California DUI laws are strict on offenders. Often the prosecution will bring severe charges and penalties to curb drunk driving. However, you can still fight these charges if you are in custody for a DUI offense. A Lemon Heights DUI Attorney provides defense services for people arrested for DUI offenses in Lemon Heights and the surrounding areas.
Overview of California DUI Laws
Drunk driving is responsible for many traffic violations and accidents. Therefore, California attempts to control these incidents through strict laws and penalties for offenders. The DUI laws in California punish adult and underage offenders, out-of-state drivers, commercial drivers, and the substance under whose influence you are driving. Some of the DUI laws under which the police or highway patrol could arrest you include:
Driving Under the Influence VC 23152(a)
VC 23152 prohibits you from driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The court determines that you are under the influence if your mental and physical abilities are impaired. When impaired, you cannot exercise the caution a sober person would under similar circumstances.
The statute can lead to a conviction for a DUI even when your BAC level is below the legal limit (.08%). The two elements the prosecution has to prove, include:
- You were driving
- While driving, you were under the influence of alcohol
Showing that you were under the influence of alcohol is relatively easier to prove than driving. For example, if you are in a car but you have not moved the car, then you are not guilty of driving under the influence.
The court will assume you were driving if:
- You were sleeping in the car while obstructing a roadway
- Your car was not in an area customarily used for parking cars
- You are the only person in the car
The prosecution will prove that you were driving under the influence using:
- The testimony from the arresting officer about your appearance, behavior, and performance on field sobriety tests
- The results of breath or blood tests
Your Lemon Heights DUI Attorney can challenge most of the evidence presented by the prosecution. For example, behaviors that police depend on to arrest you for a DUI could mislead them. Lack of balance and coordination can arise from fatigue, nervousness, or medical conditions.
Field sobriety tests also fail to account for individual factors that could affect their accuracy. If a woman wearing heels and tight clothing has to do a one-leg stand, then the likelihood of failure is very high.
The penalties for violating VC 23152 (a) depend on the number of related convictions you have had in the last ten years. The first to third offenses are misdemeanors — however, fourth subsequent offenses in ten years or causing injury are felonies.
The penalties will include incarceration, mandatory DUI School, fines, license suspension, and probation. Your insurance premiums are likely to go up as you get more DUI convictions.
The circumstances of the offense might lead to additional sentencing. Some of the aggravating factors include:
- DUI with a child in the car
- A BAC of more than .15%
Driving with a BAC of .08% or Higher VC 23152 (b)
The prosecution can bring DUI charges under VC 23152 (a) even if you had a BAC of less than .08%., under VC 23152 (b), the prosecution will have to prove that you were driving with a BAC of .08% or higher. Also known as the per se rule assumes that having a BAC of at least .08% means you are intoxicated, and alcohol has impaired your mental and physical abilities.
Prosecutors mostly charge VC 23152 (a) together with VC 23152 (b). The penalties for the offense depend on your DUI criminal history within ten years. The prosecution might charge the offense as a misdemeanor for simple DUI offenses up to the third subsequent offense in ten years.
Your Lemon Heights DUI Attorney can use several defenses to fight these charges and have the offenses reduced to lesser offenses or dismissed. Some of the applicable defenses include:
- Rising blood alcohol: your lawyer asserts that at the time you were driving, you were not intoxicated as the body had not absorbed the alcohol
- The BAC level does not indicate intoxication since you may have different tolerance levels
- Innocent explanations for signs of intoxication such as red, watery eyes
- Medical conditions contributing to a higher BAC
- Violation of Title 17 regulations
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs VC 23152 (f), VC 23152 (g)
The prosecution will charge a DUI of Drugs if you are driving under the influence of drugs (prescription or illegal) or a combination of drugs and alcohol. California defines drugs as any substances except alcohol that have the capacity of affecting the nervous system, physical system, and the brain, such that your ability to drive judiciously is impaired.
Drugs include illegal drugs, legal drugs like Marijuana, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medication. The prosecution can choose to charge you using the more drug-specific laws or under the general DUI drugs law.
