DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence. It is a criminal offense that occurs when drivers are accused of operating a vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. If you are driving and are stopped by police for any reason, they are trained to evaluate you for signs of intoxication. If they notice signs such as slurred speech, the odor of drugs or alcohol, or see drugs or an open container in the car, you will be asked to submit to sobriety testing.
In California, the tests performed at the side of the road are preliminary sobriety tests. If police have reason to believe that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you will be taken into custody where a chemical sobriety test will be performed. If the results of this test show that you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit or there is any trace of drugs in your system, you will be charged with DUI.
The BAC limits for drivers in California are as follows:
Drivers over 21-.08%
Drivers under 21 - .01%
Commercial drivers - .04%
If your BAC meets or exceeds these limits, you are considered by the State of California to be impaired and not capable of operating a vehicle safely. This law is subject to much debate because alcohol affects different people very differently. Factors like gender, weight, and amount of food in the stomach all contribute to how quickly your body metabolizes alcohol. In addition, your BAC is often not measured right away. In most cases, you are arrested and then taken to the police station where your breath, blood or urine sample is collected. The law says that police have up to 3 hours to do this.
California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a) states that:
It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle.
If you are arrested by police with drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two in your system, you can be charged for DUI. When police make a DUI arrest, they look into the accused's criminal record. If there are any previous convictions for DUI, the penalties will be greater. In California, police are allowed to look back 10 years into a driver's record. If there are zero prior convictions, they will be charged with, what some people refer to as, a first DUI.
The penalties for a first time DUI conviction are meant to punish the offender for their crime as well as teach them a lesson about drinking and driving or consuming drugs and driving. The standards of sentencing include:
A minimum of 96 hours in jail and a maximum of 6 months. The court will allow non-continuous sentencing so that the offender can still go to work as long as the first 48 hours are served consecutively. For example, you are sentenced to 60hours of jail time but work Monday through Friday. You will be allowed to serve your jail time broken up into 2 weekends.
A fine between $390 and $1,000
6 months of license suspension
30 to 60 hours of alcohol or drug education (30 hours if your BAC was less than .20% and 60 hours if it was over)
In addition to these penalties, you may also face an extra 48 hours of jail time of a minor under the age of 14 was a passenger in your vehicle at the time of your arrest.
California IID Pilot Program
In 2010, California began a pilot program that forces first time DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices into their vehicles. This program only affects those convicted of DUI in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare Counties right now, but this may change in 2015. An ignition interlock device (IID) is a device that is installed into your vehicle and requires you to give a breath sample before you are allowed to operate it. If there is presence of alcohol you will not be able to start your car. The idea of this program is to stop repeat DUI offenders for good.
If you are convicted of DUI in one of these counties, a first time offender will have to keep the device installed in their vehicle for 6 months.
California police look to crack down on drunk drivers. There is pressure on police to charge drivers who they believe are under the influence with DUI. Unfortunately this can lead to impartial decisions when judging your impairment level or making errors when measuring BAC.
We work hard to build strong defenses and have the experience necessary to successfully represent you in court. We have offices conveniently located throughout Southern California so we are close to you no matter where you live. Best of all, we offer free consultations to all prospective DUI clients so call our firm right now.