Drinking and driving is generally a bad idea. It could result in a serious road accident, in which you and/or other people suffer serious injuries. It could also result in DUI charges that could lead to time in jail, hefty fines, and loss of driving privileges. California has stringent DUI laws that apply even when your BAC levels are below the allowed standards. Thus, you can still get a DUI for blowing below the allowed limit. For more information and guidance, if you face DUI charges, contact an experienced criminal attorney. Your attorney will also help you fight your charges for dismissal or more lenient charges.
How California DUI Laws Work
DUI laws in California are under Vehicle Code 23152. There are two primary DUI laws under VC 23152 used to punish adult drivers that operate under the effect of alcohol or drugs:
- California VC 23152(a), which makes it unlawful for any adult driver to operate under the effect of alcohol and drugs
- California VC 23152(b), which makes it unlawful for adult drivers to operate with a BAC of 0.08% or more
Both statutes are crucial when charging a motorist with DUI. Most California drivers that face DUI charges are prosecuted under both sections of the DUI law. But drivers who face DUI charges for operating under the effects of drugs are prosecuted under California VC 23152(f).
When the police stop you for a DUI check, they do so after suspecting you of operating under the influence. The law requires the police to have probable cause for stopping and arresting drivers for DUI. The police conduct preliminary tests for DUI by the roadside once they stop a motorist on suspicion of DUI. If you fail to perform well on the preliminary testing, you automatically receive a DUI charge under VC 23152(a). The officer administering the tests will arrest you for DUI and take you to the station, where you will undergo further testing to determine the level of alcohol in your blood, or BAC.
The most common tools the police use to test motorists' BAC levels in California are breathalyzers. Breathalyzers test the amount of alcohol in your breath and use that to determine the level of alcohol in your blood. In California, the standard BAC allowed for adult motorists is 0.08%, except for commercial vehicle drivers, whose BAC limit is 0.04%. If the breathalyzer registers your BAC level at 0.08% or more, you will face DUI charges under Vehicle Code 23152(b). Drivers that showcase physical signs of intoxication during arrest and test positive for BAC face DUI under both Vehicle Codes 23152(a) and 23152(b).
However, some drivers only show positive signs of intoxication but still blow under the legal limit. That does not exonerate you from DUI charges. Police officers reserve the right to arrest and charge a motorist on suspicion of DUI regardless of their BAC test results. You will need the help and guidance of a competent criminal defense attorney to compel the court to dismiss your charges if you face DUI charges, even after blowing below the standard limit.
Circumstances Under Which You Could Still face DUI Charges Even After Blowing Below the allowed Limit
California DUI laws are very stringent. Anyone suspected of operating under the effects of drugs or alcohol can quickly be convicted and given deserving punishment to discourage the same or similar behavior. That helps keep our roads safe for all. However, sometimes the law does not seem fair, especially if you face DUI charges after taking the least amount of alcohol. Many drivers believe that a small amount of alcohol in their system does not impair their driving abilities. But if you speed, drive recklessly, or violate any traffic law and are stopped by the police, the officer could charge you with DUI even if you only have a small amount of alcohol in your system.
Your conduct while on the road will determine whether or not the police will stop and investigate you for DUI. If the officer has a reason to think that you are operating under the effects of drugs or alcohol, you will face a DUI arrest and could later be convicted for DUI even if you blow below the allowed limit. Remember that the police maintain law and order on our roads. They will pull you over if you drive in a manner to suggest that you are intoxicated.
If the officer further suspects that you have some alcohol or drugs in your system, you will face DUI charges even if the level of alcohol is below the allowed limit of 0.08%. The police will charge you because they believe your driving was impaired by the alcohol in your system regardless of the level.
During the trial, the district attorney will be expected to prove some aspects of DUI beyond a reasonable doubt for the court to grant a guilty verdict. These elements are:
- That you were driving a vehicle at the time of your arrest
- You were driving it in a manner to suggest that you were impaired
The prosecutor will further demonstrate that even though BAC test results showed that your blood alcohol level was below the allowed limit, you were too impaired by the small amount of alcohol in your blood to operate the vehicle carefully. The police will have gathered enough evidence to support their case. Evidence, in this case, could include:
- A video of you driving recklessly on the road.
- Statements from the arresting officer.
- A description of your appearance on the day of your arrest.
The officer could even detail your ability or inability to perform preliminary sobriety tests conducted by the traffic police.
If the evidence presented in court against you is compelling, the judge will issue a guilty verdict regardless of your BAC test results. You will serve the full sentence provided by law for DUI offenders.
Many states today are conducting Buzzed Driving is Drunk/Drugged Driving campaigns to caution motorists against driving with even the least amount of alcohol in their system if they wish to avoid a DUI charge and its consequences.
