California is among the states in the US that passed the strictest laws concerning driving under the influence (DUI). The decision came after many fatalities were reported following accidents where drunk-driving was the primary cause.
If caught drunk driving in California, you could pay a fine of about $2000, serve long jail-terms, have your driving privileges revoked, and attend a compulsory alcohol education program.
Things get worse if you commit subsequent DUI crimes. Learning DUI laws not only makes you avoid violation of California Vehicle Code 23152a VC but also know what steps to make should you get caught drunk driving.
The law stipulates myriad ways in which the law enforcers use to determine your blood-alcohol level (BAC) before they can put you behind bars. We at the San Diego DUI Attorney are ready to defend you if you are facing DUI charges. Get in touch with our Whispering Pines DUI attorney today to get the necessary help.
Definition of DUI in California
California law terms driving under the influence as an unlawful act where a motorist operates an automobile when impaired. Impairment means that your physical and mental functionalities cannot respond to stimuli like in normal sober conditions.
Usually, impairment comes from taking excess alcohol or other drugs. The traffic police determine one is impaired through a chemical or breath test.
California VC 23152(a) states that “under the influence,” entails any form of intoxicating substances too. The drugs could include over-the-counter, prescription drugs, or controlled substances.
What is The Per Se Law?
The Per Se Law in California DUI cases suggests that a motorist must have a BAC of 0.08 and over before the arresting officer can consider them intoxicated.
Here, the police need no more evidence of impairment even if you are in a good physical state. However, at times the level of alcohol in blood spikes up shortly after taking alcoholic drinks. When the traffic officers arrest you when the levels are at peak, you are charged for violating California Vehicle Code 23152(b)
With the help of a competent Whispering Pines DUI attorney, you could challenge the blood test results. A BAC of above 0.08% is not an “open and shut” situation. The police could use faulty gadgets or even record wrong reading just to put you behind bars.
Underage DUI: Zero Tolerance Laws
Unlike persons over the age of 21, California DUI laws are stricter on underage persons. In California, underage persons are those under the age of 21 years.
Like in all other states, the Zero-tolerance law makes it unlawful, as an underage person, to buy or consume alcohol. While the limit for BAC in adults is 0.08 percent, underage persons face charges even if, after blood tests, they have 0.00 - 0.02 BAC under the zero-tolerance laws.
The purpose of enacting such a strict law is because about a third of road crash fatalities, per the NHTSA’s reports, consists of persons aged between 15 and 20 years. These deaths contributed to nearly 35% of all alcohol and drug-related car accidents.
Scientific studies show that, even at low levels, alcohol poses a great danger for motorists below the age of 21. Following the statistics from NHTSA that alcohol consumption rate for underage drivers was twice that of adults, the National Highway Systems Designation Act of 1995 ruled that to obtain Federal-Aid Highway Funds, persons under 21 years must maintain a BAC of 0.02%and below.
It’s worth talking home that, besides posing vehicle accident risks, driving under the influence has other severe repercussions according to California law like pricey automobile insurance coverage and thorough background checks when seeking specific jobs.
Even though it appears unfair for the underage to face a conviction for taking just a glass of wine, that's the law. If you decide to drive after a wine tasting event, be sure to find a reputable Whispering Pines DUI attorney when you are arrested.
Implied Consent Laws
The law requires police to pull you over with a probable cause. So, the police have the jurisdiction to stop you if they suspect you for DUI. Before stopping you, the law enforcers lookout for possible signs of impairment, and requests you to take a breath or chemical test to find out the level of alcohol in your blood.
While some motorists perform the breathalyzer tests, others refuse. In California, you consent to submit blood samples or any other alcohol-related test that the police ask, the moment you apply for your driver's license, under the implied consent law. However, it is unlawful for the police to force you to take the test unless they obtain a warrant from the court.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly 20% of DUI suspects refuse to breathe into the tube when stopped. California made it illegal to violate implied consent laws, and if charged, the prosecution can use your refusal to test for BAC against you.
