DUI Laws In The State Of California

California has strict drunk driving laws. The punishment for violating these laws varies depending on whether anyone was injured due to drunk driving and if you have a prior DUI charge. Some potential consequences you could face following a conviction include a jail term, fines, and probation. If you face DUI charges, you should seek the services of a skilled DUI attorney, given that the potential consequences are severe and life-changing. Darwish Law Firm can help you create a defense to fight DUI charges in Santa Ana. We take pride in defending people accused of DUI and ensuring the best outcome for their cases.

Overview Of Standard DUI Laws And Per Se DUI

The major drunk driving laws for adult motorists are VC 23152(a) and VC 23152(b). VC 23152(a) makes it an offense for you to drive a vehicle while inebriated with alcohol. VC 23152(b) makes it a crime to drive a car with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. If the police arrest you for DUI, you could face the charges in court under these two statutes. The penalties you could face vary based on the facts of your case and your criminal history.

VC 23152(a) is the standard DUI statute against driving under the influence. Being under the influence means your mental and physical abilities are compromised, and you cannot drive carefully and safely as a sober motorist. You could face charges under this law even if your blood alcohol concentration level was below 0.08%, provided your driving ability is impaired.

Blood Alcohol Concentration

Per Se, DUI is outlined under Vehicle Code 23152(b). Under this law, if you drive a car with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more, you are considered to be under the influence. Generally, the legal standard blood alcohol concentration limit is 0.08%.

Per Se is a Latin term meaning 'in itself .' If your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or more, this is considered per se DUI because it infringes the laws in and of itself. In this case, the prosecutor does not need to prove that your driving abilities were impaired. You could face charges even if you were not intoxicated while driving.

Non-commercial adult drivers are subject to a per se BAC of 0.08% or more. Commercial adult drivers are subject to a per se BAC limit of 0.04% and above. Minors or underage drivers, on the other hand, are subject to a per se BAC limit of 0.05%.

The Implied Consent Law

If you are lawfully arrested for driving under the influence, this law requires that you undergo breath tests to determine your blood alcohol concentration level. You could face several penalties if you refuse to submit to a breath test. Some of the penalties could include the following:

  • Enhanced punishments, in addition to the standard DUI punishments.
  • A mandatory suspension of your driver’s license that takes effect irrespective of the results of your case.

The following are the enhanced DUI penalties for failing to undergo a breath test:

  • If you are a first-time DUI offender, you will face an additional 48 hours jail term and at least nine months in a DUI school. This differs from the typical three-month DUI School for first-time offenders who undergo breath tests.
  • You will face an additional 96 hours jail term if you are a second-time offender.
  • You will face an additional ten days jail term if you are a third-time offender.
  • If it is your fourth or subsequent DUI offense, you will face an additional 18 days jail term.

Unfortunately, the implied consent law regarding chemical testing is unclear after a lawful DUI arrest. This statute initially covered only blood and drunk driving breath tests. For example, the police would arrest you for refusing to submit to blood testing. In this case, you cannot face charges for refusing to consent to blood testing if the police do not have a legal warrant. However, some other court rulings could influence the jurisdictions that consider it a separate offense for you to refuse a DUI blood test after a lawful arrest.

You could face enhanced penalties if you refuse to submit to chemical testing. It is, therefore, at the judge's discretion to determine if this is similarly illegal and whether implied consent laws can apply to DUI blood tests.

Usually, the police can order you to undergo a DUI blood test under three different circumstances. These include:

  • Felony DUI suspicions.
  • Suspicion of DUID.
  • Legal warrant for chemical testing.

Felony DUI Suspicions

The police will employ a forced blood draw for a DUI chemical test if he/she suspects felony drunk driving but cannot secure a warrant fast. A DUI could amount to a felony offense if:

  • You have at least one previous felony DUI charge.
  • You have had three or more DUI or wet reckless charges in the past ten years.
  • It leads to injury.

Generally, an implied consent law can only be associated with breath tests after a lawful DUI arrest. Therefore, you could still refuse to undergo a roadside PAS breath test before you are arrested. You will not face charges for refusing to consent to PAS tests unless you are serving probation for a prior DUI conviction or you are under 21 years.

