Thursday, March 9, 2017

Can You Be Arrested for DUI if Your Blood Alcohol Level is Below 0.08%?

Many drivers are surprised to learn that they can be arrested for DUI in California even if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit of 0.08%.

In California, "DUI" is actually several distinct crimes: 1) driving while unsafely impaired by alcohol, 2) driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater, 3) driving under the influence of drugs, and 4) driving under the combined influence of alcohol and some drug(s).  A driver might be charged with a single count or with multiple counts, depending on the circumstances.  

Police often encounter drivers who appear to be impaired by some substance, even when their blood alcohol level is low.  The driver might be a "lightweight" who is especially sensitive to alcohol, or he might be intoxicated by some drug(s), or by some combination of alcohol and drugs.  If police have probable cause to believe that the driver is impaired by any substance or combination of substances to such a degree that he cannot operate a vehicle safely, he will be arrested on suspicion of DUI and taken to the police station for a blood test.  

Depending on the results of that blood test and the totality of the circumstances, the DA will decide whether or not to file criminal charges against the driver.  If prosecutors believe they can prove that the driver was dangerously impaired by alcohol, they will charge the driver with violating VC 23152(a), regardless of his BAC.  If his BAC is above 0.08%, they may additionally charge the driver with violating VC 23152(b).  

If a blood test shows that a driver is impaired by drugs, he may be charged with violating VC 23152(f).  This includes legally prescribed drugs, illegal drugs, sleep aids and marijuana -- any substance(s) that may impair a driver's ability to operate a vehicle with the skill and care of a normal, sober person.  These cases are complicated because it's often hard to prove a driver's precise degree of "impairment", especially when the driver has extensive experience and a very high tolerance for some prescription medication that he has taken for years.  Our firm has even represented individuals who were accused of driving under the influence of chemotherapy drugs.

To further complicate matters, the DA can charge a driver with violating VC 23152(g) if they believe that he is impaired by the combined influence of alcohol AND drugs.  

There are many possible defenses to DUI charges, but only a qualified professional can fairly evaluate your case.  If you or a loved one has questions about DUI in California, call us for a free attorney consultation. (714) 449-3335. Ask for John.  

Thanks for reading.