Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (DUI) attracts heavy penalties in California. Considering that the law is stringent on DUI, it is easy to find yourself faced with DUI charges even when you consider yourself sober enough to drive. Specific DUI charges attract different penalties depending on the offender, the location, or the occupants of the vehicle at the time of the offense. Similar laws apply to riding bikes and for boaters as well. If faced with DUI charges, you need to consult an attorney who is conversant with DUI laws to help you defend your case without an adverse implication. We at the San Diego DUI Attorney assist people facing DUI charges in San Diego, CA. Contacting a Boulevard DUI attorney can help you sort your situation and avoid the harsh penalties and emotional turmoil associated with DUI charges.
What the California Law States
The California DUI law considers you intoxicated as long as your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is or exceeds 0.08 percent. The law is very stringent, and no further evidence is necessary to prove that you committed a DUI offense as long as you failed the BAC test.
Zero Tolerance Laws
Underage drinking is a severe offense in California. It is a crime for a person under the age of 21 to take even a small amount of alcohol. Underage drivers can face charges for having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01% for the zero-tolerance offense. If you are underage and are caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01% or more, you are liable to conviction of infraction. This conviction carries a penalty of up to $250 in fines, and also a minimum of one-year license suspension. Considering that most fatal accidents involving young drivers result from driving under the influence of alcohol, the law puts it clear that any amount of alcohol in the system for an underage is illegal. Zero Tolerance laws aim at curbing all risks of underage drinking and driving
If you are underage and you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05% or more, you can face charges for an underage DUI offense, an infraction. The penalties for underage DUI might be lesser than for zero tolerance, but they are still severe. If convicted, you might get your license suspended for one year and a fine ranging from $100 to $300 depending on your record. For an underage driver but one who has at least reached the age of 18 years, he/she has to submit to an alcohol education program as a condition for license reinstatement.
A small amount of beer or wine could land a young driver on the wrong side of the law. Far much implication may result from underage drinking and driving. Some insurance companies and employers check on your records for underage drinking and driving. It is, therefore, suitable to defend yourself if implicated. Putting up such a defense might not be easy. Seeking the help of a Boulevard DUI attorney can offer sound advice.
Per Se DUI Laws
If your blood alcohol concentration is or has exceeded 0.08 percent, which is the limit set by the law, you might be liable if found driving and charged with DUI Per Se. That means that even if an individual is sober but has consumed alcohol, the law will still catch up with you if you drive and have exceeded the per se legal limit of blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%. In such cases, the law leans on the prosecutor, eliminating all requirements of sobriety testing or on-scene evaluation. As long as the BAC level exceeds the set limit of blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%, the prosecutor's work becomes easy.
Many factors often influence BAC levels, including; the time of day you were drinking, your body size, your gender, and some medical conditions affecting alcohol metabolism. Other influencing factors include the type of beer, whether you had eaten before consuming alcohol, and the number of drinks that you take.
Curbing drunk driving is the target of all state agencies, hence exceeding the BAC level of 0.08% may not leave much chance to you if caught behind the wheel. A Per Se DUI focuses on the alcohol content in your body and does not require proof that you were impaired by alcohol taken. However, that does not mean that if you are caught, you cannot challenge and defend yourself. You can still defend yourself by pointing to:
Illegally obtained evidence – If, in your case, the police required you to take a blood test without first obtaining a warrant, you have grounds for your defense and hopefully have the results of the test considered as illegal evidence. Since blood test is one of the most common methods used to measure blood alcohol concentration, it might work in your favor in case a warrant was not obtained.
BAC tests’ accuracy – If the breathalyzer was not properly maintained or malfunctioned at the time of the test, you can challenge its results. You might also argue that the officer who conducted the test was not conversant with the use of the machine or that he/she failed to follow proper procedures. In such cases, you can challenge the accuracy of BAC testing results and walk free.
Rising-blood-alcohol-defense - Blood alcohol concentration is not stable at all times. Immediately after drinking when the alcohol is absorbed into your body, the blood alcohol concentration rises. Later on, when the alcohol is metabolized, your blood alcohol concentration begins to fall. You may put up a defense between the time of arrest and the time of testing your blood alcohol concentration rose above the legal limit. This kind of argument is technical and may require an expert to argue your case, but any avenue to freedom is worth trying.
Considering the technicalities that come with DUI cases and their complexity, and also that very little proof of blood alcohol concentration is enough to convict you, it is wise to consult an attorney. Be sure to engage a Boulevard DUI attorney who is experienced in handling such cases. Talk to one of our attorneys, and you can rest knowing your case will be in the hand of professionals.
Aggravating Factors for DUI
When the blood alcohol concentration greatly exceeds the set limit of 0.08% typically two or three times more, the offense becomes aggravated DUI. Aggravated DUI carries heavy penalties and even greater prison terms. Several other factors lead to aggravated DUI, which include;
If at the time of DUI arrest, there were minors in the vehicle that can result in aggravated DUI and attract higher penalties on conviction. The situation becomes worse if the DUI offense happens near a school regardless of whether there were minors in the vehicle or not. A minor in this case is a child below 14 years of age. This attracts mandatory jailing of 30 days for a third offense, ten days for the second offense, and 48 hours for a first offense.
Multiple DUI Convictions
The universal law considers repeat offenders worse than first-time offenders, and DUI laws are no exception. The law is harsher on repeat offenders, usually to discourage would-be offenders. On your first DUI conviction, you are supposed to refrain as much as you can from repeating a DUI offense. Harsher penalties will apply, and you might end up serving longer jail terms and ruining your reputation as that amounts to an aggravated DUI.