Refusing to undergo a PAS test will only be admissible as proof of guilt in court if you are serving probation for a DUI or below 21 years. However, if you submit to a PAS test, the outcome will be used as proof to support a DUI charge.

Suspicion Of DUID

The police will ask you to consent to a DUI blood test if he/she has grounds to believe that the outcome will reveal the presence of drugs in your blood. The police could have grounds for suspicion based on the physical evidence of drug usage, signs of drug impairment, objective symptoms, and your remarks.

Legal Warrant For Chemical Testing

The police will order you to undergo a DUI blood test if he/she has a lawful warrant for the test. The judges issue warrants, permitting legal authorization for chemical DUI testing.

Drunk-Driving Laws For Minors

Vehicle Code 23136 for the Zero Tolerance Laws and Vehicle Code 23140 are the fundamental laws that govern underage DUI.

  1. Vehicle Code 23136 — Zero Tolerance Law

Also known as the zero-tolerance law, VC 23136 is the statute that governs drunk driving for juveniles. This statute was passed in Parliament in 1994 to deal with underage DUI issues. It is a crime under this statute for a person under 21 to drive a car with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01 or more after taking any alcoholic beverage.

Your blood alcohol concentration could rise from 0% to 0.01% even if you take a small quantity of alcohol. According to Vehicle Code 23136, alcoholic beverages are not just alcoholic drinks. Alcohol can come from any source. Apart from alcoholic products, alcohol can be present in cough syrups, over-the-counter flu medications like Nyquil, and homeopathic remedies.

A post-arrest DUI chemical test is used to measure the level of blood alcohol concentration in a standard DUI charge. The level of your blood alcohol concentration could be ascertained under the zero tolerance law through a preliminary alcohol-screening test. After your arrest, the police will use a breathalyzer to administer PAS tests by the roadside. The breathalyzer will generally measure your breath alcohol content and translate it mathematically to a blood alcohol level, which is roughly equivalent.

 A driver under the age of 21 is presumed to have consented to roadside tests if he/she is suspected of driving under the influence.

The DMV will automatically suspend or revoke your driving license for one year if you are below 21, stopped for DUI, and refuse to consent to PASS tests. If this happens, you will not qualify for a restricted license.

Conviction Under Zero Tolerance Law And Other DUI Laws

Usually, you can only face the charges under VC 23152(a) or VC 23152(b), but not both. The law protects offenders from facing charges under multiple DUI laws for similar acts. However, there is an exception under VC 23136. You could be guilty under the zero tolerance law alongside other additional DUI statutes if you were drunk driving or your blood alcohol concentration was high. Additionally, you could face charges under more than one DUI law in addition to VC 23136. This could happen even if the judge convicts you of one crime.

It is not a criminal offense to violate VC 23136. In this case, you will be charged with a civil crime. The only punishment you could face for violating VC 23136 is suspension or revocation of your driving license by the DMV. The suspension is known as an APS or administrative per se suspension. You would have to wait one year before reinstating your driving license if it was suspended for violating VC 23136.

The police will take your license and send it to the DMV once you receive a citation for violating VC 23136. The police could then issue you a temporary driving license for only 30 days. Your driving license will be suspended or revoked once the 30-day window expires or if you fail to request a DMV hearing within ten days of receiving a citation. You can also request a DMV hearing if your driving license is revoked or suspended for refusing to consent to a preliminary chemical test or alcohol screening.

You could still be charged for violating VC 23136 even if you were not impaired. Simply operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01% or more is a crime under this law for an underage motorist.

  1. Underage DUI With A BAC Of 0.05% Or Above— Vehicle Code 23140

It is a crime under VC 23140 for anyone under 21 to drive a car with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05% or more. Post-arrest chemical tests are used to determine the blood alcohol concentration. This could be a breath or blood test. A portable device is used to administer a breath test at the police station.

