Your usual drink can turn out to be a nightmare if you get convicted with a DUI offense. It is quite easy to surpass the recommended blood alcohol content if you are not careful with your drinking. All the same, the kind of penalties that you get from such charges depend on different circumstances. It is recommendable to seek the intervention of a professional attorney to avoid severe punishment and get the right legal advisement. We at the San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm are committed to ensuring that you get a fair trial, and your rights are upheld as well. Even so, you should learn one or two things about California DUI to follow every proceeding accordingly. Here is a detailed overview of various aspects related to California DUI.
California DUI Law
California has established stringent laws related to DUI, and various law enforcement agencies have been relentlessly enforcing them. Some of the agencies involved in implementing this law include the California Highway Patrol, municipal police department, and the county sheriff’s department.
For any DUI case related to alcohol, there are two charges that follow. These charges include the Vehicle Code Section 23152 (A) and Vehicle Code Section 23152(B).
California Vehicle Code Section 23152(A)
Under this code, it is unlawful to drive a motor vehicle when impaired or under the influence of alcohol. The prosecutor usually supports his or her charges with driving patterns that indicate that you were intoxicated. Some of the driving habits that a prosecutor can use against you include:
- Unsteady gait
- Alleged poor performance in field sobriety tests
- Alcoholic beverage on your breath
- Bloodshot eyes, among others.
California Vehicle Code Section 23152(B)
Under this code, it is unlawful to operate a vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. The prosecutor usually uses different elements to prosecute an alleged offender, such as urine tests, breath tests, and blood tests.
For an apprehension that involves other drugs other than alcohol, only the California Vehicle Code Section 21352 (A) applies.
Elements Of Crime In a California DUI
An element of a crime is the part of the crime that a prosecutor must prove to convict an alleged offender thoroughly. In California DUI, the elements of crime vary between the VC 21352 (A) and (B).
Element Of Crime Under Subsection A
This section provides that it is unlawful to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Therefore, its elements include:
Driving A Motor Vehicle
The state of the prosecutor must prove that you drove a motor vehicle to satisfy this element. The law provides that the slightest movement of a car is enough to satisfy the element. Also, the elements can be satisfied through circumstantial evidence as long as it infers that the defendant drove the vehicle.
Driving While Under The Influence
To satisfy this element, the prosecutor must prove that you were under the influence of alcohol or another drug while you were driving. Further, the prosecutor must prove that you were incapable of driving a motor vehicle with the degree of caution that a sober and ordinary person would use while in a similar circumstance.
For the prosecutor to successfully prove that one had both mental and physical impairment, he or she usually rely on personal observations made by the investigating officer. The officer typically testifies based on poor performance on sobriety tests, erratic driving patterns, the defendant’s appearance, and other factors showing that one had an impaired physical and mental state.
Elements Of Crime Under Subsection B
In this subsection, the prosecutor usually bases on the blood alcohol content of 0.08% or above. Therefore, the elements of the crime are:
Driving A Motor Vehicle
Similar to subsection A, the prosecutor cannot successfully prosecute the defendant without satisfying the fact that he or she drove the motor vehicle.
The Defendant’s BAC Was 0.08% or Higher At The Time Of Driving
The California Laws provide that the investigating officer should prove an offense of DUI through a test. Therefore, the defendant must have taken a test and found with a BAC of 0.08% or higher to satisfy this element.
The section presumes that a person is guilty of a DUI offense if the BAC was 0.08% or higher even though he or she did not exhibit any driving patterns that show that one was mentally and physically impaired.
On the other hand, even when the alleged offender had a BAC below 0.08%, but exhibited symptoms of mental and physical impairment, the judge might as well infer to the mental and physical ability of the person and convict the offender with a DUI offense.
Note that the test does not have to be positive during the test to conclude that the person was intoxicated while driving. A toxicology report may establish that the defendant’s BAC was at 0.08% or higher through calculation methods regardless of whether the levels were not present during the test.
Testing And Consent
The prosecutor establishes the person’s BAC % by undertaking a blood or breath test. The fact that you were driving in California, it is deemed that you have given consent to conduct a chemical test of your blood or breath to determine the BAC of your blood.
Before the arrest, an arrestee should voluntarily conduct the test. Refusing to complete the test can subject you to license suspension, fines, and imprisonment once you are convicted. Therefore, you have the option of choosing between blood and breath test based on what you consider right. If it is impossible to administer both blood and breath tests, then the investigating officer should consider conducting a urine test.
Penalties For a California DUI
California DUI offense carries a lot of punishment and penalties depending on the circumstances surrounding the arrest. However, the two main aspects that can affect the kind of penalties include:
- The possibility of a prior DUI conviction
- Whether you injured a person while driving under the influence
Most DUI carry are considered as a misdemeanor unless it someone got injured or the offender has four prior DUI arrest, where it becomes a felony. Here is a breakdown of the penalties that apply depending on the circumstances surrounding the offender.
