How to Defend a DUI (Drunk Driving) in California

The California DUI laws have been altered such that even a first-time under the influence or DUI conviction can lead to heavier penalties. If you have been are arrested for a DUI in California before, then you probably already know that you face severe legal and non-judicial punishments following a conviction. For this reason, a  strong defense is essential. Each DUI prosecution has a unique set of facts they need to prove. However, DUI defenses are routinely utilized in California to oppose DUI charges.

If you’re arrested for violating Vehicle Code 23152 and want to fight the DUI charge, you should consult with a DUI defense lawyer about the available defenses. With a good defense strategy, you might be able to win the court in your favor or, better yet, get the prosecution to drop the charges entirely.  

If you are under 21 years old with a DUI charge, please reference our article Under 21 With a DUI Charge?

1. Defenses Related to “Driving”

Some states require proof of actual driving to convict you of DUI charges. If you were asleep in a parked vehicle in one of these states, you probably have a good chance. The prosecution needs to demonstrate that you were “operating” or “in actual physical control” of a vehicle. Most states, including California, will not make a formal conviction unless you were driving a vehicle while intoxicated.

2. Arresting Officer Made an Illegal Stop

Traffic officers cannot stop a driver unless the officer reasonably believes the driver violated a traffic rule. It’s not enough to have a suspicion about something you shouldn’t do. Officers regularly state that a driver was “weaving,” “speeding,” “switching lanes often,” or showing some other driving behavior, which is supposedly the basis of their suspicions. While police are within their legal rights to stop you for any traffic violation, reckless driving and drunk driving are two completely different vices. The State also has the burden to prove that evidence was obtained lawfully through searches or seizures. When an officer violates your Fourth Amendment, this could mean filing a Motion to Suppress Evidence in cases without legal justification for the traffic stop.

3. Challenging A DUI Checkpoint 

Local Law enforcement agencies will typically set up DUI checkpoints on a busy public road. Police personnel usually stop any car or use another pre-approved way to halt some drivers randomly. These checks are typically carried out on the weekends and holidays and may start in the evening and run until early morning.  A qualified lawyer can determine the best defense alternative based on what happened at the checkpoint at the time of the arrest. For instance, was the checkpoint publicly announced in due time? Was the stop random or strategic? To read more about entrapement, check out our article Does Entrapment Apply to DUI Stops?

4. Breath Alcohol Testing Can Be Inaccurate

As one of the most commonly used field sobriety tests, breathalyzer tests determine the particles of breath alcohol in your mouth and give a measurement of the blood alcohol content(BAC) in your blood. The test is based on a single partition ratio rating. Changes in body temperature while administering the tests can result in falsely high readings. In consultation with a forensic toxicology expert, a defense attorney can point to irregularities in breath testing that may form the basis of a strong DUI defense. It is possible to apply a defense to breath alcohol testing issues in the case of a DUI. Click here to read our article about the Science Dehind a DUI Defense.

5. Rising Blood Alcohol

The ‘Rising blood alcohol’ defense applies when your BAC was below the legal limit when driving. BAC can take 45 minutes to 3 hours after drinking to become fully absorbed. After drinking, the peak BAC time varies widely based on your body, when, and what you ate. A rising BAC defense requires using a toxicology test and evidence to create a retrograde analysis that shows the driver had rising BAC at the time of the driving accident.

For more information on potential DWI defense, check out our article Making it through your DUI Unscathed & Defense Arguments. If you are considering representing yourself in your California DUI case, read out aricle Can You Beat a California DUI on Your Own Using Your Own Evidence? Click our link you’d like to recieve a free PDF download of our book DUI Charge, Now What? Need to know how to hire a great DUI Attorney? Read our articleWhat Makes a Great DUI Attorney. For immediate help, call us at (323) 529-3660.

The DUI Attorney Don Hammond


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