A Suspended or Revoked license
If caught driving on a suspended or revoked license, you will be liable to charges amounting to aggravated DUI. This portrays a very negative image of a person who disregards the law. This might land you in hefty penalties or even imprisonment. You might also be charged with a misdemeanor for driving without a license in possession, even if you hold one.
Excessive speed may also aggravate DUI charges as it poses a serious threat to other motorists and road users. If, at the time of arrest, you were driving on the street for more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit or for over 30 miles per hour over the speed limit on a highway, the offense adds 60 days to your jail term. It becomes an aggravated DUI because apart from the blood alcohol concentration exceeding 0.08%, you committed a second offense of excessive speed, which poses a severe threat to yourself and other motorists.
Where the offense of DUI involved injury or death of more than one victim, the penalties become harsher. The law requires that a one-year enhancement be added to your jail term for each victim but is limited to three years in total.
DUIs in Safety Enhancement and Construction Zones
If you commit a DUI in construction zones where there is usually a large number of people, or even in safety enhancement zones, your penalty is generally doubled. This is so because your DUI offense poses a severe threat to a large number of people and is considered an aggravated DUI.
Implied Consent Laws
If you are lawfully arrested for a DUI offense, the law requires you to agree to chemical testing to establish blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or the number of other drugs in your system. A driver is at liberty to choose between a blood or breath test, but in the absence of the two, the driver must take a urine test. Failure to submit to a test has serious implications. You can have your license confiscated, pay fines, or face jail time if convicted of a DUI. Test refusal can also be used against you in court, and you do not have a right to speak to your attorney before taking the test.
On establishing your refusal to take a breath, blood, or urine test, you will have your license suspended for one year. If you have had a DUI conviction for the last ten years or you were caught in a reckless driving scenario, and you refuse to take the test a second time, you will lose your license for two years. The situation worsens on the third refusal, where the penalty is a three-year suspension. This also applies if you had a DUI conviction for the last ten years or have had more than one reckless driving.
Total refusal to submit to a blood alcohol concentration test may not help you. On the contrary, it may work against you, where it may be interpreted as a consciousness of guilt. The prosecutor may argue that you refused to take the test because you knew it would be positive. If you happen to find yourself in a compromising situation like in implied consent cases, it is wise to seek legal advice. License suspension or cancellation can be very inconveniencing and devastating, especially if you drive to work. An experienced Boulevard DUI attorney can handle the matter.
When caught driving under the influence (DUI), it is possible to plea bargain for a lesser charge. If the plea bargain for a lesser charge is for reckless driving, it is referred to as a wet reckless. It is upon the prosecutor to weigh the options and assess whether the DUI can be reduced to a wet reckless. A prosecutor who agrees to such an arrangement must explain the reason, in court, for such a reduction. It must also be stated in the record whether other drugs were involved or it was only alcohol and the facts thereabout to support the final decision.
Plea bargaining is not allowed in all DUI cases. It can be permitted where the prosecution feels that the evidence is too weak to prove the DUI charge, it is difficult or impossible to obtain the testimony of a critical witness or where significant change would not result from taking such a plea.
Taking a reckless driving plea has some benefits in that the penalties for reckless driving offense are much lesser than for a DUI offense. Wet reckless also carries some penalties if convicted. You might be put on probation, whereby you are required to participate in alcohol and drug awareness sensitization programs.
Wet reckless qualifies as a prior DUI conviction. That means that if you are caught with another DUI offense within ten years following wet reckless conviction, it will be treated as a second offense and not the first offense. The wet reckless will be treated as a DUI conviction regarding the second DUI offense.
Consequences of DUI conviction
In California, the outcome of your DUI offense will largely be determined by whether it is a first, second, third, or even a fourth offense. The weight of the fine and penalties will also vary depending on prior convictions. It will also depend on whether there was an injury or death in the DUI offense. In most cases of DUI arrests, you will be charged with misdemeanor DUI. At times, however, you might face felony DUI charges. This will occur if the prosecutors prove that a person was injured or you have four or even more prior DUI convictions or a felony DUI in ten years.
Apart from court penalties, several other negative consequences can follow. These may include potential employers putting background checks on prior DUI. It can affect your insurance certificates and even professional licenses. Insurance costs go up and trigger SR22 requirements, thus affecting your university education, financial borrowing capability since financiers may request your record on DUI. Further, a mandatory ignition interlock device installation might be required, and you might even be required to sign a Watson Advisement, which will be used against you in court if you are caught again on DUI in the future.
First Offense DUI
A first offense DUI is usually a misdemeanor that does not attract heavy penalties. The penalty will range from $390 to $1,000 in fines though the figure could rise to $3,600 on assessment and fees. You can also have your license suspended for six months by a criminal court and be put on three years’ probation. In some cases, your vehicle might be installed with an ignition interlock device for up to six months.
A second DUI offense is also a misdemeanor carrying a penalty ranging from $390 to$1,000 in fines, which on assessment and fees can go up to $4,000. You may even end up facing up to one year in jail and have your license suspended for two years. For a second DUI, you will be subjected to 3 years’ probation and have your car installed with a mandatory ignition interlock device for one year.
If convicted of a third DUI offense, which is a misdemeanor, you will face a fine ranging from $390 to$1,000 in fines and other penalties that on assessment can rise to $18,000. The offense can also get you a one-year jail term or 16 months in state prison. Such a crime will also have your license suspended for three years, and you can be subjected to probation of 3 to 5 years. You will also include the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device in your car for two years.
Contact a Boulevard DUI Attorney Near Me
Considering the broad scope of DUI laws in California and the fact that driving and vehicles are a part of our lives, it is easy to find yourself on the offensive. This needs not to worry you. We at the San Diego DUI Attorney have experts who have handled numerous such cases. Call us at 619-535-7150 and talk to one of our Boulevard DUI attorneys for a chance to clear your name and walk free.