You could face infraction charges for violating VC 23140. A parking ticket is an example of an infraction regarded as a low-level crime. Therefore, if you violate this law, you cannot face a jail term. However, you could face the following penalties if you are a first-time offender:

  • Three to six mandatory alcohol classes.
  • Suspension of your driving license for a period that does not exceed one year.
  • A fine that does not exceed $100.

If you fail to undergo a post-arrest or PAS test, your driving license could be suspended for a period that does not exceed one year. The DMV could also suspend your driving license for two or more years if you have one or more prior convictions for refusing to consent to chemical tests for drunk driving or wet recklessness under VC 23103.5.

The law also allows you to contest the suspension of your driver's license, even those resulting from failing to consent to chemical tests. You first need to request a DMV hearing. You must request it within ten days of being accused of violating VC 23140. Unless you request that the DMV hold the hearing in person, it is usually held over the phone. Your attorney can oversee the entire hearing and defend you during it.

The DMV will reverse the license suspension if you prevail at the hearing. If you lose at the hearing, you could do the following:

  • Contesting the DMV outcome by filing a written petition along with a $120 fee within 15 days of the ruling date.
  • Request a special license known as a critical use restricted license. If there is no other mode of transport, this license will allow you to go to and from school.

Commercial DUI Laws —VC 23152(d)

You could face DUI charges under VC 23152(d) if you have a commercial driving license and drive a commercial vehicle while intoxicated. You could face charges for violating this law if your BAC was 0.04 or more when you drove the commercial car.

Suspension of your driver's license is one of the penalties for violating VC 23152(d). You could also face a one-year license suspension under VC 15300 if convicted of a first DUI crime. Your commercial license will also be suspended permanently if you are convicted of a subsequent DUI under VC 15302.

DUI Regulations For Lyft, Limo, Uber, And Taxi Drivers — VC 23152(e)

Driving a Taxi, Limo, Lyft, or Uber with a BAC of 0.04% or more is a crime. You could face misdemeanor charges if it is your first, second, or third offense. A fourth DUI offense is usually charged as a felony. You could face enhanced penalties if aggravating factors are present. Some of the aggravating factors include the following:

  • You had a passenger below 14 years.
  • You failed to consent to a DUI test.
  • You were speeding.
  • Causing an accident while intoxicated.

You cannot drive a Lyft or Uber if your prior DUI charge occurred within the last ten years.

Driving While Under The Influence Of Drugs — VC 23152(f)

The following laws make it a crime to drive under the influence of drugs:

  • Driving while under the influence of drugs — VC 23152(f), and
  • Driving while under the influence of both drugs and alcohol — VC 23152(g)

According to the above laws, a drug is any substance, apart from alcohol, that can affect a person's muscles, nervous system, and brain. Drugs can include antihistamines, prescription drugs, heroin, and cannabis.

There is no specific threshold for drugs for DUI purposes. This is due to experts’ disagreement over the level of drug impairment that could make a driver unable to operate a vehicle. According to California law, it is just unlawful for you to drive:

  • While under the influence of drugs.
  • While abusing any type of drug, unless you are on medication for your addiction as part of a recognized program,
  • While under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs.

Defenses For DUI Charges

Some of the defenses you could present to challenge your DUI charges include:

  • Your BAC was high because of rising blood alcohol, meaning that at the time of driving, your blood alcohol concentration was not above the allowable limit.
  • A medical condition mimicked intoxication — medical conditions that could lead to elevated BAC include diabetes, GERD, and acid reflux.
  • Your blood samples were contaminated, or the testing device was defective.
  • You received the wrong instructions for sobriety tests — the officers administering FSTs must be qualified and should also adhere to the applicable guidelines.
  • Law enforcement had no probable cause to stop your vehicle — the law requires the arresting officer to have a probable reason for stopping a vehicle.

Find DUI Attorney Near Me

If the prosecutor accuses you of driving under the influence, you must understand the California DUI laws and the potential consequences of violating them. You should contact a knowledgeable and competent DUI attorney soon after your arrest. Your attorney will evaluate your case and help you create a defense to challenge your charges. At Darwish Law, we have experienced attorneys who can help you fight your DUI charges. Contact us at 714-887-4810 to talk to one of our experienced Santa Ana attorneys.