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California DUI Basics

officer silhouette

Like most states California has statutes making it unlawful to operate a vehicle with 0.08% or more alcohol in your blood (BAC). If driving a commercial motor vehicle the BAC level required for a DUI is reduced to 0.04%.

However, our California DUI attorneys know that having a BAC of 0.08% or above is not the only way to be found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. That is because the law technically makes it unlawful to drive a vehicle when under the influence of any alcohol or drug, or combination of the two, with no specific BAC requirement. That is because the BAC is in many ways just a “shortcut” that the law allows to prove intoxication sufficient to be deemed under the influence.

How do law enforcement agencies determine if a driver is under the influence?

In California after a traffic stop when suspicious the officer may perform field sobriety tests in order to determine possible intoxication. Our North Bay Area DUI lawyers have often explained to local residents that drivers may refuse to perform these tests. There are many different tests, but only three are standardized: Nystagmus, walk and turn, and one leg stand. Check out a previous post on these tests here, but a quick summary…

(1) In the nystagmus test the officer will move an object back and forth in front of the driver’s face looking for involuntary jerking of the eyeball.

(2) In the walk and turn test the driver takes nine heel-to-toe steps along a line, and then turns and does the same back down the line. The officer is observing for the ability to follow instructions and balance.

(3) In the one leg stand test the driver stands with heels together and arms at their side, and then raises one leg off the ground while counting out loud. The officer is observing for balance in this test.

Beyond those three standardized tests, if lawfully arrested for driving under the influence a chemical test to determine BAC may be performed at a police station or other facility. The test must be conducted within three hours of the traffic stop. California Vehicle Code § 23152 provides for a rebuttable presumption that if a BAC test is performed within three hours of operating the vehicle the result of the test was also present at the time of operation.

Technically these chemical tests may be refused as well. However, in most states, including California, there is an implied consent to taking the test in exchange for driving privileges. This implied consent basically makes taking a chemical BAC test a requirement. If you refuse to take the test you will be faced with penalties from the DMV, including a one year license suspension, and it can be used against you at trial. Since serious penalties may be an inevitable result of refusal, in most cases Bay Area DUI attorneys agree that it is best to submit to a chemical test.

In California there is no right to consult an attorney before taking a chemical BAC test. If arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol the driver may choose a breath or blood test. If arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs the driver may choose a blood or urine test. If the driver’s choice is not available, the driver essentially loses his or her right to chose and the officers can perform any available test. In certain cases police officers may perform forced blood tests.

While these basic principles are outlined in the California DUI statutes, if you are charged with a DUI in our area it is vital to seek out individualized legal help. There are often many ways to challenge the validity of certain tests or lawfulness of police conduct which led to the arrest. Every case has some variations, and those differences can often determine conviction and acquittal.

If you are facing a DUI charge in our area, do not hesitate to contact an experienced Santa Rosa DUI attorney at Beck Law P.C. Call 707-576-7175 to make an appointment for a DUI consultation today where an attorney can go over the particular circumstances of your case.

See Related Blog Posts:

California Sobriety Checkpoints
DUI California Field Sobriety Tests
(Photo Courtesty of Officer Greg)

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