Don’t assume you beat the system even if the prosecution doesn’t have evidence against your DUI offense. You need the help of an attorney as you face refusal charges and you could have your driving privileges stripped.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove to Convict You
California DUI is a subjective crime – the jury, consisting of the prosecution team, arresting officer, and expert witnesses must offer proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you drove under the influence. The prosecutor's evidence depends a lot on statements from the cops and expert witnesses, who are forensic toxicologists working under the government.
The investigating officer, as part of the prosecution, testifies against your unlawful acts – drunk driving, to prove that, during your arrest, you lacked the mental and physical capacity to operate an automobile safely.
The officer’s testimony entails the arresting officer’s reports about your driving pattern, physical state, and the results of your FTS.
Testimony from the Arresting Officer
According to California DUI law, the police officer who made your arrest should testify that:
Your driving exhibited swerving and weaving patterns
Your driving was erratic
Your driving didn’t show caution as the driving of a sober motorist
Objective signs of intoxication are included in testimonies, and they include:
Having slurred speech
Visible watery and red eyes
Breath filled with alcohol odor
Staggering and wobbly feet
The Effects of Drug Tests Results
There are two main divisions in California DUI law, namely VC 23152(a) and VC 23152(b). even though they present a similar offense – DUI crime, they have disparities. See, the police could find that your BAC is lower than 0.08 per the limit under Vehicle Code 23152(b), but violate Vehicle Code 23152(a). Again, your BAC could rise above the limit set forth, but the officer cannot pass judge from your physical state that you are under the influence of a drug.
Here, the prosecutor has the jurisdiction to bring in court either of the results to support their evidence. The meaning of this is, the results of your high BAC could get introduced as evidence if your physical state never showed you drove under the influence. A knowledgeable Whispering Pines DUI attorney is your primary solace should your case get complicated. Your lawyer could help with dismissing claims from the prosecution whose main objective is for the judge to convict you.
Penalties for California DUI Offense
Punishment for violating VC 23152(a) is imposed according to the times you commit the offense. Another factor that could determine the type of sentencing the judge passes is where someone else incurred injuries following your DUI.
Punishment for a First-Offense DUI
California law terms a first offense DUI crime as a misdemeanor. If convicted, possible penalties include:
Summary/ informal probation for not more than five years
Serving jail time in a county jail for not more than six months
Varying fines from $390 to $1,000
Attending an alcohol education program that the court approves
Suspension of your driver’s license for not more than ten months
Driving on a restricted license where you can only drive to work, school, or alcohol rehabilitation school
Installing an ignition interlock device IID in your car for up to six months if you are to drive without further restriction
Sentencing for a Second Offense DUI
Like first offense DUI, the second is also a misdemeanor in California. Possible penalties for this misdemeanor DUI are:
Summary probation for not more than five years
Jail time in a county jail for not less than 96 hours and not more than a year
Fines that do not lower below $390 and not rise above $1,000
Attending an alcohol rehabilitation program for a period, not less than 18 months and not more than 30 months
Compulsory installation of an IID in your car for one year if you need to drive without restrictions
A two-year driver’s license suspension
Possible Penalties for a Third-Offense DUI
A third-offense California DUI is a misdemeanor and occurs if you are caught driving under the influence for the third time within ten years of preceding offenses. Possible punishment for this misdemeanor includes:
Informal probation for not less than three years and not more than five years
Jail time in a county jail for not more than one year and not less than four months
Fines not below $390 and not exceeding $1,000
Attending an alcohol education program that the court approves
Unrestricted driving with an IID installed in your car
Possible suspension of your driver’s license for not more than three years
A restricted driving permit that the court approves after 18 months
Designation from the DMV as a habitual traffic offender (HTO)
Imagine what penalties an aggravated DUI could carry if a typical misdemeanor DUI already has serious consequences. Aggravated DUI results in enhanced punishment through the raising fines and the range of possible sentences.
Usually, there are different circumstances that makeup aggravated DUI drunk driving with a minor present in the car or operating an automobile with high levels of BAC.
