California DUI Law

What is California DUI Law

Driving under the influence in California has harsh penalties that can affect any driver of any age, but those that are under the age of 21 can face the most serious penalties when stopped by police officers. The DUI laws in this state explain what to expect, how officers will handle the perpetrator and which tests are necessary based on blood alcohol suspicions.

Prohibition of Drinking in California

The DUI laws in the state of California prohibit all drivers from drinking or consuming drugs when driving in the state no matter the reason. These prohibitions affect someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or greater because, at this point, the person is legally drunk and not permitted to drive. This leaves him or her under the influence of alcohol, but the individual can also face a DUI charge if he or she is substantially affected by drugs consumed before or during the drive. DUI charges can also occur for both of these together. The DUI laws also govern over bikes, scooters, boats and other vehicles through the BUI laws and related offenses.

Blood Alcohol Content in California

When someone drinks alcohol, the residual substance remains in the blood for a period of time after consuming the beverage. This translates to blood alcohol content and can exceed the national limit of 0.08 percent to the point of complete intoxication or worse. Some can suffer from alcohol poisoning when the BAC is much higher than 0.08, and others can even die. This is an important aspect of drinking alcohol that every person that engages in this activity should understand. California uses the national limit to arrest drivers when they drink too much, and this can lead to valid charges against the person.

For other versions of BAC arrests, California uses the 0.04 percent for commercial drivers and 0.01 for anyone that is behind the wheel and under the age of 21, or the legal age to drink in the country and this state. California is a zero-tolerance state similar to others with these rules and it is illegal for anyone under the age to drink in here. Because of this, anyone caught with a BAC higher than minimal amounts in this state can face an arrest for DUI and subsequent charges because of the possibility of endangering others when drinking and driving.

Actual Physical Control In California DUI Cases

Many states use the actual physical control of the vehicle as grounds to charge a person with a DUI offense. This is sufficient even if the person was not actually driving when caught with a BAC of 0.08 or greater. However, California requires more proof than physical control of the car. The local cities must catch the person driving the vehicle to charge him or her with these crimes. Proof goes far in these cases because police officers will pull over a person, administer a field sobriety test and then arrest the person or let him or her go if the suspicion proves false.

Per Se DUIs in California

When police use a breathalyzer or blood test to determine the BAC of the individual driving the car, this is a per se DUI. The test does not need to use the level of impairment through observation in these situations. The level of alcohol the person has in his or her system at the time of the pullover can depend on various factors. These usually include the gender of the driver, the body size he or she has, the number and percent of alcohol in drinks consumed and when the person drank the alcohol as to when he or she became a driver.

BAC Factors with the Driver In California

There are several factors that can increase the BAC a person has. While these factors include gender, body weight and height, other factors are unclear. The length of time that passes can usually dilute the BAC level greatly, and someone that starts driving after the drinks are no longer as strong in the system may not have a BAC of 0.08 percent any longer. If the person eats anything before drinking can also affect this level. Medical conditions are also serious factors that could slow down or speed up body metabolism and remove alcohol from the blood.

DUI Penalties in California

Penalties for DUI offenses often depend on whether the violation is the first, second or third crime. If the person has a DUI conviction, it stays on his or her record for up to ten years after the offense. Sentences for first through third convictions start with up to six months in jail for a first offense, 96 hours to one year for a second and 120 days to one year for the third. Fines range from $390 to $1000 o up to $1800. License suspension starts at six months but increases to two years for the second conviction and three years for the third. An Interlock ignition device or IID is necessary for up to six months or twelve months with a restricted license for the first conviction, one year for the second and two years for the third.

Considerations for Penalties in California

The judge or the prosecutor when considering a plea bargain will determine the penalties when there are mitigating or aggravating factors attached to the case. These factors may exist in the actions the person took to prevent possible harm to others such as waiting for the alcohol to clear the system, or if there was an injury to another driver or passenger. Each factor can increase or decrease these penalties significantly depending on what occurs. Some drivers in California can leave with a conviction that has fewer punishments because of noticeable remorse. Others may increase the factors if the defendant is belligerent or aggressive in the courtroom.

Implied Consent in California DUI Offenses

California uses implied consent in the DUI laws when an offense occurs. This requires all drivers that face a legal arrest for possible driving under the influence to submit to a BAC test. The driver has the option to choose either the breath or blood test, but he or she must submit or face possible administrative action immediately. If the driver refuses to take either test at the time of the arrest, he or she will need to pay a fine of $125 first and then face a suspension of his or her license for the refusal. This is an administrative action for the refusal because the state uses implied consent in these situations.

Implied Consent and Refusal

For the first refusal when arrested for possible DUI violations, the person will face a license suspension of one year, two years for the second refusal and three years for the third. Other factors can also affect these refusals before the person faces additional convictions of DUI violations such as reckless driving behavior convictions, suspensions related to refusal and similar behavior. If the driver had one DUI conviction prior to the current arrest, another conviction because of reckless driving behavior and refuses a test for the current situation, he or she would also face a driver's license suspension for three years.

