Frequently asked questions

Frequently Asked Questions for DUI Law

DUI or Driving Under the Influence is a charge that occurs when one gets caught using alcohol, drugs, or a combination while driving. No drugs or alcohol need to be present in the vehicle to be charged with a DUI as one just needs to be ‘under the influence’ to be convicted. California Vehicle Code 23152 explains that it is unlawful to operate a vehicle with an alcoholic beverage in your system. The exact amount in your system that is deemed illegal is any percentage of alcohol by weight in your bloodstream of 0.08% or more. If a cop pulls you over in your car and you blow a blood alcohol concentration (BAC), 0.08% or more into the breathalyzer, you are considered legally impaired, and you will be ticketed with a DUI.

Without even talking to you or administering a chemical test, a police officer can tell that you might be under the influence. Some ways that they could track you are if they notice that you do not have your headlights on at night, if you collide with or nearly collide with other vehicles or roadside objects, if you are tailgating other vehicles, if you accelerate rapidly or drive particularly slowly, if you ignore traffic signals, if you drive on the wrong side of the road or in the middle of two lanes, if you swerve, drift, weave or break drastically, if you turn suddenly with a wide radius, if you have an open container of alcohol in your hand or the vehicle, or if you drive with your face close to the windshield.

If a police officer does pull you over and they notice that your eyes are reddened or that you're speaking incoherently, they'll also suspect that you're under the influence of drugs and, or alcohol. Slowed reflexes, blurred vision, bad concentration and comprehension, poor color perception, and poor coordination of feet, hands, and eyes are all giveaways that you've been drinking or used drugs before or while driving.

When you see or hear the police sirens behind you, first and foremost, remain calm and safely pull over to the side of the road nearest to you. Use your blinker or hazard lights to show to the officer that you are pulling over. Roll down the driver's side window and turn the car's engine off. Stay in your car with your seatbelt on with your hands on the steering wheel while you wait.

When asked by the officer, hand over your license, proof of insurance, and the car's registration. Both state and local police officers should accept an AB 60 license for a California resident, regardless of immigration status.

Before reaching for these documents, let the officer know that you are looking for them and then remove your hands from the steering wheel. If the officer asks or says that they are going to search your vehicle, verbally let say that you do not consent to the search. Do not physically refuse the search as that could lead to further trouble. If you're given a ticket, sign it because if you don't, then you could be arrested.

Make sure not to disrespect the police officer or give them any further reason to arrest you or charge you with an extra crime. In no circumstance should you try to offer the officer a bribe. Make sure you don't have loud music playing when the officer approaches your car. Keep your car clean and clear of random objects as unnecessary ones could give the officer a reason to suspect that you have illegal substances or items. Objects hanging from the car's rear view mirror could cause the police to pull your car over or to search it.

Upon request, you should submit to a chemical DUI test because otherwise, you'll risk having your license suspended.

In order to avoid paying towing or impoundment costs, ask if you are allowed to park your car in a secure area or if a licensed driver (a friend) take the car away.

If you don't need to go to the police station and you receive a ticket and are allowed to move on, take your time putting away your documents and collecting yourself before you drive away. Once you're ready, put your turn signal on, carefully merge into traffic, and continue following traffic laws as you would normally do.

If you’re ticketed, make sure that you follow up on your citation or ticket before the deadline date on the document. Failure to take action before the due date could lead to a fine of hundreds of more dollars. To take action with the citation, you have various options. One is to admit guilt of the charge by paying the required fine, go to traffic or DUI school if applicable and pay any required fine, or alternatively, you can fight the citation or ticket in court.

Only tell the police your name and necessary identifying information-- nothing more. Tell them that you want to remain silent and that you want to talk to your lawyer. After you 'lawyer up', the questioning should stop. If not immediately given your three phone calls, demand that you get them within three hours of being arrested or booked. Good people to call would be a lawyer, a relative, a bail bondsman, or another person who could help you out. The police will probably record your calls except when you talk with a lawyer.

You should not give the police any excuse, story, or explanation for what happened without your lawyer present. Don't talk about the case over the phone. Your lawyer is the only person with which you should talk about your immigration or citizenship status. Lastly, you should not make decisions regarding your case without first talking with your lawyer. If you take the latter route to contest the ticket, it is a good idea to consult a defense lawyer to guarantee the best result.

