Blood Alcohol Concentration
Driving under the influence of alcohol can result in serious injuries to yourself, to passengers in your vehicle or to pedestrians and other drivers on the road. Apart from the injuries, you may be convicted of a DUI offense which could cost you your driving license, a fine of up to $1,000 or even a jail sentence of up to four years depending on a variety of circumstances that we will highlight in this article.
When are you considered too drunk to drive?
For you to be arrested for drunk driving in the state of California, your BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) level must be 0.08% or greater. Although this number is scientifically proven and in the law, some experts are of the opinion that you can still safely maneuver a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% and that your mental concentration is only impaired when your BAC is more than 0.1%. Regardless of whom you want to believe it is important to recognize that if arrested and found with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, you will be charged in a court of law for driving under the influence of alcohol.
What exactly is the BAC?
Blood alcohol concentration is the concentration or amount of alcohol circulating in your bloodstream at a given time. It is normally expressed as a percentage. The moment you drink alcohol, it is quickly absorbed into your bloodstream and affects you in a variety of ways including mental impairment. The more you drink, the more your ability to function will be impaired and the higher your BAC will be.
As mentioned earlier, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher will mean you are too drunk to drive. Even though this percentage is scientifically proven, there are multiple legal defenses that can be used to challenge it in a court of law. For instance, there might be a problem in the way the sample was collected, stored, maintained or even in the way it was done.
The California Code of Regulations contains rules and regulations that should be followed in handling DUI evidence. Establishing that one or more of these rules and regulations were not adhered to could most probably result in the dismissal of the case against you. This is because the regulations help maintain the accuracy of the test and if the test is not accurate then it cannot be relied upon in a court of law.
The two main ways that the BAC is measured
Wherever you are in San Diego County or somewhere else throughout California, the two main ways that the police will probably use to determine your BAC percentage are breath tests and/ or blood tests.
These are the most common type of tests used by the police to establish a driver’s BAC level. There are a variety of standard testing gadgets that are used to do this. Most of these gadgets use the same principle of measuring the concentration of alcohol in deep lung air as this (air) is expected to have the closest interaction with your bloodstream. The gadgets then calculate your BAC by factoring in your blood-to-breath partition ratio.
Even though these tests are the most common and are usually sufficient to convict a driver of a DUI offense, there are some factors that might affect the accuracy of the final result. Some of the factors include irregular breathing, radiofrequency interference, and lingering mouth alcohol.
Our experienced San Diego DUI Attorney will look into these factors and other possible errors or violations of the California Code of Regulations DUI tests protocol to defend an incriminating DUI breath test.
DUI blood tests
DUI blood tests are often much more accurate than breath tests and are therefore given much more evidentiary weight in court. They are more precise because they directly measure the concentration of alcohol in your system. Even though they are more accurate, there are also a variety of factors that can affect their accuracy, e.g. how the blood sample is collected, how it is stored and the state of the vial used to collect the sample. The vial must contain a preservative and an anticoagulant to maintain the integrity of your blood sample.
Formidable lawyers know about these and other factors and have assistants who are ready to thoroughly examine the prosecution’s evidence and attack it from all angles.
Other tests used by the police while investigating DUI suspects
Apart from DUI blood and breath tests, there are other tests that can be used to check whether you are under the influence of alcohol. These tests are known as field sobriety tests. Failing to pass any of these tests could result in an arrest or further tests. There are multiple types of field sobriety tests but the most common ones are:
- The one leg stand test
- The walk in a line and turn test
- The horizontal gaze test
Even though these tests are frequently used by officers investigating those they suspect of driving under the influence, scientific studies have shown that they are usually not reliable for a variety of reasons including: vague/ non-specific instructions, non-alcohol related reasons for coordination failure, use of non-standardized field testing, difficult external conditions, inaccurate timing, improper shoes or clothes that may affect ability to successfully complete the tests, distracting officer behavior, and mental/ physical impairment.
Penalties for those found guilty of driving under the influence in San Diego County
There are four different sets of penalties for those found guilty of DUI in San Diego:
- First time driving under the influence conviction gets you: 96 hours in a county jail (can be converted into community service), a $390 fine, 36 months of informal probation, and the mandatory registration and the completion of a state-recommended 90-day alcohol recovery program.
- Second time driving under the influence conviction gets you: Three months in a county jail (can be converted to home confinement), multiple fines amounting to $2000, up to 5 years of informal probation, and the mandatory registration and the completion of a court-approved 18-month alcohol recovery program.
- Third time driving under the influence conviction gets you: A minimum of four months in county jail, multiple fines amounting to $2800, up to 5 years of informal probation, and the mandatory registration and the completion of a state recommended 30-month alcohol/ drug recovery program.
