Under California law, it is illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The DUI law does not only apply to vehicle drivers but also motorcycle riders, boat operators, and scooter riders. A DUI offense attracts hefty penalties, including imprisonment, fines, probation, attending a DUI School, or license suspension. The penalty depends on the nature and extent of the DUI offense. The DUI penalties are more severe for repeat DUI offenders than first-time DUI offenders. The San Diego DUI Attorney is a law firm that assists clients facing DUI charges. For clients in and around Bostonia, CA, our Bostonia DUI attorney may help you negotiate for less severe DUI charges or get your charges dropped.
Overview of DUI
Under California Law, you are under the influence if you have a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more. If you are a commercial driver, you are considered intoxicated if you have a BAC of .04% or above. There are several methods of measuring BAC to determine whether a driver is impaired. The most common methods include breath tests and blood tests. Additional tests, including screening of samples such as saliva, hair follicles, and urine can apply.
Blood tests are invasive and are only used in rare circumstances; a blood test may come in handy if the driver is heavily injured or impaired and cannot undertake a breath test. A blood test may also be adopted if the driver refuses to undergo a breath test.
For a first time DUI offense in California that does not cause bodily injury, the penalties may include up to forty-eight hours jail time, license suspension, three-month alcohol education and training, and up to $2000 in fines and assessments.
A DUI offense remains on your record for ten years. If you commit a subsequent DUI offense before ten years are over, you become a repeat DUI offender. Repeat DUI offenses attract severe consequences than first-time offenses. For a third or subsequent DUI offense, fines and assessments may add up to $18,000. Other consequences include a 30-month alcohol education and training program and imprisonment in state prison.
There are several elements of California DUI laws, and they include:
Per Se DUI
The concept of Per Se DUI outlines that you are intoxicated as long as your BAC is .08% or above. As long as your BAC is above the legal limit, no other evidence is required to prove intoxication. The Per Se DUI laws are applicable in many states across the U.S. The Per Se DUI laws make it easy to establish intoxication without conducting numerous field sobriety tests. You may feel sober, but as long as your blood alcohol content is above .08%, you liable for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
Zero Tolerance Law
According to the Zero Tolerance Law, it is illegal for an underage person, below 21 years, to operate a vehicle even with slight blood alcohol content. The law prohibits persons under the age of 21 years to purchase or possess alcohol.
A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, revealed that 1/3 of all deaths of individuals from the age of 15 to 20 years occur due to road accidents. Of these road accidents, 35% are related to DUI/ impaired driving. Further studies also revealed that more underage people indulge in alcohol than people above the age of 21. The introduction of the Zero Tolerance Law has led to reduced numbers of fatal road accidents involving underage persons.
Implied Consent Laws
The implied consent law outlines that once you apply for a driver's license, you consent to undergo any form of sobriety test. If a police officer suspects you are intoxicated, he may stop your vehicle and recommend a DUI test. Under the implied consent law, you should not refuse to undergo a DUI test.
You may face harsh consequences such as license suspension for refusing to undergo DUI testing. A police officer cannot force you to take the test. If you refuse to undergo a breath test, but you later consent to a blood test, you cannot face the consequences for refusal of a DUI test.
Types of California DUI Charges
There are various DUI charges in California. Different offenses have different consequences. Some of the common DUI charges include:
Standard DUI Charges - Vehicle Code 23152
According to California Vehicle Code 23152 (a), you may face standard DUI charges if there is a proof of impaired driving due to intoxication. You may also face standard DUI charges if your blood alcohol concentration is at .08% or more according to California 23152 (b) VC.
For a standard DUI charge, penalties may include license suspension for one year, five-year informal probation, and fines ranging from $390 to $1,000. A standard DUI offense may also attract 3 to 9 months of drug and alcohol education and training. In some rare cases, you may serve up to six months in county jail.
