What Is DUI?

DUI stands for “driving under the influence.” This term is used to describe a person who operates a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol. In most states, this type of behavior is illegal and can carry severe penalties if convicted.

woman refusing more alcohol

A woman refusing more alcohol. She will not have to worry about DUI if she waits before getting behind the wheel.

The specific laws vary from state to state, but in general, DUI can involve:

  • Driving with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) that is higher than the legal limit.
  • Driving while impaired by drugs.
  • Refusing to submit to a chemical test to determine BAC.

If you have been arrested, there’s still hope with the right legal strategy.

Depending on the state, a person who has been convicted of DUI may face fines, jail time, license suspensions, and other penalties. Learn more about DUIs from highly-rated Los Angeles DUI lawyers who work quickly and discreetly to protect the rights of those accused of impaired driving.

What Constitutes a DUI in California?

In California, DUI also includes prescription medications and recreational substances. You can face DUI charges if alcohol levels exceed .08% BAC or if officers ascertain impairment based on field sobriety tests, regardless of BAC (CA Vehicle Code 23152).

DUI does not require an accident or collision. If a law enforcement officer catches you operating any motor vehicle on roadways while chemically impaired, that is sufficient for DUI charges.

What Is the Legal Blood Alcohol Content Limit for DUI in California?

For drivers 21 and over, California’s legal BAC limit is .08%, down from .10% before 1990. For commercial drivers, the limit is lower at .04% BAC. Impaired drivers under 21 face zero-tolerance laws and can be charged with DUI for any detectable amount of alcohol (CA Vehicle Code 23136).

But even at legal levels below .08%, you may still face a criminal charge if police officers pull you over for reckless driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

What Types of DUIs Can You Be Charged With?

California recognizes standard DUIs as well as “aggravated” DUIs involving injured persons or those with high BACs over .15%. As an intoxicated driver, you can face additional DUI counts if a passenger under 14 is present.

Penalties escalate for repeat offenses within 10 years. Other DUI variety charges include injury, vehicular manslaughter, and murder if causing deaths while intoxicated.

Can You Get a DUI for Prescription Medication in California?

Yes, legal prescription drugs like opioids, sedatives, and stimulants can still result in DUI charges if they impair your driving ability. A prescription defense requires showing you took the drug as directed and were unaware it could cause impairment. An experienced DUI lawyer can argue such a defense.

Can You Be Charged With a DUI While Riding a Bike or Scooter?

In California, DUI laws only apply when operating motor vehicles. Bicycles and non-motorized scooters cannot face DUI charges. However, an intoxicated rider could be cited for public intoxication or reckless endangerment for dangerous riding under California Penal Code 647(f) and Vehicle Code 23103.

What Are the Penalties for a First-Time DUI in California?

A first misdemeanor DUI conviction typically faces three to five years probation, six months license suspension, $390-$1000 fines, DUI classes, and possible jail time of four days to six months, depending on aggravating factors. Court costs, insurance increases, and interlock ignition device expenses can add thousands more.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in California?

A DUI conviction remains on your California DMV driving record for 10 years. However, it remains on your criminal record permanently. A DUI defense attorney can sometimes negotiate plea deals that reduce the infraction to a lesser offense with shorter reporting times.

Will a California DUI Affect My Auto Insurance?

Yes, expect steep auto insurance increases after a DUI. Insurance rates of drunk drivers can rise about $1,800 annually, according to Insurance.com 2022 data.

Some insurers may drop your policy entirely, leaving you paying high-risk premiums. Maintaining existing coverage requires transparency about the offense with your agent.

How Much Does a DUI Lawyer Cost in California?

Average rates range from $1,500 to $5,000+ depending on experience levels and location—complex cases with extensive litigation cost more. 

Defense attorneys usually offer free consultations to assess defenses and compare options. Many offer payment plans or allow hiring in stages (arraignment, trial, etc.) to ease the financial burden.

Should I Refuse or Consent to a Breathalyzer Test?

Never refuse a breathalyzer when lawfully requested by police, as automatic suspension penalties apply for test refusal. While BAC results can be incriminating, experienced DUI lawyers know how to contest inadmissible tests if protocols are not strictly followed. Any discrepancies in machine calibration, timing, or officer-administration may invalidate BAC evidence.

What Happens If I Get Injured in a DUI Accident in California?

As a DUI victim, you can bring personal injury claims against the drunk driver and insurance, seeking damages for medical bills, lost income, disability costs, pain and suffering, and emotional distress under CA negligence laws and the state’s Victim Restitution Program. A drunk driving injury attorney maximizes recovery through aggressive advocacy and skillful negotiations.

How Can a DUI Lawyer Defend My Case in California?

Skilled DUI attorneys know how to creatively challenge invalid traffic stops, faulty breathalyzer results, improper officer conduct, lack of probable cause, and other procedural or technical deficiencies that undermine the prosecution’s case. A DUI is a serious matter, but being accused of driving under the influence doesn’t have to be the final say. 

An aggressive lawyer identifies constitutional rights violations, laboratory errors in BAC tests, and other avenues to achieve charge reductions or dismissals where warranted by the facts. If you are facing suspended driving privileges or drunk driving charges and need a strong defense lawyer, contact us today.

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