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DUI Laws: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities


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In California, there are a myriad of legal statutes governing the roads, but very few of them carry the kind of weight that the consequences of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) does. Driving responsibly is something every driver should do, but there are still circumstances which may arise when a driver is facing the prospect of a DUI.

In this blog we’ll cover a variety of topics related to DUI laws, from the intricacies of a DUI charge to your rights and what you should look for in a DUI lawyer. Knowledge is power, and you deserve to have all of the information! 

Overview Of DUIs

So, what actually constitutes a DUI? The state of California says that it is illegal for you to operate a vehicle if you have a BAC of:

  • 0.08% or higher if you are over 21 years old.
  • 0.01% or higher if you are under 21 years old.
  • 0.01% or higher at any age if you are on DUI probation.
  • 0.04% or higher if you drive a vehicle that requires a commercial driver’s license.
  • 0.04% or higher if you are driving a passenger for hire.

BAC stands for Blood Alcohol Content. Any alcohol you drink can last in your bloodstream for up to 12 hours, and a BAC test is used to determine just how much you’ve had. If you have an illegal amount of alcohol in your system and are pulled over, your BAC test can be used as evidence against you in your case. However, California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) makes it illegal for someone to operate a vehicle under the influence of any amount of alcohol. Therefore there is no “safe” limit with drinking and driving.

Understanding Your Rights

When it comes to DUIs, being aware of your rights and responsibilities if you find yourself in trouble with the law can protect you from potentially lifelong consequences.

In California, in the midst of a DUI arrest process, you have the right to…

  • Remain silent – You are not legally required to respond to any statements or questions from law enforcement.
  • Not be stopped without “reasonable suspicion” – If law enforcement doesn’t have a valid reason to pull you over, the entire case should be thrown out.
  • Not to be arrested without probable cause – Law enforcement can’t arrest you without probable cause to do so.
  • Speak to an attorney – At any point in your case, you have the right to speak to an attorney and have them present. If you cannot afford your own personal attorney, a public defender will represent you.

Additionally, you have the right to access police reports and other evidence, to present your own evidence and witnesses, the right to a fair trial, and the right to expungement. Working with a DUI attorney is the best way to ensure that your rights are upheld so you can reach the most favorable outcome.

Field Sobriety Tests: What To Expect

There are a variety of field sobriety tests that police may perform on you if they have reasonable suspicion that you are under the influence of alcohol. These include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the One Leg Stand, and the Walk and Turn.

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus – A police officer will hold his pen, finger, or flashlight about a foot from your face and move it side to side while checking your eyes as you attempt to follow it. 
  • One Leg Stand – A police officer will instruct you to stand with both hands at your sides, and then raise one foot six to eight inches off of the ground for thirty seconds.
  • Walk and TurnA police officer will have you start by standing with both hands at your sides and with the heel of your right foot touching the toe of your left foot. The officer should also demonstrate how to stand in the starting position. After explaining it, they’ll note your ability to maintain your balance.

What Happens After Arrest?

Your BAC can be measured through your urine, saliva, hair follicles, breath, and blood, but law enforcement typically utilizes two methods: breathalyzer tests and blood tests. After you’ve been arrested, you’ll have the choice between taking a breathalyzer test or a blood test.

Breathalyzer Tests

A breathalyzer test analyzes the alcohol content on your breath when you exhale. The alcohol then reacts with a chemical solution in the breathalyzer machine, and a computer translates the data into the BAC measurement (mentioned above) to determine your blood alcohol content.

Blood Tests

A blood test is exactly what it sounds like; it’s a sample of your blood that is tested to determine your blood alcohol content. A blood test is considered more accurate than a breathalyzer, though both options have advantages and disadvantages.

You may be wondering, can a police officer make me submit to one of these tests? The answer to that question is yes, they can. Under Implied Consent Laws, when you apply for a driver’s license, you consent to field sobriety testing if pulled over and reasonable suspicion that you’re under the influence is present.

However, there are specific guidelines for Implied Consent laws in each state. In California, a citation may be issued if you refuse a chemical BAC test, but if you consent to a blood draw test after initially refusing a breathalyzer test, you’ll be exempt from a refusal charge.

What To Look For In A DUI Defense Lawyer

Being charged with a DUI is a frightening experience that can damage your personal and professional life. Depending on the circumstances of your charge, your driving record may suffer significantly, which can cause your insurance to go up. If you’re on probation or your license is suspended or revoked, you may not be able to get yourself to and from work, or you could lose your job if it requires your ability to drive. This can create additional financial strain which can ultimately affect where and how you live. Because of the social stigma that surrounds DUI charges, your offense might affect your relationships with friends and family, especially if you have children that you share custody of. Since there are so many potential implications of a DUI charge, there are many factors you should look for when choosing a DUI defense lawyer.

First and foremost, you need an attorney with experience and a proven track-record of success in DUI cases. With that should come an understanding of state laws that pertain to your case, and an ability to communicate how said laws can affect the outcome. Effective communication and commitment to helping you protect the things that matter most is imperative.

Additionally, you should seek the assistance of a lawyer who can assess the unique circumstances of your charge, explore potential legal defenses, prepare for any curveballs, and work towards lessening the impact of DUI charges on your driving record, insurance, and overall life.

How Strongest Defense Can Help You

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, it’s crucial that you act fast in enlisting the help of our Ventura DUI lawyer, David Lehr. David is a former prosecutor, so he’s familiar with the tactics that will be used against you in court. He’ll use his knowledge and experience to defend your rights, and advocate for your charges to be reduced or dropped all together. Call Strongest Defense today to schedule a free consultation and discover your options.