BAC is the percentage of alcohol (ethanol or ethyl alcohol) in one's bloodstream. For example, a 0.10% BAC signifies that a person's blood supply consists of one part alcohol per 1000 parts blood. The legal intoxication limit of BAC in California is 0.08 percent.

In determining what your BAC might be and whether it is safe to drive, here is a guideline of what you could feel and its BAC correlation:

  • 01-0.03: You won't necessarily feel any effects other than a small elevation in your mood. If you are under the age of 21 and you test at 0.01% or higher, you are considered legally impaired. It is not legal to bike or drive at this BAC level if you are less than 21 years old.
  • 04-0.06: You might experience a relaxing feeling or warmth, along with a slight impairment of memory and reasoning.
  • 07-0.09: At this point, you will likely feel mildly impaired of your ability to balance, speak, see, and generally control yourself. At 21 years or older, you will be considered legally impaired once you reach 0.08% BAC, and it becomes illegal to bike or drive.
  • 10-0.12: You will experience severe impairment of your motor coordination skills and lose your sense of judgment. Your speech may also be slurred.
  • 13+: Subsequent effects and consequences of higher BAC percentages in your bloodstream can be found at Stanford University's Office of Policy and Education.
For anyone on DUI probation, it is illegal to drive with a BAC percentage of 0.01 or higher.

A breathalyzer measures the content of alcohol in your blood by testing alcohol vapor in your breath to see if it is at or above the legal limit. This breath test is generally administered at the police station. Tests that occur on the road or site of the arrest are Preliminary Alcohol Screenings (PAS) and are not considered to be a chemical test. A driver can usually choose not to be administered the PAS without incurring penalties. The PAS device is used to determine probable cause in order to justify an arrest.

A blood test is more accurate than the breath test, but it is used less frequently. The blood test can test for the presence of both alcohol and drugs in your bloodstream. These tests are typically administered at a medical clinic or hospital by drawing a blood sample from the arm of the driver. The sample will be used as evidence, and the police crime lab will analyze it for its substance content. A portion of the sample must be set aside so that the legal counsel of the driver can submit it for a private or independent toxicology lab. This "blood split" can be obtained by a court order.

A urine test will not be used unless the arresting officer believes that you operated the vehicle with drugs or the combination of alcohol in your system. A urine test could also be used if neither breath nor a blood test is available, if you are a hemophiliac, or if you have a heart condition that causes you to take anticoagulant medication.

If a peace officer asks you to take a chemical test (not a PAS) in order to determine your BAC or drug content in your blood, you must submit to the test. This can be a breath or a blood test, and refusal to submit to one can result in increased penalties.

If you are 21 or more years old, and you submitted to the applicable chemical test, with a result of 0.08% BAC or higher, your first offense will cause a four-month suspension of your license. Subsequent offenses within a ten year period will result in your license being suspended for one year. For those that are less than 21 years old, and submit to a chemical test with a result of 0.01% BAC or higher, you won't be allowed to drive for one year.

For someone at least 21 years old who refuses to submit to a chemical test, your license will be suspended for one year for a first-time offense. The second time this offense happens within a ten year period, your license will be revoked for two years. Tertiary and subsequent offenses within the ten year period will cause your license to be revoked for three years. These same rules apply for those under 21 years old.

VEH Section 15210 subdivision (1) explains that if a driver of a commercial motor vehicle has a BAC of 0.04% or higher, it is illegal for them to operate that vehicle.

As of July 1st, 2018, it is unlawful to drive with a passenger for hire in a vehicle if under the influence of alcohol and a BAC of 0.04% or higher.

The legal consequences for a DUI depend on your previous driving record (i.e., number of previous DUIs) and if anyone was injured because you drove under the influence. While in most situations, a DUI is prosecuted as a misdemeanor, a felony charge can be made if someone was injured or if the driver has four or more DUIs previously on their record.

There are six general types of DUI charges. A first offense DUI misdemeanor carries a maximum of six months in county jail, a $390-$1000 fine, a possible six month IID period (Ignition Interlock Device) or a suspended/restricted license, as well as three to nine months in DUI school.