Underage DUI - Vehicle Code 23136 & Vehicle Code 23140
In California, two laws prohibit underage DUI. Under Vehicle Code 23136, it is illegal for an individual below the age of 21 years to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .01% or more. Under California Vehicle Code 23140, it is illegal for an underage person to operate a vehicle with a BAC of .05% or more. In addition, underage drivers are bound by California Zero Tolerance Law that makes it illegal for underage persons to purchase or possess alcohol. According to the zero tolerance, as long as underage driver tests positive for intoxication, he/she is guilty of drunk driving even if the BAC is very low.
Under California Vehicle Code 23136, a preliminary alcohol screening test (PAS) helps determine the BAC level in an underage driver. PAS is a roadside test; the police make use of a Breathalyzer or other equipment to administer the test. The equipment measures the driver's breath and then converts the results into a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) percentage. It is mandatory for an underage driver to undergo the PAS testing if an officer suspects that the driver is under the influence. Refusal to undertake the PAS test may lead to further consequences.
The penalties for violation of Vehicle Code 23136 may include license suspension for up to one year after a first-time offense. However, for repeat DUI offenses, the penalty may include license suspension for a longer period, usually two or three years.
A standard DUI offense comes with hefty penalties. You may face additional DUI charges if you commit an Aggravated DUI offense. An aggravating factor may include very high levels of blood alcohol concentration. Under California law, you are under the influence if your BAC is above .08%. However, some drivers may have a much higher BAC level than the set limit, and these drivers automatically face Aggravated DUI charges.
If you have a minor below the age of 14 years in a vehicle and you still drive under the influence, you may face Aggravated DUI charges for exposing the minor to danger. You may also face Aggravated DUI charges for repeat DUI offenses. If you are operating your vehicle at a very high speed while intoxicated, your charges may transition from standard DUI charges to Aggravated DUI charges.
Wet Reckless - Vehicle Code 23103.5 VC
Under California DUI laws, a Wet Reckless is not an offense on its own; instead, it is a reduction of DUI charges. For example, if the prosecutor realizes that your DUI case is weak or if you have a strong Bostonia DUI attorney defending you, the prosecutor may reduce your DUI charges to a Wet Reckless instead of risking losing the case. For instance, if you commit an offense under Vehicle Code 23152 (a) by operating a vehicle under the influence, or Vehicle Code 23152 (b) driving with a BAC of .08% or above, a prosecutor may reduce your charges to a Wet Reckless. In most cases, a plea bargain is accorded to first time DUI offenders. It is very hard for the prosecutor to recommend a Wet Reckless charge to repeat DUI offenders.
A Wet Reckless plea bargain includes a note on your record, outlining that you have committed an offense that involves drugs or alcohol. Therefore, a Wet Reckless is a priorable DUI offense; if you commit a Wet Reckless and commit a subsequent DUI offense before ten years are over, you become a repeat DUI offender. A Wet Reckless charge reduction has some benefits, including a reduced probation period, lighter fines, reduced mandatory imprisonment for repeat DUI offenses, and you may retain your license.
DUI with Injury - Vehicle Code 23153 VC
You commit a DUI with Injury offense if you operate a vehicle under the influence, and as a result, you inflict injuries on another person. A DUI with Injury is a serious crime in California, which may attract misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the seriousness and extent of the injury a victim suffers.
Vehicle Code 23153 outlines that any person who drives a vehicle under the influence and injures another person is liable for criminal charges. To prove that you are guilty of DUI with Injury, the prosecutor has to prove that you violated the California DUI laws by operating a vehicle with a BAC of .08% or above. The prosecutor also has to prove that due to intoxication, you committed an unlawful act or you acted negligently. Finally, the prosecutor has to prove that your act or your negligence caused the injuries on the victim.
For a DUI with Injury, the consequences may include fines ranging from $390 to $5000. You may also serve informal summary probation for three to five years. Other consequences may include a jail term, which may range from five days to one year in county jail. The court may also recommend an approved alcohol education and training. A DUI with Injury offense may lead to suspension of your driving privileges for one year or even three years, depending on the seriousness of the offense. However, if you agree to install an ignition interlock device (IDD), the law may allow you to retain driving privileges.
Other possible consequences may include restitution; the law may require you to compensate/ reimburse the accident victims any costs they may have incurred due to the effects of the accident.