Penalties For 1st DUI
For anyone convicted with a first time DUI, the potential punishment includes:
- Probation for three to five years. Probation is also considered as summary
- imprisonment in a county jail that can last up to 6 months
- Fines that range between $390 - $1,000
- A court-approved alcohol and drug education program
- Mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlocking Device for six months and continue driving without restrictions. Alternatively, the judge might order 6-10 months of driver’s license suspension or converted to a one-month restricted license. In a restricted license, the driver can only drive to and from work, school, or the California DUI school.
Penalties for 2nd DUI
If an offender gets convicted with a second DUI offense within ten years of the first arrest, he or she becomes eligible for penalties related to the second DUI arrest. The penalties are as follows:
- 3- 5 years of summary probation
- County jail imprisonment ranging between 4 days to one year
- Fines between $390 - $1,000
- Completion of an 18 or 3o months court-approved California DUI school
- Mandatory installation of an ignition interlocking device, without driving restriction. Otherwise, you can get a suspension of the license by the DMV for two years, which is convertible to a year of restricted for a year.
Penalties For 3rd DUI
A third DUI also stands to be a misdemeanor unless there are serious injuries involved. A conviction for a third DUI offense include:
- Similar to a second DUI offense, a third offense carries a fine ranging between $390 -$1,000
- Jail time lasting between 120 days to one year in county jail
- License suspension for three years which is convertible to 18 months of restricted license or mandatory installation of an ignition interlocking device for two years where you can drive anywhere
- Completion of a 30 months court-approved education in a California DUI program
- Appellation as a habitual traffic offender (HTO ) by the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV)
Note that once anyone gets arrested for any of the above-stated California DUI, he or she has ten days to request a DMV hearing. During this period, any resolution to suspend the license gets postponed until the hearing comes up with a solution. However, the decision might require you to install an Ignition Interlocking Device, setting aside the suspension of your license.
Penalties For DUI With Injuries Or Death
Any DUI that resulted in death or injuries carries severe punishment compared to standard DUI. However, such cases are wobbler, meaning that they can be felonies or misdemeanors. The decision of whether it is a misdemeanor or felony depends on the circumstances of your arrest and your criminal history.
If one gets convicted with a misdemeanor DUI, the kind of penalties that apply are as follows:
- 3-5 years of summary probation
- County jail imprisonment that can last between five days to one year
- $390 - $1,000 fines
- An alcohol program attendance that can last for 3,18 and 30 months
- Mandatory installation of an Ignition Interlocking Device for six months before getting the freedom of driving without restrictions. Otherwise, you can get a one-year suspension of your driver’s license
- Restitution of all injured parties
For a felony DUI with injuries, the offender risks penalties such as:
- Imprisonment for 16 months to 10 years in state prison and additional consecutive imprisonment for six years based on the number of injured people and the extent of their injuries
- Possibility of a strike based on the California Three Strikes Law
- 18 – 30 months of alcohol or drug rehabilitation
- Fines amounting between $1,015 - $5,000
- Designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender Status lasting for three years
- Mandatory installation of an IID for 2- 3 years with the right to drive anywhere
- Restitution of all injured victims
Penalties For A California Felony DUI
For one to get a California felony DUI conviction, he or she must have acquired for or more DUI charges within ten years. Penalties for a California felony DUI include:
- 16 months. Two years or three years in the state prison
- Fines between $390 - $1,000
- Mandatory installation of the IID for at least a year or have a driver's license suspended for up to four years
- Designation as a Habitual Traffic Offender
In California, DUIs that resulted in death have different sentences compared with standard DUI and DUI with injuries. With such an offense, the offender risks life imprisonment and a strike designation that will be pursued different according to California’s Three Strikes law.
Aggravating Circumstances Leading To Increased Penalties
Some particular facts and circumstances can increase the sentence of a defendant if arrested with a DUI. These circumstances are referred to as aggravating circumstances and usually increase the DUI penalties regardless of whether the conviction is a first, second, third, or subsequent DUI.
Some of the common aggravating factors that can affect DUI penalties include:
- BAC of 0.15% or higher
- Failure to submit to a chemical test
- DUI with a child below the age of 14 in your car
- Driving while you are under 21 during the DUI offense
The kind of enhanced penalty that a defendant receives for the above-stated aggravating factors depends on the circumstances of the arrest and the criminal history of the offender.
Legal Defenses For Fighting DUI Charges
The role of an attorney, in any case, is to defend you from the allegation tabled by the prosecutor. For the attorney to successfully defend you against the prosecution, there must be reasonable and relevant legal defenses to fight the charges. All legal defenses should try to prove that:
- You were sober during the apprehension
- You were not physical or mental impaired while driving
- Your arresting officer failed to observe the right procedure as required by the law
Based on the summary of defenses that your attorney needs to present, you can avoid severe penalties using several defenses. Some of the defenses that you can use are as follows:
Your Erratic Driving Patterns Do Not Mean You Were Driving Under the Influence
The prosecutor usually focuses on building your case on your driving patterns. However, a professional DUI attorney can rebut such allegations by claiming that most erratic driving patterns are common with sober people, and the claim is not reliable in predicting a DUI.
