The Legal Definition of DUI
California VEH 23152 enlists the legal definition of DUI. According to Vehicle Code 23152(a), it is unlawful for an individual to drive a vehicle while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs, or the combined influence of both. VEH 23152(b) states the prescribed BAC limit for the state of California for all motorists, which is 0.08%. Holders of commercial driver’s licenses should not exceed a BAC limit of 0.04%, and individuals who are below 21 years old or on probation for DUI should not have a BAC of 0.01% or higher while driving. If you exceed any of these limits, you will be liable under ‘per se DUI’ law. This means that the prosecution won’t have to prove that you were intoxicated.
How you can be Arrested for Driving Under the Influence
A traffic officer may flag you down if he/she notices that you are driving recklessly or violating a particular traffic law. When you pull over, he/she may suspect that you are under the influence. His/her suspicions will rise if he/she notices certain things, such as:
- Exhibition of physical symptoms of intoxication, such as slurred speech, red eyes, flushed face, alcoholic smell, among others
- Giving incoherent responses to questions
- Having an alcoholic container inside your car
Sometimes, you may unknowingly admit to the officer that you have just drunk alcohol or taken some drugs, thus incriminating yourself. If a police officer suspects you of DUI, he/she may subject you to a field sobriety test or chemical breath test to confirm his/her suspicions. You will be arrested for DUI if your test results are positive.
Also, there are various BAC checkpoints within the state of California. A law enforcement officer may flag you down at one of these checkpoints, and request you to take a chemical breath test or a field sobriety test. If you fail any of these tests, the law enforcement officer will put you under arrest for DUI.
What Happens after you have been Arrested for DUI?
When a law enforcement officer puts you under arrest for DUI, he/she will confiscate your driver’s license. Then, you will receive a 30-day temporary license. For you to get back your driver's license, you should request a DMV hearing within ten days after the arrest. If you don't, the authorities will automatically suspend your license after 30 days.
You will also be taken to the police station, where you will be booked. The investigating DUI officer can also insist on a BAC blood test at the police station to collect more evidence against you. You will then be permitted to post bail to be released from custody. If you cannot afford the cash bail amount, you should contact a bail bond agent to help you.
Immediately you have been released from custody; you should look for an experienced DUI defense attorney to review your arrest details. Don’t just hire any attorney; what you should look for is an attorney who has extensive experience in handling DUI cases locally. For instance, if you were arrested for DUI in Glendale, you should hire a Glendale DUI Attorney – and not just any criminal defense attorney within Los Angeles.
It isn’t wise to wait until the date of your arraignment before you reach out to an attorney. This is because you are most likely to forget some facts and circumstances about your arrest that may be crucial in building a solid defense.
When you reach out to a DUI defense attorney, he/she will advise you on the best steps to take, as well as how you can defend yourself. Typically, in most DUI cases, the prosecution is always in haste; and this can make you feel pressured and unsure of what to do. If you do not have an attorney by your side, you will be more prone to making foolish decisions that will cost you in the future.
DMV Hearing in a California DUI
You will be subject to two distinct legal proceedings after you have been arrested for DUI: the DUI criminal court trial and the DMV administrative hearing. While you must attend the DUI criminal court trial if the prosecutor has instituted charges against you, it isn't compulsory to attend a DMV hearing. In fact, it is you who will choose as to whether you want a DMV hearing. It is also up to you to personally request it.
DMV hearings are usually informal, and they can even be conducted over the phone. Despite their informality, they play a crucial role as to whether or not you will get back your driver’s license. Take note that if you lose your DMV hearing, your license will be suspended. This is why you must hire a DUI defense attorney to help you win the hearing and protect your license.
A hearing officer conducts a DMV hearing. During the hearing, you will be entitled to various rights, including the right to:
- challenge and review evidence
- testify on your own behalf
- present, cross-examine, and subpoena witnesses
The outcome of the DMV hearing cannot influence the outcome of your DUI criminal court trial. However, your attorney can utilize the evidence obtained during the DMV hearing to persuade the prosecutor to either drop or reduce your DUI charges.
In California, DUI is a priorable offense. This means that its penalties increase upon the commission of a repeat offense. For instance, the penalties for a second time DUI are more severe than that for the first time.