Vehicular Manslaughter - Penal Code 192 (c) PC / Penal Code 191.5 (b) PC)/ Penal Code 191.5 (a) PC)
Under California law, if you negligently commit an illegal act, other than a felony, and cause the death of another person, you may face Vehicular Manslaughter charges under California Penal Code 192(c) PC. You may face DUI Vehicular Manslaughter charges (Penal Code 191.5 (b) PC) if you commit an unlawful act while intoxicated leading to the death of another individual. In some instances, you may face Gross Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated charges under California Penal Code 191.5 (a) PC).
DUI alone does not qualify for Vehicular Manslaughter charges; DUI has to be accompanied by another unlawful act such as speeding or reckless driving due to intoxication, causing the death of another person. For a misdemeanor Vehicular Manslaughter while Intoxicated, the penalties may include penalties for up to $1,000. You may also face up to one year in county jail. Other consequences may include an informal misdemeanor probation.
For a DUI Vehicular Manslaughter felony offense, you may face some additional consequences that may include very high fines of up to $10,000. You may also face an extended sentence that may range from 16 months to 3 years, depending on the nature of the crime. You may also serve formal felony probation and a license suspension for up to one year.
If you have prior DUI charges and you operate your vehicle under intoxication leading to the death of another person, you may face Watson Murder charges. The prosecutor must prove that you had implied malice for you to be guilty of Watson Murder. Implied malice refers to the disregard of human life and committing offenses that may endanger human life, including driving under the influence.
If you had received a Watson warning in the previous DUI offenses, you have a higher likelihood of facing Watson Murder charges. A Watson warning is enlightenment on the dangers of drunk driving, including the adverse of drunk driving, like death. You may also face Watson Murder charges if your BAC level exceeds .15% or if you engage in acts that depict disregard for human life. For a Watson Murder conviction, you may face up to 15 years of imprisonment in state prison.
Common Defenses for DUI Charges
After a drunk driving arrest, you do not have to agree to all the charges a prosecutor has against you. Even if you have recorded a BAC of above .08%, your Bostonia DUI attorney can still help you come up with a good defense strategy. The right defense strategy may help reduce your DUI charges and may lead to dismissal of your DUI charges. Various defenses for DUI charges include:
Challenge the BAC Results
Your attorney may challenge the BAC results presented in court. For instance, the attorney may consider the test equipment used in measuring BAC. Breathalyzer equipment should be regularly maintained and calibrated. The attorney may examine the maintenance records of the breath test machines. If the attorney can establish that the test machine used was faulty, the court may question the credibility of your BAC results or dismiss them altogether.
You Were Not Intoxicated
You may also argue that you were not intoxicated. Studies indicate that if you use alcohol-based products such as mouthwash and then undergo a breath test, the results may come out positive, and you may be liable for impaired driving. Your attorney can argue in court that your BAC results of .08% or above do not imply that you are intoxicated
Deny Intoxication Signs
Upon stopping your vehicle, the police may look for signs of intoxication. Some of the common signs include bloodshot eyes, watery eyes, low concentration, lack of balance, and poor coordination. In defending you in court, your Bostonia DUI attorney may argue that the signs recorded were not because of intoxication. For instance, the attorney may argue that red eyes were due to an illness. The attorney may also assert that the lack of balance or concentration was due to fatigue, but not intoxication.
Other common defenses for DUI charges may include arguing that the police stopped your vehicle without probable cause. The law requires the police to have probable cause when requesting a traffic stop. You may also use illegal seizure and arrest procedures as your defense for DUI offenses. You may also argue that the right procedures were not followed when administering the DUI tests or an unqualified person administered the tests.
Find a Bostonia DUI Attorney Near Me
If you are currently facing DUI charges, you should not underestimate the role of an attorney. A Bostonia DUI attorney could significantly influence the outcome of your case. At the San Diego DUI Attorney, we are committed to ensuring you get the best outcome of your DUI case. Contact us at 619-535-7150 and speak to one of our attorneys. We will be happy to assist you!