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Understanding Blood Alcohol Levels and Laws in California

understanding-blood-alcohol-levels-and-laws-in-california

Driving and drinking are never a good combination. If law enforcement stops you and finds you a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the legal limit, you could face serious consequences.

If you are in California and are out for drinks with your friends, what should you keep in mind if you drive?

In California, the legal limit for BAC is .08%. If the BAC is .08% or higher, one can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). Understanding blood alcohol levels and laws in California and having the common sense not to endanger yourself and others is vital to avoid DUI.

DUI is a serious offense in California. If convicted, you could face steep fines, jail time, and the loss of your driver's license. If authorities stop you from driving to take a breath test, it is important to know your rights. You have the right to refuse the test, but you could face automatic license suspension if you do so.

Contacting a qualified Los Angeles DUI lawyer as soon as possible is essential. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the complex legal system and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.

Understanding California’s DUI Laws

understanding-californias-dui-laws

Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is a serious crime in California. Charged with DUI, you could face jail time, fines, driver's license suspension, and other penalties.

Understanding the DUI laws in California is vital in this situation. A knowledgeable DUI attorney can explain the laws and help you fight the charges.

What Are Blood Alcohol Limits?

Vehicle Code 23152(B)

The Vehicle Code (VC) 23152(B) is the California statute prohibiting driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more. This offense is also called DUI per se or driving under the influence of alcohol.

A person violates this law when they drive a vehicle with a BAC of .08% or more. Authorities can determine the BAC via a blood test, urine test, or breathalyzer.

It is also illegal to drive with any amount of a drug in one's system if that drug impairs his ability to drive. This includes legal drugs like prescription medication and over-the-counter medication.

Vehicle Code 23140

This California statute prohibits persons under 21 years old from driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .05% or more. This offense is commonly referred to as DUI under 21 with a high BAC.

Note that California has no "legal limit" for marijuana use. However, driving while impaired by marijuana is still illegal.

Vehicle Code 23152(D)

Code 23152(D) is another California statute prohibiting driving a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04% or more. This law is stricter than the 0.08% standard that applies to other drivers, and commercial drivers need to be aware of this law. If you are a commercial driver charged with DUI, you should contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Vehicle Code 23152(E)

This law is related to California statute 23152(D), which prohibits driving a passenger for hire vehicle while under alcohol influence. It includes ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. The legal limit for this offense is 0.04%, just like driving a commercial vehicle. You should contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney soon if you are charged with DUI while driving for a ride-sharing service.

Vehicle Code 23136

This California statute prohibits persons under 21 years old from driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .01% or more. This offense is also referred to as DUI under 21, or zero tolerance for underage drinkers.

It also prohibits persons under 21 years old from refusing to take a breath or blood test when arrested for DUI. This offense is called "underage DUI refusal."

Vehicle Code 23154

This California statute requires drivers 21 years of age and older, on DUI probation, to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in any vehicle they own or operate.

An IID is a breathalyzer for a car. It prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver's blood alcohol concentration exceeds a pre-set limit. The statute also requires persons on DUI probation to submit to alcohol testing. This violation of the law is a "DUI probation violation."

Estimating Blood Alcohol Concentration

estimating-blood-alcohol-concentration

Police officers can estimate your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in several ways. One standard method is called preliminary alcohol screening (PAS). This method involves using a handheld device to measure your BAC. Other methods include DUI breath, blood, and urine, as discussed below.

DUI Breath Test

The drunk driving breath test is one of the most common ways for police officers to estimate blood alcohol content. The test is typically done with a handheld device, such as a portable breathalyzer.

The device works by measuring the amount of alcohol in your breath. It gives your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) estimate.

Several factors can affect the accuracy of DUI breath tests, including:

  • The type of device used. Different devices may produce different results.
  • The device calibration. It may produce inaccurate results if the device's calibration isn't accurate. 
  • How long ago did you drink? The further away from your last drink, the more precise the result will be.
  • Your physiology. Depending on your physiology, you may metabolize alcohol differently than others. This can affect your BAC.

DUI Blood Test

dui-blood-test

A DUI blood test is the most accurate way to measure blood alcohol content. The test is typically done at a hospital or medical facility and involves taking a blood sample and testing it for alcohol content.