Other instances you could still get a DUI charge even after blowing below the standard limit are:
If you Violate the Zero Tolerance Law
The Zero Tolerance Law in California prohibits underage drivers from operating a vehicle even with a minimal amount of alcohol in their system. Drivers aged 21 years and below will face DUI charges if they consume even a small amount of alcohol before driving. For instance, if you are 20 years old and have a BAC level of 0.02%, you will face DUI charges and a possible conviction.
The Passage of Time Rule
This rule allows the police to arrest and charge motorists with DUI if their BAC test results are near the legal limit. For instance, if an officer determines your BAc to be 0.07%, they could assume that your BAC was higher when you began to drive and slowly went down with time. It means that you were operating with a higher BAC than the legal limit, only that the police stopped you later in your journey. You will be declared guilty if the prosecutor can convince the jury of that.
Penalties for a DUI Conviction
Penalties for DUI conviction in California do not change even if you blow below the allowed limit. If a criminal court declares you guilty of DUI, you will receive punishment as provided under the DUI laws, based on the circumstances of your case. Remember that DUI is a priorable offense in California. Your punishment depends mainly on your criminal record and the number of prior DUI convictions.
For instance, first DUI offenders will likely receive a misdemeanor charge punishable by:
- A maximum of six months in jail
- Court fines of between $390 and $1000
- Six months of mandatory installation of IID
- Three to nine months of DUI school
Second DUI offenders also receive a misdemeanor charge, punishable by:
- A maximum of one year in jail
- Court fines of up to $1000
- One year mandatory installation of IID
- Eighteen to thirty months of DUI school
Third DUI offenders will receive a misdemeanor charge, punishable by:
- One year of jail time
- Court fines of up to $1000
- Two years of mandatory installation of IID
- Thirty months of DUI school
A fourth DUI is a felony in California, punishable by:
- 16 months, two or three years in prison
- A maximum of $1000 in court fines
- Driver license suspension or up to five years
- Eighteen to thirty months of DUI school
You Can Fight Your Charges
If you blow below the allowed limit and still face criminal charges, you can fight for a reduction or dismissal of your DUI charges. That will help you avoid the severe consequences of a DUI conviction. But you will need the help and support of an aggressive criminal attorney. Criminal attorneys offer legal representation during the trial and can aggressively fight the evidence presented by the prosecutor against you. Fortunately for you, your attorney has several defense strategies they can use to compel the court to dismiss or reduce your charges. They include:
No Probable Cause for Arrest
Remember that the police need probable cause to stop a motorist and investigate them for DUI. For instance, if you were speeding or driving recklessly, the police would have probable cause to stop and investigate you for DUI. But without probable cause for arrest, the court can dismiss all evidence gathered against you and your charges. Your attorney can use this defense if they feel the police did not have a valid reason to stop you.
Random stops by the police for DUI investigations are not allowed unless at a DUI checkpoint. The checkpoint must also meet specific regulations, including registering and stopping vehicles using specific criteria.
The Preliminary Tests Were Inaccurate
The police conduct preliminary tests for DUI on the roadside. If an officer suspects you of DUI, they will pull you over, ask you a few questions while inside the car, and then later ask you to step out of the car. All this while, the officer will observe your behavior to confirm that you are actually impaired. The officer could proceed to ask you to perform some tasks by the roadside to confirm their suspicion further.
You will likely fail these tests if you are nervous or unwell. The police can arrest you based on that. But failing preliminary tests does not necessarily mean you were too impaired to drive. Your attorney can use this defense to fight your charges.
The police are guided by the law on how they must conduct themselves when investigating or arresting suspected DUI offenders. For instance, an officer must give your reason for the arrest, read your Miranda rights, and allow you to contact someone after your arrest. If none of these happened, you could cite police misconduct to have all evidence gathered against you inadmissible in court. The judge will dismiss your charges if there is proof that the police violated your rights during and after your arrest.
Bad Driving Does Not Necessarily Mean You Were Intoxicated
If the police stopped you for driving poorly and later arrested you for DUI, you could use this defense if your bad driving was not necessarily because you were intoxicated. It could be that you were unfamiliar with the road or were avoiding some potholes on the road. If your attorney can convince the court that your conduct on the road had nothing to do with the small amount of alcohol in your system, the judge could dismiss your charges.
Find a Reliable Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Do you face DUI charges even after blowing below the allowed limit in Los Angeles, CA? You could be convicted and penalized unless you are willing to put up a fight during the trial. Using the best defense strategies, a competent criminal defense attorney can help you avoid a DUI conviction. We also walk you through the complex legal process to ensure that you are well and relaxed until the end of your case. Call The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney at 310-564-2605, and let our team study the details of your case. We do not rest until our clients receive a fair outcome for their situation.