10 Things You Need To Know About DUI In California

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California’s DUI penalties may not be one of the harshest in the country; nonetheless, a DUI arrest may grossly affect anybody’s life. Some of the effects may include driver’s license suspension, attorney fees, court fees and fines, increased insurance premiums, court-mandated community service, participation in drunk driving education programs, and even jail time. The long term consequence may even be more devastating. It may come by way of driver’s license revocation, loss of job, the stigma that remains in your background check and sometime insurance premium increase. It may even lead to professional sanction or disqualification.

1. IF YOU DRINK, DON’T DRIVE:
This may sound superfluous, but cannot be overemphasized. If you think you’ve had some drink or other controlled substance, then stay away from the steering wheel. Better put, since there are times in life when circumstances may lead to a poor judgment, if the situation raises any doubt in your mind, it would be wise to refrain from diving any vehicle even if you don’t think you are necessarily impaired. Call a cab or get a friend to drive you. Get a room in a hotel or sleep over. Whatever works for you. It may not be worth loosing your license or even you job over. Worse still, someone’s life may be affected forever. If pulled over, I’ll recommend that you be polite and respectful to the police officers even when you don’t think the arrest is justifiable. If a police officer will ever change his mind, it would likely be for a polite person, not a belligerent suspect. To the contrary, the officer may even charge you for “resisting arrest” when you try to ask them many questions. The devastating effects of a DUI conviction can be prevented with the simple decision to not drive when drunk.

2. DON’T GIVE THEM A REASON TO PULL YOU OVER:
There is nothing illegal about drinking alcohol before driving a vehicle. Alcohol affects everyone differently. The state’s concern is that you are not impaired such as to be a risk to public safety. The police do not go about stopping everybody who has had a drink or two. Their concern is to be sure that you are not impaired at the time you are driving. If you are not, but upon testing the result indicates that you are driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, you will be arrested regardless of whether your driving ability was actually impaired. (Vehicle Code § 23152(b))

So to avoid leading them to that suspicion, make sure you strictly obey all traffic laws. For example make sure you use your blinkers on all turns and when making lane changes. Ensure that you come to a complete stop when necessary and observe the speed limit. Don’t get on the street if your headlights and brake lights and not functioning properly or the tint on your window is too dark. They may legally stop you for any one of the above violations, and may then look for signs and symptoms that you are driving under the influence even if you may not be impaired.

3. YOU CAN STILL BE ARRESTED IF YOU TESTED BELOW LEGAL LIMIT
Under California Vehicle code Section 23152 (a), it is illegal to operate a car while ‘under the influence’ of any alcohol or drug. The law does not state any minimum blood alcohol level. This means that you can be arrested and charged for DUI with a blood alcohol level of less than .08%. All that the state is required to prove is that you were driving a car, and under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance. It does not matter if you are under the influence of a prescription medicine or over the counter medicine. The state”s case will be based on the basis of evidence of impairment alone.

4. YOU HAVE TO BE DRIVING TO GET A DUI:
In some states, the offense of DUI may not necessarily involve actual driving of the vehicle. Those states require that the driver be in “Actual Physical Control”. Actual physical means that you must physically be in or on the vehicle and have the capability to operate the vehicle, regardless of if he or she operated the vehicle at the time. In California, driving actually requires that the person exercise volitional movement of the vehicle. The Supreme Court said that the phrase “actual physical control” does not appear anywhere in the drunk driving offense statutes of the state.

This means that you may not be arrested and charged for DUI if your vehicle is in park or your keys are your ignition (or your pocket), if the circumstances can show that you had pulled over to rest and your vehicle was not running. Note, however, that in some cases the prosecution has convinced the court that the defend whose car was parked was still driving.

5. YOU GAVE IMPLIED CONSENT TO SEARCH YOU:
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the citizens against unreasonable search and seizure. California Motor Vehicle law provides that anyone driving a motor vehicle is deemed to have given consent to a chemical test of their blood or breath for the purpose of determining blood alcohol content. In other words, unless you are taking anticoagulant for a heart condition or have hemophilia, the law requires you to take a breath or blood test if you are arrested by an officer who had probable cause to believe that you have been driving under the influence of alcohol. What the officer requires for the test are signs and symptoms of impairment like blood shot eyes, slurring or alcohol smell. However, the test must be taken at, or close enough to the time of your arrest.

