Under California law (California Vehicle Code 23152(a)), it is a crime to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence.
For most drivers, the maximum allowable blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent.
That being said, the state’s DUI laws are more complicated than that.
There are circumstances in which a defendant could be charged with a DUI even if their BAC is below 0.08.
Specifically, you should know the following key things about intoxicated driving laws in California:
It should also be noted that you can be charged with a DUI for drugged driving.
Drugged driving charges are especially complicated, as there is not an accepted test to assess the motorist’s level of ‘impairment’.
First and foremost, the most important factor is the driver’s history of prior DUI convictions or lack thereof.
A first time DUI offense in California is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine, a six-month prison term, and a lengthy license suspension.
The defendant may also be ordered to complete a DUI training school or to install an interlock ignition device on their personal vehicle.
For every subsequent offense, the penalties will only become more severe. Notably, for a fourth DUI offense (or more), the crime will be charged as a felony.
To be clear, a defendant’s personal driving history is not the only relevant factor that will be looked at when determining penalties for a DUI.
There are other factors that could potentially result in a defendant facing heightened punishment — potentially even felony charges. Specifically, California DUI charges can be ‘upgraded’ if:
If you are stopped for a DUI, you should pull over your vehicle quickly and safely.
Be polite and give the officer your license and registration when requested.
From there, you should generally remain silent. You have no obligation to answer incriminating questions.
Yes. Under California’s implied consent law, defendants who have been lawfully arrested are required to submit to a breathalyzer test.
If you refuse such a test, your license will be subject to an automatic one-year suspension.
Unlike post-arrest chemical tests, field sobriety tests are optional in California.
As field sobriety tests have, at times, error rates, it is often not in your best interests to take one.
You will not be punished simply for declining to take a field sobriety test.
You might. The good news is that you can take action to preserve your driving privileges. Following a DUI arrest, your license will be subject to an automatic administrative suspension.
In other words, it will be suspended before you ever get your day in court.
However, you have ten days to request a DMV hearing.
By doing so, you will put a temporary hold on the administrative suspension. Your lawyer can help you protect your license.
While the consequences will become more severe with every instance, even a first-time DUI offense could result in large fines, the loss of your driving privileges, and even jail time.
If you were arrested on intoxicated driving charges in California, you need to take immediate action to protect your rights and your future.
At the Law Offices of William R. Burgener, APC, we are skilled advocates for defendants.
We have a deep understanding of California's drunk driving laws and the strategies used by prosecutors in these cases.
Our law office will protect your rights, your freedom, and your future.