Investigation for DUI involving drugs takes a slightly different approach from a DUI of alcohol. The investigating officers cannot measure the quantity of drugs in your breath as they would for alcohol.
In most cases, the DUI of drugs investigation begins with a traffic stop. The officer will take a PAS test, field sobriety tests, and identify physical signs of intoxication. They will also look at your car to determine whether there are visible paraphernalia in your vehicle.
Most officers begin a DUI of drugs investigation once the PAS results show a lower alcohol limit, but you still display signs of intoxication.
The arresting officer could call a drug recognition expert (DRE) either at the scene or at the station. DREs trained on how to identify people who are under the influence of drugs. The investigation takes a twelve-step approach, which will include blood or urine tests.
Blood and urine tests are more accurate in identifying the presence of drugs in the body. Note that you can refuse to submit these tests, without negative consequences before you are arrested. However, once in custody, refusal to submit a blood or breath test becomes an offense.
The officer will request a blood type in most cases if he or she believes:
- You are under the influence of drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs
- The test will reveal supporting evidence
The blood test might reveal the drugs in your system and their concentration. The prosecution will use these results alongside the testimony of the arresting officer and the drug recognition expert.
Some of the case-specific defenses a Lemon Heights DUI Attorney could use to defend you include:
- The presence of drugs in the body is not an indication of impairment
- Some drugs can stay in the system for a long time and still be detected. For example, if you took a single dose of Marijuana, your urine will still have some of it, up to more than seven days later
- Innocent reasons for physical signs of intoxication such as fatigue, illness, or anxiety
- Inaccurate chemical test results
Driving Under the Influence Causing Injury VC 23153
You are guilty of DUI causing injury if:
- You violated any DUI laws
- While doing so, you violated other laws or acted negligently
- Leading to the injury of another person
DUI causing injury is a wobbler offense charged depending on the circumstances of the offense, such as they type of injuries, the extent of the injuries, and your criminal history.
When charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties include summary probation, jail time, fines, DUI program, license suspension, and restitution of injured parties.
The third DUI with injury offense is always a felony. The penalties include incarceration in state prison, sentence enhancements for great bodily injury and additional victims, a strike on your record, fines, DUI school, formal probation, registration as a habitual traffic offender, and a five-year revocation of your driver's license.
DUI and Commercial Drivers VC 23152 (d) and VC 15300
California DUI laws are strict on commercial drivers who drink and drive. Therefore, seek the services of a Lemon Heights DUI Attorney as soon as you are arrested for a DUI.
The legal BAC limit when operating a commercial vehicle is .04%. Commercial vehicles include those that require a Class B driver’s license or a standard license with a commercial endorsement. They include trucks, small commercial vehicles such as double trailers and passenger vehicles with a capacity of more than ten people, school buses, farm vehicles, and vehicles transporting hazardous materials.
You can be charged with commercial DUI if you violate any DUI laws, including DUI of drugs, Dui per se laws, Aand driving with a BAC of .04% or higher.
The court convicts the first offense as a misdemeanor. The penalties will include:
- Summary probation
- A maximum of six months in county jail
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- A DUI school attendance for three months
- A minimum license suspension period of one year
The second offense leads to the automatic loss of your driver’s license for life. If you cause injury to another person, the offense is a wobbler.
Commercial DUI laws do not allow you to take a restricted license to operate a commercial vehicle. However, you can acquire a standard license to continue driving non-commercial vehicles. However, you will still have to get a restricted license (you have only one driving record with the DMV, which affects your standard and commercial license).
Refusal to Submit a Chemical Test VC 23612
California operates on the implied consent law when it comes to submitting chemical breath and blood samples once you are in custody. This means that you cannot legally refuse to submit a test when requested.
Refusing to submit to a chemical test is usually a sentence enhancement for DUI in most cases. The penalties depend on the prior DUI convictions you have had in ten years.
