Any DUI in California is serious, but you’ll face a tougher sentence if you are accused of having “excessive” blood alcohol level during your DUI. Excessive blood alcohol can increase your jail sentence, the length of your license suspension, and your probation penalties. You need to understand exactly what counts as excessive blood alcohol in the state of California, and how a Los Angeles DUI attorney can help you.
What is Excessive Blood Alcohol?
The term excessive blood alcohol refers to a specific violation of the California Vehicle Code. It is technically not a criminal charge in its own right, but a sentence enhancement that can be piled on top of a regular DUI. California has a number of these sentence enhancements, and each one lists a specific circumstance where a DUI is considered more egregious than normal, carrying a heavier sentence. This particular sentence enhancement is covered in VC 23578, explained here.
The basic idea of this sentence enhancement is that the drunker you are, the more dangerous your driving is. To measure this, the state uses blood alcohol concentration (BAC), a measure of how much alcohol is in our body. Your BAC is determined one of three ways:
- A roadside PAS test
- A breath test administered after arrest
- A blood test administered after arrest
If the result is any number .08% or greater, you will be arrested for DUI. (You can also be arrested with a lower result, if the police believe it affected your driving, or if you fall into special “zero tolerance” categories or hold a commercial driver’s license).
In general, anything over .08 is illegal—but if you’re way over .08, you may face an excessive blood alcohol penalty.
Penalties for Excessive Blood Alcohol
There are two specific numbers used as thresholds for excessive blood alcohol:
- BAC of .15% or greater
- BAC of .20% or greater
Each of these two thresholds carries its own specific penalties.
.15% and above: At this level the law states that your BAC may be considered a “special factor that may justify enhancing the penalties in sentencing…” In practice the extra penalties include:
- An extra six months of license suspension, on top of the standard suspension
- Being required to have an ignition interlock device in your car for three years
- A nine month traffic school class at a cost of $1,000 or more, instead of the usual three month class
- Longer jail sentence and/or higher fines
- Being required to perform community service, alcohol treatment, or other special conditions as part of your probation
The judge has a wide discretion in choosing exactly what probation requirements to impose, and judges can be extremely tough if they feel you acted recklessly.
.20% and above: At this level you face all the penalties above, and you will also be ordered to join an alcohol treatment program. This often takes the form of AA meetings or a similar support group. At a minimum, you must attend at least 60 hours of these meetings over the course of nine months. The judge may impose a longer term or require a more serious program, like a sober living environment.
How an LA DUI Lawyer Defends against Excessive Blood Alcohol
Prosecutors will add an excessive blood alcohol charge onto any case where the test hits .15% or more. But it doesn’t always stick—in fact, DUI lawyers frequently beat it. Some of the most common defense strategies include:
- Challenging the accuracy of the test that gave the “excessive” reading
- Asserting a mouth alcohol defense—that is, that the machine was thrown off by traces of alcohol still in your mouth
- Proving that rising blood alcohol was a factor in your defense. This means that police waited too long to test you and your blood alcohol was higher than when you were actually behind the wheel.
These are far from the only defenses that can work. The best way to beat an excessive BAC charge is to beat the entire DUI. Often, defendants find themselves in what seems like an impossible case only to walk free a few weeks later. This is the power of a good LA DUI lawyer.
You need professional legal advice to fight your case. Let us help you get it. We can match you with a lawyer who has the right experience for your case. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 862-0199 and get your free consultation today.