However, many factors can affect the accuracy of a DUI blood test, including:

  • How the sample was taken. It might be inaccurate if the medical practitioner didn't take the blood sample properly.
  • How well the sample was preserved. If the sample was not properly preserved, it might be inaccurate.
  • How much time has passed since you drank? Results are more accurate if the test was further away from your last drink.
  • Your physiology. How alcohol metabolizes in your body depends on your physiology, so BAC results may vary with different people.

DUI Urine Test

A DUI urine test is another way for police officers to estimate BAC. The test is done at a police station and involves taking a urine sample and testing it for alcohol content.

Many factors can affect the accuracy of a DUI urine test, including:

  • How the sample was taken. How the samples are collected and handled can affect the accuracy of the results.
  • How well the sample was preserved. If the proper sample preservation procedures fail, the results are inaccurate.
  • Time after your last drink. The longer the time since your last drink, the more accurate the result will be.
  • Your physical makeup. Your alcohol metabolism may differ from other people's due to your physiology, which can affect your BAC.

Reliability of Methods of BAC Measurements

There are several ways to measure an individual's blood alcohol content (BAC), and each method has its advantages and disadvantages. The most common methods are breathalyzer, blood tests, and urine tests.

Breathalyzers are the most commonly used method of BAC measurement, as they are relatively easy to administer and fairly accurate. However, some factors can affect breathalyzers, including the individual's rate of metabolism, body temperature, and recent food or drink consumption. Blood tests are considered the most accurate method of BAC measurement, but they are also the most invasive and are not always practical. Urine tests are less accurate than breathalyzers or blood tests but are less invasive and administered more efficiently.

Misdemeanor DUI Penalties in California

misdemeanor-dui-penalties

You will likely face misdemeanor charges if it's your first time being arrested for drunk driving. In California, the penalties for a misdemeanor DUI can include the following:

1st Misdemeanor DUI Offense

A first misdemeanor DUI offense can have the following penalties:

  • Up to 6 months in county jail;
  • A fine of up to $1,000;
  • License suspension for up to 4 months (possible restricted license after 30 days);
  • Minimum 4-month DUI school program; and
  • Install an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle for up to 6 months.

2nd Misdemeanor DUI Offense

A second offense within ten years will result to:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail;
  • A fine of up to $1,000;
  • License suspension for up to 2 years (possible restricted license after 90 days);
  • Minimum 18-month DUI school program; and
  • Installation of an IID in your vehicle for up to 1 year.

3rd Misdemeanor DUI Offense

A third drunk driving offense within ten years will result in even more serious penalties, including:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail;
  • A fine of up to $1,000;
  • License suspension for up to 3 years (possible restricted license after 18 months);
  • Minimum 30-month DUI school program; and
  • Installation of an IID in your vehicle for up to 2 years.

Felony DUI Penalties in California

felony-dui-penalties

You may face severe penalties if you are arrested and charged with DUI in California. If this is your first offense, you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor. However, if you have prior drunk driving convictions or your blood alcohol content (BAC) is particularly high, you may be charged with a felony.

4th or Subsequent DUI Offense Within 10 Years

A fourth drunk driving offense within ten years is a felony and can result in the following penalties:

  • Up to 16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail;
  • A fine of up to $1,000;
  • License revocation for up to 4 years;
  • Minimum 30-month DUI school program; and
  • Installation of an IID in your vehicle for up to 2 years.

DUI With Injury

Being convicted of drunk driving and someone is injured, you will face felony charges. The penalties for this offense can include:

  • Up to 5 years in prison;
  • A fine of up to $5,000;
  • Revocation of your driver's license for up to 4 years; and
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in your vehicle.

Fighting for Your Rights in a DUI Arrest

fighting-for-your-rights-in-a-dui-arrest

Being arrested for DUI can make you feel like the whole world is against you. You may be anxious about losing your job, driver's license, and freedom. The best way to fight against a DUI charge is to hire a skilled and experienced attorney to defend against these charges.

The attorney-client relationship is one of the most important aspects of your defense. Your attorney will be your advocate and will ensure to protect your rights throughout the legal process. A good attorney can investigate the circumstances of your arrest and gather evidence to defend you in court.

Do not try to fight the charges on your own. The Hurwitz Law Group can help. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys have successfully defended clients against DUI charges. Contact us at (323)-287-9849 to schedule a free consultation. We will review the facts of your case and advise you of your legal options. Let us fight for you.

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