A second offense DUI misdemeanor carries a maximum of one year in county jail, $390-$1000 fine, a mandatory one year IID period or suspended/restricted license, and 18 to 30 months of DUI school.

A third offense DUI misdemeanor carries a sentence of up to one year in county jail, $390-$1000 fine, a mandatory two year IID period or suspended license and 30 months of DUI school.

A DUI that caused an injury that was prosecuted as a misdemeanor carries a sentence of up to one year in county jail, a $390-$5000 fine in addition to restitution payment to the injured parties, a mandatory IID period of six months or a suspended license, and three to 30 months of DUI school.

A felony DUI carries a sentence of up to three years in state prison, a $390-$1000 fine, a suspended driver's license for up to five years, and 18 to 30 months of DUI school.

Here, you can read a 2011 DUI misdemeanor plea form, which includes information about the specific situations that could affect your case such as speeding or having a passenger under the age of 14 while driving under the influence. Keep in mind that the specifics in this document may be outdated and have incorrect details.

These "priorable" offense increase in severity with each conviction that occurs within a ten-year timeframe. This period of 10 years, also called 'washouts' or 'lookbacks' includes 'wet reckless' convictions as well as convictions in other states, that if occurred in the state of California would be constituted as a DUI.

A DUI conviction can be very costly for the life of a teenager and their family. The financial consequences alone are staggering without even taking into account the guilt and injury or loss of life in certain cases. The following costs incurred add up:

  • Auto insurance cost including its increase over the subsequent 13 automatic years with two points on the driving record ($40,000)
  • DUI classes ($650)
  • Towing and vehicle storage fee ($685 or $137 per day for at least five days)
  • Attorney fees and fines ($4,000)
  • Driver's License reissue fee ($100)

This estimated minimum cost of $45,435 can cripple a family's wellbeing. The estimate does not include possible hospital and medical bills for the driver or other injured parties hurt in the accident. If a victim files a lawsuit, then the total cost could increase significantly.

Someone under 21 years old that is convicted of a DUI could face an average of six months in jail, an average of three years of driving probation, 13 years with at least two points on their driving record, six months of DUI classes, significant time spent going to court, and long sentences if the inebriated driving resulted in a person's death.

A "wet reckless" conviction is a common term for the reckless driving charge (Vehicle Code 23103). A DUI can be reduced to a 'wet reckless' if you sign a Tahl waiver and enter into a plea bargain. Your criminal record will include a note that your offense included the use of a drug in addition to or alcohol.

The use of a Tahl waiver is to make sure that you, as a defendant, decided to enter a plea bargain proceedings consciously and voluntarily. As a defendant, if you sign a Tahl waiver, you waive your constitutional right to a trial by jury, to challenge witnesses, and to incriminate yourself.

The sentence for reckless driving that does not result in another person’s injury or death is five to 90 days in county jail or a fine between $145 and $1000. A person could be both fined and imprisoned, depending on the court sentencing.

An IID is an Ignition Interlock Device, which is a portable breathalyzer that can be mandatorily installed on your car's dashboard that prevents you from operating the vehicle until you breath alcohol-free into the device.

If your driver's license has been confiscated by a police officer, you will get it back after the term of revocation or suspension. However, you need to pay the DMV $125 to reissue the license as well as submit proof of your financial responsibility.

Within ten days of the license confiscation, you can request a hearing with the DMV to review the situation. If the DMV determines that the license shouldn't have been suspended or revoked, your license will be returned.

With this Temporary License, you are allowed 30 days to drive from the day that your license was suspended or revoked. Your original license must have been issued in California and cannot have been expired. If your driving privileges are revoked or suspended for a separate issue, then you are not allowed to drive with the Temporary License.

The Orange County DUI court is a program with a mission to reduce DUI offenders' tendency to repeat the crime, to improve the community's safety, to create a safer, healthier life of the participants as well as their families through treatment, accountability and supervision of drivers who have a high risk of alcohol or drug use while driving. This program, supervised by the court, is for DUI offenders that do not have a history of violence, gang activity, or drug sales. The voluntary program offers a comprehensive treatment process, supervision, as well as continual court appearances during the one-year minimum term. While there are various DUI/DWI court programs throughout the country, the Orange County DUI Court has been nationally acclaimed for its success in changing the lives of DUI offenders and creating a safer community.

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