How Does California Define A DUI?

Drunk driving concept. Young man driving car under the influence of alcohol. Empty bottle of wine on front seat. Going away from party late at night. Traffic safety risk.

In California, driving under the influence (DUI) is defined in Vehicle Code Section 23152(a), which reads that “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle,” which is pretty broad. The key term is “under the influence,” which is defined in the jury instructions as someone who is intoxicated to the point that they are unable to operate a vehicle with the care and caution of a sober person. California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) states that it is unlawful for a person who has 0.08% or more by weight of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle. In the typical DUI case, a blood alcohol or breath alcohol numerical result will be available, and the government will charge both 23152(a) and 23152(b).

California is also an operation state. This is significant because there is case law in California which says that to “drive a vehicle” means that someone must be “in operation” of that vehicle. This means that if someone were just sitting in their vehicle while under the influence, they should not be found guilty of DUI. However, this isn’t always the case; the right defenses must be raised and brought in court in the right way.

With a few exceptions, the first three DUIs within 10 years in California are misdemeanors. A fourth DUI within 10 years, or a DUI that causes serious bodily injury to someone other than the defendant, is a felony DUI. If someone was killed during a DUI-related accident, then the defendant can face manslaughter or murder charges (in California, it is termed a Watson murder after the case that established this theory of murder). Any DUI that follows a prior felony DUI is also considered a felony DUI, even if the new case is only a routine DUI that did not involve an accident or injury.

A suspect is entitled to a choice between a breath or blood test but has the legal right to decline to take either test. However, a refusal will result in additional consequences,

including at least a one-year driver’s license suspension. Having a blood alcohol concentration over 0.15 can result in enhanced penalties from the prosecutor, and over .20 triggers additional DMV consequences. If the concentration reads over 0.20, we may be able to use our knowledge of the science behind the testing to negotiate a stipulation in court that it was under 0.20, which can help significantly at the DMV proceedings.

For more information on DUI Charges In The State Of California, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (323) 529-3660 today.

The DUI Attorney Don Hammond


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