California and other states treat driving under the influence as a severe crime because of the possible consequences DUI has on other people and property. For instance, an accident resulting from drunk driving can lead to a loss of life and damage to property. Consequently, possible penalties of DUI depends on several factors, otherwise known as aggravating circumstances, and whether you have a prior DUI on your record.

While misdemeanor DUI offenses such as first-time DUI may not carry a jail term, you can still face other consequences if you are convicted, including a DUI criminal record for up to ten years. Therefore, you will need a DUI attorney to help you fight the charges, whether it is your first-time charge or subsequent charges. The DUI Defense Attorney in Van Nuys is experienced in defending many DUI defendants to a successful outcome, and we invite you to contact us for professional help.

What is DUI?

Driving under the influence, commonly called DUI, happens when a motorist operates a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A motorist in California can be charged with DUI if they have a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or more. Underage drivers, who are 21 years and below, can be charged with DUI if they are found to have a BAC of 0.01% and above. On the other hand, Commercial Driver’s License holders could be charged with DUI if they are found to be driving with a BAC of 0.04% or above.

Just like all the other states, California has DUI laws in place, which set the BAC limit of motorists to 0.08% as provided in Section 23152(b) of the California Vehicle Code. Drivers on probation for a previous DUI offense can face another charge of drunk driving if they are found to be driving with a BAC level of 0.01% and above according to Section 23154 of California Vehicle Code.

Having a BAC level of 0.01% or higher may not get you a DUI conviction, but a driver may get a year or two years of suspension by California DMV through administrative action. If that person has a BAC level of 0.08% or more, this will be termed as a dual action, and the person will face the consequences for both offenses since they were committed while they were on DUI probation.

Any person operating a motorized vehicle can get a DUI offense. This includes people who run lawnmowers, motorized watercraft, motorized bicycles, and mopeds. There are many issues that everyone needs to be aware of, especially those who have already been arrested and charged with DUI. That is why anyone who is arrested for DUI is supposed to have proper legal representation. An experienced DUI defense attorney is one who understands DUI laws better to offer advice and support throughout your arrest, trial, and release. They will ensure that you do not pay for a crime you are innocent.

DUI and BAC Levels

As mentioned above, a motorist can get a DUI charge if they are driving with a BAC of 0.08% or more. BAC, in this case, is the blood alcohol content, which shows the amount of alcohol in the driver's blood. A high BAC can alter a person's ability to concentrate and operate a vehicle. Also, a higher BAC can attract severe penalties than those that have already been set for standard DUI.

A person's blood alcohol concentration is believed to rise as the person continues to drink. Thus, there is a very close connection between a driver's BAC and their level of impairment. This explains why DUI laws use BAC as the primary mark of whether a person is driving under the influence or not.

When a driver is stopped on suspicion of DUI, the police will either carry out a blood or breath test to measure how much he/she had to drink. Blood testing is not an easy thing to go through, for both the driver and the police as it involves drawing blood from the suspect and having it analyzed in a lab. The tests are usually done in a police station or a medical facility, and it could take a while before the results are out. Breath tests, on the other hand, are much easier to administer. The police do not need help in using a breathalyzer, and the results are usually instantaneous. Most DUI suspects prefer to have their breath tests taken, but for legal procedures, a BAC must be established to be sure that the driver was indeed driving under the influence.

Even with the strict DUI laws in place, California is still receiving a high number of reported DUI cases. The police are therefore on high alert and will arrest anyone that is driving in a manner to suggest they are intoxicated. Thus, there is a high chance of being arrested even when you are not driving under the influence, and it will be wise to seek legal advice in these situations.

DUI Laws in California

Just like every other state, California has strict penalties for anyone found guilty of drunk driving. Penalties vary greatly, from one case to the other. In most cases, they involve jail terms, community service, and fines, with the aggravated forms of the offense carrying stricter penalties involving prison terms and more substantial fines.

As provided under the State's Vehicle Code 23152 VC, a person could be charged with up to 7 DUI offenses in the state of California. These are:

  • DUI with impaired mental and physical abilities (no BAC level required)

  • DUI with 0.08% BAC or higher

  • Operating a vehicle when you are addicted to a particular drug

  • DUI in a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04% and above

  • Driving with a passenger with a BAC of 0.04% and above

  • Driving under the influence of any drug

  • Driving under the influence of both drugs and alcohol.

In addition to that, the state has DUI laws for drivers who cause injuries, provided under Section 23153 VC of California Vehicle Code. This offense is usually a wobbler and can, therefore, be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on how severe the injuries caused are.

DUI also involves driving under the influence of drugs, and the drugs considered in this case include marijuana, prescription drugs like painkillers, over the counter drugs like cold medicine, and illegal drugs such as cannabis, heroin and other opiates, nicotine and other tobacco products.

Elements of DUI

If you are arrested for DUI, the prosecutor will want to prove to the court that you were indeed driving under the influence. Several factors will be used to determine this, which can eventually lead to a conviction:

You were driving under the influence of alcohol- even if your BAC level was low at the time of arrest, your behavior on the road might have clearly shown that you were under the influence, hence the reason for your arrest. As long as there were traces of alcohol in your blood at the time of arrest, you may be charged with DUI even if you were driving well.

You were driving, operating, or in actual control of the vehicle at the time of arrest- any of these terms will be used depending on your jurisdiction. Again, there should be proof that you were the person operating the vehicle at that time and that you were drunk or under the influence of drugs. Sometimes this may be hard to prove, especially if you were just seated in the car, without doing anything else. To verify the case, the court will seek to find the location of the vehicle at the time of your arrest, the location of the offender, the location of the keys in the car and the operability of that vehicle.