A Minor in Your Car
Driving with a minor in your car while drunk could result in an aggravated DUI if caught. California Vehicle Code 23572 VC< enhances your DUI crime if a child under the age of 14 years is present during your arrest. You subject yourself to the child endangerment – California Penal Code 273a PC too, which has a penalty of compulsory jail time. Take a look at the possible jail time if caught drunk driving with a minor.
First offense - Jail time for 48 hours
Second offense - Jail time for ten days
Third offense - Jail time for 30 days
Fourth offense - Serve jail time for 90 days
Extreme BAC Percentage
California limits legal BAC levels to 0.08 percent. So, if caught with higher BAC than the limit, you violate California DUI law. However, extremely high BAC could enhance penalties the judge could impose to you.
Usually, extreme BAC consists of twice or thrice the standard limit. Your DUI offense escalates to an aggravated DUI if found with excessive levels of alcohol in your blood. Like other forms of aggravated DUIs, you are likely to get more severe jail terms and heftier fines.
Multiple DUI Convictions
Multiple DUI convictions are yet other causes of elevated DUI sentences. California court could charge you with aggravated DUI if you have a history of repetitive DUI offenses. The primary reason California imposes severe penalties to repeat DUI convicts is to curb the drunk-driving menace and perhaps curtail deaths and injuries following car crashes.
California courts elevate sentences for motorists caught drunk driving and at excessive speeds. Over speeding occurs when a DUI suspect is driving at a velocity of 30 miles per hour above the allowed speed limit.
Driving on a Suspended Driver’s License
Aggravated DUI could occur when you are caught drunk driving on a suspended license. California courts enhance sentences for violating Vehicle Code 23582 VC< as you vividly exhibit a total disregard for the law.
Here, you face up to three different charges, namely VC 23152(a) – DUI, VC 23152(b) – driving with above 0.08% BAC, and VC 23582.
Field Sobriety Tests
At a traffic stop, cops identify vehicles that seem to swerve on the road and order them to stop. They then make observations to determine if you could be driving drunk.
Based on these observations, the police officers could perform more roadside tests to determine if you are impaired. The roadside tests, also known as FTS, involves various tasks you need to perform for the traffic officers to observe your attention level, physical ability, and balance.
The NHTSA set specific tests known as the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFTSTs) which include a one-leg stand (OLS), walk-and-turn (WAT), and horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN).
One-Leg Stand SFST
Here, the arresting officer asks you to lift one of your feet around six inches high for a minute. If you can’t maintain balance, the police could judge this as impairment. Some signs of impairment are maintaining balance using your arms or swaying sideways.
The police introduce a breathalyzer test upon failing the one-leg stand challenge.
Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
HGN is the involuntary action of the eyes to jerk when you gaze to either side. If you are intoxicated, the nystagmus becomes exaggerated. There are ways law enforcers use to determine signs of impairment. These include:
Asking the DUI suspect to follow an object moving across their face smoothly
Asking the DUI suspect to follow a fast-moving object waving across their face
If the officer notices peculiar jerking of the eye, then at optimal deviation, you get arrested for drunk driving.
Walk and Turn FST
WAT is considered as the easiest of all SFSTs. Even the drunkest suspect could efficiently complete the test successfully. But this is not a presumption that the suspect would pass the other more complex SFSTs.
With this test, the police ask you to walk heel-to-toe about nine steps forward and turn back walking similarly.
If you fail the WAT test, the police will perform a chemical test.
Apart from the three SFSTs, the NHTSA endorses, there are other non-standard ones the police could use to catch drunk drivers. The cop could ask you to move your head back while standing with both feet together. Another test is where a police officer raises their fingers at random, and you are required you are needed to count them. Another test is reciting the alphabet in the correct order, not forgetting counting numbers backward. The last non-standardized FST is touching your nose with your eyes closed.
Consult a San Diego DUI Lawyer Near Me
DUI convictions come with grave effects like loss of driving privileges, compromised personal and professional life. We at the San Diego DUI Attorney are ready to offer you expert DUI defense services that can see your case dismissed or penalties reduced. Call our Whispering Pines DUI attorney today at 619-535-7150 for a free consultation.