The Field Sobriety Test Subjected By The Arresting Officer Was Not Properly Administered
Results from a field sobriety test can subject an alleged person to conviction. However, your attorney should challenge the results by claiming that the results were false due to:
- Your natural physical coordination
- Your clothing
You Had A Rising BAC
In this defense, the attorney must prove that your BAC was below the legal limit when driving and rose during the time of the arrest. Typically, BAC takes 45 minutes to 3 hours to rise in the blood system, and significant delays before the breath test can lead to the rise. Also, you can use this defense if you did not show any other signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech or traffic violations.
Claim That The Objective Symptoms That You Exhibited Does Not Mean That You Were Driving Under the Influence
The prosecutor usually uses physical symptoms exhibited by the defendant to conclude that he or she was under the influence. Some of the physical symptoms include slurred speech, red and watery eyes, a flushed face, and an unsteady gait. You attorney should be able to challenge such allegations by explaining that the signs resulted from:
- Eye irritation
- A cold
Claim That Diabetes, Hypoglycemia Or High Protein Diet Led To False BAC Results
Usually, the body gets energy through the metabolism of carbohydrates. However, in specific conditions such as fasting, high protein diet, diabetes, and hypoglycemia can lead to toxic by-products known as ketones, which are usually confused with alcohol. Some of the ketones get excreted through breath and can be confused with alcohol content during a breath test.
The Officer Failed To Comply With California’s Title 17 On Chemical Testing
Under the California Code of Regulations Title 17, a DUI investigating officer must follow specific requirements to administer the procedure successfully. These requirements include:
- Take a 15 minutes observation period before undertaking the test
- Ensure that the person conducting the test is appropriately trained
- Ensure that the testing equipment used in the test is regularly calibrated
- Ensure that there are proper handling and storage of the samples collected for testing
A reliable attorney can challenge the results of the test based on the requirements, as mentioned above if he or she proves a violation of any of them.
There are lots of other defenses that an attorney can use. It is recommendable to ensure that each defense that the attorney intends to use carries enough weight to help in your case.
Statute Of Limitation In California DUI
The time limit that the state or prosecutor has to file a DUI charge depends on whether the case is a misdemeanor or a felony. The statute of limitations in California DUI offense is as follows:
- If the offense is a misdemeanor, the prosecutor or government has a year to file the case against you
- If it is a felony DUI, the prosecutor or government has three years to file the lawsuit against you
California DUI Related Crimes
There are specific types of crimes that are close or related to DUI but do not fall under Vehicle Code 23152( A) or (B). Some of these crimes include:
Commercial DUI Offense
Under California Vehicle Code 23152 (D), it is unlawful for a commercial driver to drive with a BAC of 0.04 or higher. If one gets apprehended with the BAC within or beyond the standard limit, the driver risks penalties such as:
- Summary probation
- County jail imprisonment up to a year
- 3- 36 months in a court-ordered California DUI school
DUI Offense For Minors
California Vehicle Code 23136 has a zero-tolerance policy on DUI cases that involve minors. The law makes it unlawful for anyone under 21 years of age with a BAC of 0.01% or higher. Violating VC 23136 is not a crime, but it subjects the offender to a mandatory suspension of the driving license. The suspension lasts for a year for a first offense and two to three years for a subsequent offense.
Gross Vehicular Manslaughter
Under Penal Code 195.1 (a), gross vehicular manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another person while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The California laws consider such an offense as a felony and might subject the offender to:
- California state imprisonment for 4,6 or 10 years
- 15 years of imprisonment if one had a prior conviction of a similar charge or had two or more prior DUI charges
- 25 years imprisonment if you had been convicted with a California three strike offense
DUI With A Passenger Under The Age Of 14
Under California Vehicle Code 23572, it is unlawful to drive under the influence while with a passenger under the age of 14. any charges related to this offense will lead to enhancement of your initial sentence as follows:
- For the first DUI, you will get a 48 hours jail time enhancement
- For the second DUI, you risk an enhancement of 10 days in jail
- For a third DUI, you will get a 30 days enhancement of your jail time
- For a fourth DUI ( whether a felony or misdemeanor), you will get 90 days’ enhancement of the jail time.
Find A San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm Near Me
Facing a California DUI charge is complex and demanding to the defendant. It requires one to seek the help of a professional attorney to offer the necessary legal intervention and advisement needed to handle the case accordingly. We at the San Jose DUI Attorney Law Firm understand the complexity and stress that results from a conviction and are ready to help you. Contact us today at 408–777–6630 to consult one of our attorneys.