Under the influence- evidence will be needed here, to establish whether or not the driver was under the influence. There are three types of evidence: driver evidence, field evidence, and blood-alcohol evidence. Field evidence is carried out by the arresting officers and could be in the form of driver's unusual/irregular way of driving, the appearance and conduct of the driver, the driver's performance during sobriety tests, photos, tapes or films taken at the scene of crime and any incriminating statements that the driver could have made.

BAC level tests have to be conducted to determine the specific BAC level of the driver.

DUI Penalties

If everything tested clearly shows that the driver was operating a vehicle under the influence, contrary to DUI laws of the state or jurisdiction he/she has been arrested in, they would be charged with DUI and their penalties will be spelled out. The severity of the sentence a DUI offender gets depends on several things. These are, for example:

  • Whether or not there were aggravating factors such as DUI with a minor in the car, or DUI resulting in severe bodily injuries

  • Whether or not you have prior DUI convictions in 10 years before the current sentence

First DUI Conviction:

  • Up to six months of jail time

  • A fine of between $390 and $1,000

  • Driver license suspension for a maximum of 6 months

Second DUI Conviction:

  • Jail time for a period of up to one year

  • A fine of between $390 and $1,000

  • Driver license suspension for a maximum of two years

Third DUI Conviction

  • Jail time of up to one year

  • A fine of between $390 and $1,000

  • Driver license suspension for a maximum of three years

Fourth and Subsequent DUI Convictions

This will be a felony offense, punishable with:

  • A maximum of three years of jail term

  • A fine of between $390 and $1,000

  • Driver license suspension for up to 4 years

DUI resulting in an injury will be punished by a jail term of up to one year and driver license suspension for between one and three years. A felony injury DUI, on the other hand, will attract a jail term of up to 16 years, a fine of between $1,015 and $5,000 and suspension of the offender’s driver's license for up to 5 years.

From those penalties, it is clear that a DUI charge is quite expensive. The fine, together with fees and penalty assessments, can increase the total cost to up to $18,000, depending on the specific DUI charge you have gotten. A DUI resulting in injuries or damage to property will cost even more because the court may require the offender to compensate the injured parties for their losses.

Other than the penalties, DUI carries other consequences as well. These are, for instance:

  • DUI effects on professional licenses, certifications, and insurance

  • A mandatory requirement to install an ignition interlock device

  • Increased auto insurance costs that could trigger SR22 requirements

  • Difficulties finding a job since potential employers will always ask about your prior convictions and conduct background checks on potential candidates

  • Problems getting admitted to a university or qualifying for financial aid

  • The requirement to sign a Watson Advisement, which could be used against you in future

Aggravating Factors that Could Increase Your DUI Sentence

These are the factors that, if they are there at the time of your DUI arrest, they might increase your DUI penalties and probably give you more time in jail or prison. These factors will give you a higher penalty even if the DUI conviction is your first. These are, for instance:

  • A blood-alcohol content of 0.15%or more

  • Declining to take a DUI test

  • Drunk driving resulting in an accident

  • Driving at a higher speed

  • Drunk driving with a child under 14 years of age in the vehicle

  • A drunk driving minor below 21 years of age

The type of enhanced penalty you get in any of the cases above will depend on the exact circumstances surrounding your case, and your criminal history.

Possible Defenses Against DUI

A DUI is a serious charge as it comes with severe penalties and consequences you may have to deal with for the rest of your life. Sometimes a bad thing could happen, and you might find yourself getting arrested for DUI. Whether or not you are guilty, you need the help of an experienced attorney. The good thing is that there are strategies that your attorney could use to fight the charges and either get you out of jail or have your penalties reduced:

Your attorney can prove that you were not driving at the time of your arrest.

If you were just seated in the car, there is no way to prove that you were driving under the influence. Even if your BAC results were 0.08% or higher, you could not be convicted of DUI if you were not in direct control of the car.

You were not drunk or under the influence of drugs.

There are many cases of people being stopped and arrested for DUI while in the real sense, they were not drunk or under the influence of drugs. If you took the test and it came out negative, your attorney could use that to prove to the court that you were falsely arrested and accused of DUI.

The arresting officer did not use the right legal procedure when making the arrest.

The legal process for arrest and arraignment in court must be followed for the court to proceed with the trial. How was the arrest conducted? Were your Miranda rights read to you? Were you allowed to call your attorney? These are some of the issues your attorney will be interested in, to plan a strong defense for you.

The evidence gathered was incorrect; maybe the BAC results were false.

When testing for a person’s DUI, the police conduct a breath test, which does not measure BAC directly. The results they get from the breath test are multiplied by a partition ratio to get a BAC result. The results are never accurate, and a smart attorney can refute them in court. Again, breathalyzers fail all the time, hence producing false results. There is never a guarantee that the BAC results obtained are correct.

The arresting officer did not have probable cause to stop and arrest you.

The law requires an arresting officer to have probable cause to stop a motorist and arrest them for DUI. If a driver was carelessly driving on a highway, for instance, that could be a good reason for an officer to stop them and make an arrest if the officer suspects that they are driving under the influence. If there was no probable cause, then any evidence gathered for that case will not be admitted in court.

Find A Los Angeles DUI Defense Attorney Near Me

There are many cases of people being wrongfully arrested and charged with DUI and paying for DUI crimes they did not commit. If this has happened to you or your loved one, it may be time to seek the legal help of a DUI defense attorney. Call The DUI Defense Attorney at 818-253-1913 to speak to a Van Nuys DUI attorney today!