California prosecutors normally charge first time DUI as a misdemeanor, which carries the following penalties:
- Up to six months in jail
- A fine that may range from $390 - $1,000
- A 6-month license suspension period
A second-time misdemeanor DUI conviction will attract a jail sentence of up to one year, a fine between $390 - $1,000 and a license suspension period of a maximum of two years. The penalties for third-time misdemeanor DUI are quite similar to that for second-time misdemeanor DUI, except that your driver’s license may be suspended for up to three years.
If you injure another person while driving under the influence, you risk facing a county jail term of up to one year, fines between $390 - $1,000, and a suspension of your license for 1 – 3 years. You will be charged with felony DUI if you already have three prior DUI convictions on your record or if there are other aggravating circumstances in your case. The punishments for felony DUI include a jail sentence of a maximum of three years, payment of fines ranging from $390 - $1,000, and a license suspension period of up to four years. Felony DUI causing injury has the most severe penalties, which include a state prison sentence of up to 16 years, fines between $1,015 - $5,000, and a maximum of five years suspension period on your driver’s license.
It can be challenging to compute the total cost of your DUI charges without the help of an attorney. Besides the fine, which you may be required to pay upon conviction, there are other penalty assessments and court fees that can raise the total cost of your DUI. Also, you may be required to attend a DUI school, as well as install an ignition interlock device inside your vehicle for a specific period. You will be personally responsible for the costs of IID installation and maintenance, as well as the DUI educational program.
Besides criminal penalties, other consequences of DUIs include:
- DUIs may affect your professional licenses and certifications
- A DUI conviction may increase automobile insurance costs and cause SR-22 requirements
- A DUI conviction can render you unable to gain future employment
- You may be unable to receive university admissions, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid if you have a DUI conviction on your record
- You will be required to sign a Watson Advisement, which the prosecution will use against you in any future DUI causing an accident
- Foreign nationals may undergo deportation and become disqualified from applying for US citizenship, visas, and green cards
How to Fight DUI Charges
The standard of proof in a DUI criminal court trial is beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if the prosecution has charged you with DUI, the court will consider you innocent until the prosecution has proved that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Often, it is quite difficult for the prosecutor to attain this high standard.
You can fight DUI charges by identifying certain doubts or legal flaws about the evidence of the prosecution. You can use police errors, inaccurate BAC test results, and some specific medical conditions to fight DUI charges and obtain an acquittal, a dismissal, or at the very least – a reduction of your charges. There are also other legal defenses to DUI, as well as arguments, objections, and motions that can increase the chances of an acquittal, dismissal, or a charge reduction. Below, we analyze for you the most common defenses to DUI in California:
1. Inaccurate BAC Test Results
Most BAC breath test results are usually incorrect. BAC breath testing kits can indicate falsely high positives due to the presence of mouth alcohol and improper use, maintenance, and calibration.
Also, blood tests can indicate inaccurate results if the investigating law enforcement officer did not conduct them properly. For instance, the officer may have contaminated the blood sample or stored it for a lengthened period or in an improper manner. If your defense attorney manages to convince the jury that the test results were inaccurate, you will receive an acquittal.
2. Medical Conditions
Certain medical conditions can cause an increase in an individual's BAC. Some of these medical conditions include auto-brewery syndrome, acid reflux, hiatal hernia, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
You can get a diagnosis from a doctor to prove that you suffer from one of these conditions. This way, the court will grant you a dismissal.
3. No Probable Cause
As per California’s traffic laws, a law enforcement officer should only motion you to pull over if he/she has a probable cause. You can utilize the defense of ‘no probable cause’ if you believe that the police officer did not have a clear reason for motioning you to pull over. In such a scenario, your attorney can request an evidence suppression hearing. He/she will then seek an exclusion of all the evidence the traffic officer obtained. This will leave the prosecution with insufficient evidence, and your charges may be dropped altogether.
4. Rising Blood Alcohol
The defense of rising blood alcohol is quite effective if there was a considerable delay between when you were pulled over, and the time you were subjected to the BAC test. Your attorney can hire an expert in toxicology if you opt to use this defense. This expert will demonstrate to the court that you had actually not exceeded the BAC limit while driving.
5. You were not Driving
One of the crucial elements that the prosecution must prove for you to be convicted of DUI is that you were driving. Therefore, if you were just seated or asleep inside your vehicle when a police officer approached you, you will not be held guilty for DUI.
Find a Glendale DUI Attorney Near Me
We at The Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel have an excellent track record of winning numerous DUI cases. Don’t put your future at risk by attempting to represent yourself. Call us today at 818-582-2350 for a free case evaluation.