Definition and Aspects of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol:
Under California Vehicle Code 23152(a) (VC 23152(a)) it is illegal for any person to operate a vehicle under the influence of any alcoholic beverage. Drivers can be charged with this statute, even if their blood alcohol level is below the legal limit of .08% if they display signs and symptoms of intoxication.
If a breath or blood test is taken and the results come back higher than the legal limit of .08%, the Defendant is typically charged with two crimes: Vehicle Code 23152(a), driving under the influence; and Vehicle Code 23152(b) (VC 23152(b)), driving with excessive blood alcohol levels. If both of the charges listed are sustained, it is considered a single DUI conviction.
To be convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, the Prosecution must prove the following:
- The Defendant drove a motor vehicle
- The Defendant was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident
Often Prosecution uses circumstantial evidence to illustrate the Defendant’s impairment, such as:
- Smell of alcohol
- Swerving or driving erratically
- Slurred speech
- Watery, bloodshot, or glassy eyes
- Admitted to drinking
- Failed sobriety test
If a person is suspected of drunk driving, he/she can be charged with two separate crimes:
- Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (VC 23152(a))
- Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or Higher (VC 23152(b))
The first charge (VC 23152a) is subjective, as it is not based on the blood alcohol level of the Defendant. The second statute of (VC 23152b) is objective, as it is provable by a blood or breath test. If the Defendant violates both statutes, he/she is still only being charged with one merged DUI offense.
Criminal Offenses Related to Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol:
Similar or related offenses to California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) (VC 23152(a)), DUI of alcohol include:
- Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or Higher – California Vehicle Code 23152(b) (VC 23152(b))
- Wet Reckless – California Vehicle Code 23103/23103.5 (VC 23103) or (VC 23103.5)
- Dry Reckless – California Vehicle Code 23103 (VC 23103)
- Exhibition of Speed – California Vehicle Code 23109(c) (VC 23109c)
- DUI with Injury – California Vehicle Code 23153 (VC 23153)
Example of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol:
A man visits his local pub to enjoy the football game, during which he drinks a few bottles of beer with his friends. Deciding that he feels good enough to drive, he gets into his vehicle. During his drive home, an officer pulls him over for swerving between lanes without using his blinker. The man admits that he was coming from the bar. After conducting a walk-and-turn field sobriety test, the policeman takes the man into custody for driving under the influence of alcohol, under California Vehicle Code 23152(a) (PC 23152(a)).
Defenses to Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol:
The most common defense to California Vehicle Code 23152(a) (VC 23152(a)) is the absence of alcohol. If the Defendant’s erratic driving was influenced by fatigue, a distraction, a mechanical malfunction, or an emergency or medical situation, and there was no test taken to prove the blood alcohol level of the Defendant, the charges could be dismissed. Sober people often cause accidents or drive carelessly, in a manner that could be mistaken as being under the influence.
If a field sobriety test was conducted and the Defendant failed it, it is considered circumstantial evidence, as those tools are not effective to prove that the Defendant was under the influence. Someone could fail a walk-and-turn or a one-leg-stand test if they are tired, have a medical condition, or even have anxiety. In this example, the case would go to trial and an attorney would ask the police officer to testify all the ways that the Defendant currently performed field sobriety tests. This questioning is designed to prove to a court that the Defendant did more right than wrong.
Lastly, if the police failed to follow the procedures, the case could be dismissed. If the officer did not have enough reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop, didn’t administer the field sobriety test properly, did not have enough evidence for an arrest, or coerced a confession from the Defendant, an experienced attorney would use this as reasonable doubt to get the case thrown out.
Driving under the influence of drugs or in the withdrawal of drugs is not an effective defense, as those are also criminal offenses, carrying the same consequences as driving under the influence of alcohol (VC 23152(a)).
Consequences and Penalty for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol:
The first three convictions of driving under the influence of alcohol (VC 23152(a)) are most often misdemeanors, however, with every subsequent conviction, the penalties increase. The sentencing also varies by county.
If the Defendant is convicted of a first-time offense, the penalty is 3 to 5 years of probation, fines up to $1,000, and the attendance of DUI school. If the Defendant’s BAC is less than .20%, 3 months of DUI school (amounting to 30 hours) is sufficient, however, if his/her alcohol level is higher than .20%, the punishment increases to 9 months (equaling 90 hours). The Defendant will also get their license suspended for 6 months unless he/she installs an IID in their vehicle for those 6 months. The Defendant could also be convicted of 48 hours to 6 months in jail, and even work release, depending on the county.
If this is the second DUI offense within 10 years, the 3 to 5-year probation time remains, however, DUI school increases to 18 months minimum and 30 months maximum. The Defendant is liable for up to $1,000 in fines, a 2-year driver’s license suspension (or IID installment for 1 year in his/her vehicle), and 96 hours to 1 year in jail. Depending on the details of the case, the court may grant house arrest or a work-program instead of jail.
For a third-time DUI offense in 10 years, the fines and 3 to 5 years in summary probation remain, however, 30 months of DUI school are required, as well as a 3-year driver’s license suspension (or an immediate installment of IID for 2 years) and 120 days to 1 year in county jail. The minimum sentence, in this case, is 30 days in jail if a judge grant probation and orders a 30-month DUI school course.
In some cases, DUI offenders are restricted from traveling to Canada. A conviction will also most likely increase the Defendant’s auto insurance premiums, however, unless there were injuries, the Defendant is not required to notify their insurance, and they would not find out unless they run a background check. Additionally, a judge may impose mandatory attendance to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
In more serious cases, a DUI offense is charged with a felony.
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (VC 23152(a)), under California Vehicle Code 23152(a), is a misdemeanor offense that can result in jail time, fines, and additional long-term consequences. It is imperative that if you are charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, you contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
For an experienced attorney in your corner, Action Lavitch from Action Defense Lawyers is available 24/7 at (747) DEFEND U or (747) 333-3638. With a proven track record and speaking both English and Spanish, Action Lavitch and the team from Action Defense Lawyers provide skilled legal representation and professional advice. Having an above 90% success rate for clients, Action Defense Lawyers is the go-to for those charged with California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) (VC 23152(a)): Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol. Book a free consultation today.