Plea Bargaining in California DUI Offenses

The person facing a possible conviction for a DUI offense may want to get these charges dismissed through a plea bargain. However, this may only occur if critical evidence is no longer valid in the case. The prosecuting lawyer usually will not even consider dismissing the charges completely for nearly any crime. A reduction of sentencing through a wet reckless charge can become a possibility. This is when the case involves alcohol-related offenses with reckless driving. The penalties are often less harsh and can leave the person with a conviction for something below the DUI but higher than reckless driving charges.

Requirements with an SR-22 in California DUI Convictions

When a driver's license goes through suspension because of a DUI related offense or refusal to take a test, the state of California's insurance companies require the person to obtain an SR-22. This is a certificate or a digital certificate that verifies the person meets the minimum insurance requirements for the state. If the person needs to obtain a hardship license, this certificate is also necessary. The hardship license is to get from one place to another when the license is under suspension such as when the person works or goes to school. The SR-22 can increase insurance premiums significantly.

Challenging Breath Tests in California DUI Charges

When someone does take the breath test, he or she may want to challenge the results because the device shows a BAC of greater than 0.08 percent at the time the administered test completes. These tests do have inconsistencies that lawyers are able to successfully challenge in the courtroom. However, modern breathalyzers are usually more accurate than the older ones. Because of this, challenging the device can become a difficult prospect for the defendant. There is a margin of error of 0.01 percent that can adjust the results and lead to a charge of DUI when the driver is not quite at this level.

Other factors can also cause inaccurate test results when they are present. These can exist in mouth alcohol, using the device incorrectly, medical conditions and when other substances register as alcohol when the driver did not consume any liquor. If the device grabs the mouth or both mouth and lung air, it can register with higher results than is in the person's blood. The officer usually must observe the driver for fifteen to twenty minutes before administering the test to ensure accuracy. If the police officer does not adhere to this standard rule, the defendant may use this in the courtroom or in plea bargain negotiations against the other side.

Challenging Blood-Test Results in California DUI Charges

There are three possible errors with blood tests that can lead to a valid challenge against the blood results as evidence. These include fermentation, warrantless blood draws and rising blood alcohol content. In fermentation, there is improper storage involved with the blood. Without proper storage, the blood can ferment. This can increase the BAC in the sample and lead to a higher percentage that is actually in the blood or was at the time the police drew it. With an experienced lawyer, it is possible to correctly and validly challenge the results. If the hired criminal defense lawyer in California knows what to look for, he or she can challenge these results because of fermented blood.

Other Challenges to Blood Test Results in California DUI Cases

Blood draws are warrantless if the state uses the implied consent laws to impose consequences through administrative action when the arrested individual does not want his or her blood drawn. The Supreme Court explains that the blood test is invasive and also imposes on the defendant's constitutional rights even in a DUI case. Police may need a warrant to require the person to take a blood test unless he or she submits to one willingly. If the police still draw blood without a warrant, the individual can have a valid legal argument against the results and have the evidence thrown out.

Rising blood alcohol is when the BAC is over the legal limit because of how the alcohol leaves the system. It usually rises higher than the legal limit for a short time and then drops significantly to reveal the true level that it is at. However, when testing the blood, the rising blood alcohol issue could provide evidence against the driver and have use in the courtroom. It is important to understand how this factor works to use it as a valid defense against these charges. The lawyer hired for the case can explain what rising blood alcohol is to the client and how this could factor into the case defensive strategy with a valid argument.

The California DUI Lawyer

When facing a DUI charge, the individual will need an experienced lawyer that understands that various factors involved in the DUI case. The prosecution could use evidence that is substandard, could have an argument that is incorrect and may even introduce something that could have little to do with the case. Additionally, the criminal defense lawyer can enter into a plea bargain negotiation with the prosecuting lawyer to attempt to acquire the best possible outcome for the defendant. By collecting evidence, challenging other evidence, explaining various aspects of devices or other factors with the help of an expert witness, the lawyer can increase the chances of protecting the client from harmful convictions for DUI offenses.

Depending on specific factors that are present in the case, the DUI lawyer may need to hire a medical professional as an expert witness to detail the medical condition that the driver has which could increase the results of a BAC test. Gastrointestinal conditions can provide inaccurate results because of how alcohol metabolizes in the system and how the stomach and other organs process the alcohol air and gases in the body. The lawyer can work his or her argument around these elements based on the illness or condition that the driver has.

The Hired California DUI Lawyer

Once a person faces DUI charges, it is important to hire a California DUI lawyer immediately. The lawyer can protect the client and help him or her stop incrimination and keeping the client silent. The lawyer can investigate the case and explain each process to the defendant. This legal professional can even explain what to do next.

DUI Articles - California

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