A drunk driving charge can result in the loss of a person’s license if they are convicted of their alleged crimes. However, drunk driving charges like DUI can lead to even more significant personal, financial, and legal troubles. For some, a DUI conviction may result in repercussions at their job and the losses of income and responsibilities related to their work. For others, a criminal conviction for something like DUI may threaten their legal immigration status and their rights to be in the country.

Drunk driving laws vary from state to state and California drivers should be aware of the laws that may impact their rights when they choose to operate here. This post will provide some information about California drunk driving laws but as with all legal matters discussed on this blog, readers should always contact knowledgeable legal advisors when they have questions and concerns.

Fact #1: DUI Can be Charged Even if a Person Does Not Appear Drunk

Individuals who show signs of intoxication can have problems with their coordination, movement, and memory. However, a person does not have to be in such a state to be arrested for suspected drunk driving. California recognizes per se intoxication, which means that if a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at or above a certain threshold, they are considered too drunk to drive despite the absence of other evidence. In California that per se level is .08%.

Fact #2: California is an Implied Consent State

Individuals may believe that if they are stopped for alleged drunk driving that they can simply choose not to submit to testing to avoid the punishments of the law. However, California is an implied consent state which means that when drivers choose to operate on its roads and highways, they consent to drunk driving testing when asked. Individuals who have run into challenges with refusing BAC and field sobriety testing can talk to their attorneys about their options.

Fact #3: Underage Drivers Are Held to a Different BAC Standard

The legal drinking age in California is 21 and drivers under that age are prohibited from drinking alcohol in any context. If they are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, however, they are considered drunk at a much lower BAC level. Underage drivers with BAC levels of .02% or higher are considered intoxicated for the purposes of drunk driving charges.

Fact #4: DUI Charges Can Have Punishments Other Than License Revocations

The loss of one’s license may be a significant problem for a California driver, but DUI convictions can result in other punishments as well. For example, DUI convictions can require drivers to submit to alcohol education courses and to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. Some drivers may have their vehicles taken from them depending on the type of charges that they face.

Fact #5: Not All DUI Charges Are Created Equal

Facts and circumstances can greatly impact the types and severity of legal charges that alleged drunk drivers face when they are arrested. For example, a BAC level of above .16% may lead to enhanced penalties against a driver, as may allegedly aggressive or dangerous actions taken by a driver who is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. If a driver has a prior DUI conviction on their record, their subsequent charges and the related penalties may be increased over those of the individual’s first DUI.

Getting past a DUI charge can be difficult and confusing for an individual who is concerned about what such a problem will do to their future. Defense strategies exist that can help some drivers avoid the serious punishments that can harm their interests. DUI defense attorneys are valuable resources for drivers facing these and other legal concerns.