Driving Under the Influence
Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
Driving under the Influence (DUI) is an offense in California Vehicle Code 23152 that means you were driving with alcohol or other drugs in your system, which could have also impaired your driving. California Vehicle Code makes it illegal for motorists to operate a vehicle in the following circumstances:
- Drivers who are over 21 years and have a BAC of 0.08% and over
- Drivers under 21 years with a BAC of 0.01% and over
- Drivers who are currently on probation for a DUI conviction and have a BAC of 0.08% and over
- Drivers in vehicles that require a commercial driving license and have a BAC of 0.04% and over
Blood Alcohol Concentration
The Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) measures the level of alcohol in the blood system that is considered to affect a driver’s impairment. BAC limits vary by law, but there are also several factors that can affect the amount of alcohol a person must drink to reach the legal limit. These are:
- Body size
- Number and alcohol content of drinks
- Time passed since alcohol consumption
- Certain medical conditions and
- Whether the driver has eaten
DUI charges generally begin when a police officer suspects you of violating DUI laws. If the officer has reasonable suspicion that you are intoxicated, he may ask you to perform a number of Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) or take a chemical test. It is important to note that officers may ask you to take these roadside tests, but the law does not make it mandatory for motorists to comply with an officer’s requests. However, California also has an implied consent law that legally binds motorists to submit to a chemical test upon their arrest. Refusing to do so at that point would be a direct violation of California Vehicle Code 23612.
Penalties for DUI
California DUI penalties depend on two major factors; the number of prior offenses and the presence of any aggravating factors. For a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd offense, a convicted motorist may face a maximum of 1 year in jail and up to $1,800 in fines. Your license can also be suspended for up to 3 years if you’re convicted of a 3rd offense.
Judges and the prosecution will also consider various aggravating factors when deciding on an appropriate sentence. Most standard DUIs as a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd offense are misdemeanors. However, a 4th or subsequent DUI offense within 10 years will automatically be a felony conviction. If any DUI offense also involves certain aggravating factors, the defendant may also receive a felony conviction. Aggravating factors include:
- If the DUI resulted in serious injury to another
- If the DUI resulted in the death of another
- If the defendant has a prior felony DUI
If you get charged with a DUI, your first thought would be how to get the charges dismissed. However, this only usually happens if the court throws out substantial evidence that would have otherwise led to a guilty conviction. Prosecutors are far more likely to pursue harsher penalties than dismiss charges entirely. An experienced lawyer like Attorney Alison Saros can try to get the charges reduced to a wet reckless. The penalties for a wet reckless are less severe than a felony DUI and fall somewhere between those for a DUI and a reckless driving conviction.
Under California Vehicle Code 23152(a), it is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs. This includes recreational drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and prescription medication which may be taken under a doctor’s orders.
Suppose an officer has reasonable suspicion that a driver is under the influence of drugs and not alcohol. In that case, they will probably conduct a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test to confirm or eliminate alcohol intoxication.
Drugs don’t typically show on a PAS test, but the officer may still go ahead and arrest the driver on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. The driver will then be subjected to a blood or urine test to determine the type and amount of drugs in the system.
Due to its hallucinogenic effects, marijuana is among the drugs which can lead to impairment when driving. However, unlike alcohol, there is no “per se” rule for impairment caused by marijuana, like there is the 0.08% rule for alcohol. Law enforcement agencies typically have an officer trained as a Drug Recognition Expert(DRE) to determine signs of intoxication and provide evidence to support a drug-related DUI.
If arrested, the driver will then be subjected to a blood test to determine the presence and level of THC in his/her system. The penalties for a marijuana DUI are the same as an alcohol DUI; a maximum of 1 year in jail depending on prior convictions and up to $1,000 in criminal fines, among other penalties.