For your first offense, you will serve an additional:
- 48 hours in jail
- Six months in DUI school
- One year license suspension
If you have one prior DUI convictions, the additional penalties include:
- 96 more hours in jail
- License revocation for two years
With two prior offenses, you will serve ten additional days and suffer a three-year license suspension. If you have more than three priors, you will serve an extra eighteen days in jail and a three-year license suspension.
California has separate DUI laws covering drivers under 21 years. These laws include the Zero tolerance law and underage drinking with a BAC of at least .05%.
The Zero tolerance laws prohibit underage drivers from operating a vehicle with any detectable alcohol in the system. Therefore, you can be convicted for a BAC of .01%. The penalties under the zero-tolerance laws include a license suspension of one year. The prosecution might choose to bring "adult" DUI charges against you, which will subject you to criminal penalties.
As an underage driver, you must submit a chemical test, including the roadside preliminary alcohol-screening test. Refusal of the test leads to the automatic suspension of your license for one year without the possibility of a restricted license.
You could be charged under VC 23140 if you had a BAC of .05% or higher. The penalties in this case include:
- Suspension of your driver’s license for one year or a one-year delay in getting one
- A minimum fine of $100 depending on your past record for similar violations
- An alcohol education program for at least three months if you are at least 18 years
- Vehicle impoundment if:
- you have a prior DUI offense for violating underage or standard DUI laws
- And you had a BAC of 0.1% and refused to submit a chemical test
You can hire a DUI defense attorney to help you fight the charges using defenses such as:
- You were not driving
- You were not drunk
- DUI chemical test errors
- Rising blood alcohol
- The officer did not advise you on the consequences of refusing to submit to a chemical test
Out of State DUI
You could be charged with a DUI if you are an out-of-state driver in California. When the arresting officer takes you into custody for a DUI, he or she will issue you with a notice of suspension. The DMV will suspend your privilege to drive in California if you do not schedule a hearing in ten days after the arrest.
Scheduling a hearing postpones the license suspension until the conclusion of the hearing. Meanwhile, the prosecution could file criminal charges against you for drunk driving. You will face similar penalties as if you were a California resident.
Your home state might choose to take action on your driving privileges at home, as well. For example, if your state is a member of the interstate driver’s license compact, you may face criminal and administrative penalties. The penalties from your home state will depend on:
- The action the California DMV takes
- Whether you are convicted for the offense
- The DUI laws in your state
- The similarity of your state’s DUI laws to those of California
You might have your lawyer represent you when obtaining evidence, during the pretrial motions and sometimes during the trial. However, the court will decide whether you must appear at trial or not.
The DMV and DUI Laws
The DMV is the administrative body, which plays a role in enforcing DUI laws in California. The DMV confiscates your license once you are arrested for a DUI violation. Penalties by the DMV are not reliant on your criminal guilt.
The DMV also punishes refusals to take a chemical test whether or not you are guilty, based on the assumption that you agree to submit the test by having a California Driver’s license.
The arresting officer usually replaces your driver's license with notification of suspension from the DMV. The notification informs you of the pending suspension of your license once thirty days elapse. However, the DMV allows you to challenge the suspension by requesting a hearing within ten calendar days of your arrest.
A DMV hearing is rather informal compared to the criminal court process, but not less important. Scheduling a hearing allows you to continue driving until either you win or lose at the hearing. During the hearing, you will present evidence of your innocence, and in some cases, police misconduct when investigating or arresting you.
The DMV judge will decide whether to confirm the suspension of your license or to restore your driving privileges. When making this decision, the DMV considers the evidence presented and your criminal history.
Find a DUI Attorney Near Me
California has several DUI laws that aim at reducing the incidents of drunk driving. Therefore, the penalties for the offense are often harsh and can affect your life significantly. However, with a Lemon Heights DUI Attorney, you can fight these charges to have your sentence reduced, or dismiss the charges. A dismissed charge has a reduced effect on your driving and criminal records. An attorney could also help you avoid spending time in jail by requesting probation. If you demonstrate good character while on probation, your attorney can help you secure early termination of probation. If you or a loved one is facing a DUI charge, contact the Orange County DUI Attorney at 949-377-2280 to help you understand the charges and the potential defenses.