6. SOBRIETY CHECKPOINTS ARE LEGAL:
Normally in California, the police is required to have probable cause to stop and question a motorist, but sobriety checkpoints are generally permitted by the courts if conducted properly. It stands as an exception to the rule that rule. The court held that to get drunk drivers off of the road, the law enforcement may conduct systematic traffic stops at checkpoints to identify and to deter people from driving drunk. The checkpoints, since it’s for all road users, are considered to be less intrusive. However, the police are permitted to stop you briefly and may not search you or your car unless they have probable cause that you’re under the influence unless you agree to the search. The procedure used must pass muster under the United States and the California Constitutions

7. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY UNTIL ARRESTED:
At the time the police officer stops you for suspicion of driving under the influence, you do not have to answer their questions whether you have had any drinks, but you also do not have a right against self incrimination. Hence, they do not have to give you your Miranda rights. Due to the implied consent rule, you do not have the right to speak to your attorney before answering police questions or to ask for your attorney’s advice on whether you should take the test or not. The officer may tell you that you are not in custody for purposes of Miranda warnings until they make the determination that you were driving while impaired and subsequently arrest you. Once arrested, you have the constitutional right to speak to your attorney for advice. At this point, the officer cannot continue to interrogate you after placing you in custody for DUI without reading you your Miranda rights and obtaining a valid waiver.

8. YOU MAY NOT REFUSE A CHEMICAL TEST:
You may refuse to take the roadside breathalyzer test, but it is unlikely that the officer will let you free at this point If the police officer has probable cause to arrest you for DUI. You may be arrested, but be aware that your refusal alone cannot constitute the probable cause. Unfortunately, you cannot refuse to submit to a blood or chemical test. If you do, you will likely get arrested for drunk driving. In addition, such refusal may lead to a “refusal” allegation being added to your charges. A ’refusal” carries additional penalties, including a one year driver’s license suspension and a mandatory two days in county jail. The Vehicle Code stipulates a $125 (plus enhancements) fine. There could be various other punishments if the arresting officer submits a sworn affidavit that he had a reasonable cause to believe that the suspect had a reason to be driving under the influence and refuses the test.

9. YOU MAY HAVE A DEFENSE:
In a DUI case, you do not have to prove your innocence, but the the prosecution must prove that were (1) diving while (2) your blood alcohol level was .08 or above. Your attorney may look at your fact to see if you may be availed of one or more of the following defenses:

(A) Invalid Arrest: The facts of your matter may reflect that the police officer did not have legal justification to stop your vehicle and/or arrest you in the first place, or if the officer failed to follow proper legal procedures during the arrest. If the judge decides that he lacked probable cause, the breath or blood alcohol test is excluded from evidence.

(B) Procedural Errors. Here lie several defenses that are typically used by DUI defense attorneys. The police may err in the way they withdraw the blood specimen (Title 17 violation), like having an unauthorized technician draw the blood, the custody of the withdrawn blood, etc. There may also have been an improper 15-minute observation before the breath alcohol test was taken, as required by law. Your attorney will be able to look at your circumstance and refine your exact defense.

(C) Suppression of the chemical Test: Under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, a probable cause and warrant are required to conduct a search that intrudes into areas that the suspect has a significant privacy interest. The Supreme Court has ruled that a warrantless search is reasonable only if it falls within a recognized exception. Let an experienced attorney examine your case to help make this determination.

10. Plea Bargain: When you do not have a defense for a DUI, your attorney may assist you to reach a plea bargain with the prosecutor, which may reduce your charge to something less severe or more favorable to you.

This blog post should not be taken as a substitute for the legal advice of a competent counsel. The consequences of a DUI can have a highly negative impact on the lives of those involved. If you have been charged with a DUI, contact an experienced DUI attorney

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