month class, with a higher monthly rate then 2 parent employed families I was

wondering if there’s a way to appeal to the court. I am not a criminal, yet now I have a criminal record. I had a

perfect driving record and had always followed the laws. I had fled an abusive situation and would never otherwise had driven. I wish I could appeal to another judge. I had a lawyer who shoved me back to not talk in the court so I did not plead my case to her. She was biased from the beginning. What, if anything, can I do? With insurance and bills, I’m left with not enough. We already were thifty but now it’s bad. I understand the penalties are for deterrence but this is extremely harmful. Can I appeal to have my fees reduced? Can I have it appealed or expunged? I just found out today that I won’t be able to accept the employment offer in the preschool because I won’t pass the clearance.

Asked on October 18, 2019 under Criminal Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) The court has some discretion to reduce the fines, though there are mandatory minimums. There is no easy way to do this: you'd have to first make a motion to the court which sentenced you, providing documentation of your income and expenses (to support why the fines are too high) and ask the court to reduce them. If it doesn't--which it probably won't--you'd have to file an appeal, and the odds of winning an appeal are also low, unless you can point to some specific error or errors (e.g. not following the law) the court made. Without definable, provable errors, the appeals court will not reverse the trial court. While it's certainly not impossible to get the fines reduced, and there is discretion to do so, it is a difficult process with, in my experience, substantially less than a 50-50 chance of success.
2) Assuming that the DUI was a misdeamor (less serious type of charge), not a felony (more serious), you may be able to do the equivalent of expungement (CA does not appear to officially use the term "expungement," or only does so in limited circumstances: generally, it calls what it does "dismissing" the charge or "sealing" the record), but there are a number of restrictions or limitations on when and how you can do this. Here is a link to a webpage put out by your sate court system on the topic: review it and see how it applies to the specifics of your conviction.
3) You can appeal the DUI conviction itself, but as with appealing a refusal to lower your fines, you have to be able to prove (by citing to the "record" or transcript of the hearings in your case, as well as to any documents accepted as evidence in the case and anything the judge wrote) that the court made some obvious and definable error.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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