- Fourth time driving under the influence conviction gets you: Multiple penalties. First of all, a fourth time DUI conviction within the last 10 years is considered a serious offense. A felony. You will most probably face a felony DUI charge as established by Section 23152 of the California Vehicle Code. However, it is not just a straightforward exercise to charge and get a successful felony DUI conviction. The D.A. will have to prove a variety that: you were operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. And that you were convicted at least three times prior within the last ten years. The convictions could even have taken place in other states, but as long as they would have qualified as convictions in California, they will be accepted. Penalties include up to 4 years in prison, up to $1,000 in fines, registration as a Habitual Traffic Offender for 36 months, and/ or a revocation of your California Driving Privilege.
If after reading the above information you would like to speak to a San Diego DUI defense attorney about your case, you can contact us now at 619-535-7150 or visit us at our offices for a proper consultation and legal assistance.
What could result in even higher penalties?
Based on the unique circumstances of your case, you could face even heftier penalties for driving under the influence. Some of the unique factors that could result in heavier penalties include:
- Having a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.15% (experts regard this as being excessively drunk)
- Driving at high speeds while under the influence
- Causing an accident or injury while drunk
- Refusing to take a breath test or to participate in a field sobriety test
- Having a child passenger of 14 years or younger in the car when driving under the influence
- If you are younger than 21 at the time of your offense
What about DUI causing an injury or resulting in manslaughter?
These are even graver offenses under the California Vehicle Code and have even heavier penalties. Causing an injury while driving under the influence is illegal and can be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. The prosecutor just needs to prove that you were breaking the state’s DUI laws, that you acted negligently, and that your actions resulted in the injury of another person.
If you are convicted of misdemeanor DUI causing an injury you could face up to 5 years informal probation, a county jail sentence of up to 12 months, up to $5000 in fines, a suspension of your license, and having to compensate the injured party. While if convicted of a felony DUI causing an injury you could face up to 10 years if the injury is severe, up to $5000 in fines, a revocation of your driving privilege, and a Habitual Offender Status. Both convictions will send you to an approved alcohol rehabilitation program for up to 30 months.
A worse offense than that of an injury-causing DUI is that of causing “gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated”. This is basically driving under the influence and acting in such a negligent manner that results in the death of another road user. So the prosecutor has to prove two things, that your BAC level was 0.08% or higher and that you subsequently acted negligently to cause an accident. If convicted of this offense, you could serve up to 10 years in a California State Prison and your driver’s license could be suspended.
How We Fight California DUI charges
There are multiple legal defenses that can be used to fight DUI charges in San Diego and in California as a whole. These defenses could result in a dismissal or a reduced charge.
- Police misconduct: If the police acted in a manner that is illegal or did not fully adhere to the established legal protocols, the prosecutor will most likely dismiss the case. This must, however, be proven in a court of law.
- You weren’t driving: If your lawyer can prove that you were not driving or that you were found in a parked car, then it is unlikely that any DUI charges against you will be sustained in a court of law.
- No clear signs of mental impairment: Alcohol (and most other drugs) often affect the brain first. If the arresting officer testifies that you did not exhibit any signs of mental impairment, then the “signs” physical impairment and the BAC test results can be challenged.
- Illegal DUI sobriety checkpoints: Although sobriety checkpoints are legal and constitutional they must adhere to established legal protocols which include following a standard and predetermined way of choosing which cars to stop. Checkpoints that don’t adhere to established protocols can have the tests they did and their results challenged.
- Not reading your Miranda rights: When being arrested for DUI offenses or for any other offense the arresting officer must read you your Miranda rights. Failure to do so could result in the case being dismissed or in a reduced penalty if convicted.
- Breath test errors: A DUI breath test could be challenged by your criminal defense lawyer if it was improperly conducted, there was gadget malfunction, or it was affected by environmental factors.
- Blood test errors: If blood sample fermentation, coagulation, or contamination is suspected, your defense lawyer could make a blood split motion so as to investigate the reports detailing how your sample was collected, stored and analyzed.
- No probable cause in stopping your car for DUI investigation is also a strong challenge against a DUI charge.
How can an attorney help?
There are many different ways we could help you challenge a DUI charge regardless of how hopeless the situation may seem. The nature of our support is threefold: we first gather evidence to fight the charge, we then do legal research and file motions (including a motion to suppress or strike out evidence), and lastly, we do battle for you in court. If the prosecution did indeed have solid evidence for the charge, then we will do strategic negotiations for you to get a lighter sentence or better outcome overall. But this is not before we focus our full energies on getting you acquitted. Call San Diego DUI Attorney now at 619-535-7150 if you need a tactful and formidable DUI representation in San Diego, CA.