The legal limit for intoxication is .08% in California, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be arrested for a DUI if your BAC is lower. A conviction for DUI can have long-ranging effects, including employment, education, immigration, and visas.
California takes DUI seriously and imposes harsh penalties even for a first offense. Fines for a first-time DUI can range from $390 to upwards of $1,000, with six months in jail, three to five years of probation, and a six-month license suspension. For subsequent arrests, the fines and jail sentences increase to a maximum of $5,000.
Insurance rates drastically increase after a DUI. There is also a mandatory requirement for an ignition interlock device to be installed on a driver’s car for at least six months to be eligible for a restricted driver’s license.
Instead of facing multiple fines and penalties, get a skilled DUI lawyer to fight the charges.
How much alcohol is a DUI in California?
When police officers suspect someone is driving drunk, they will administer a breathalyzer test to check a driver’s blood alcohol concentration or BAC. For a passenger vehicle driver, that BAC is .08% at the time the person is driving. For commercial vehicle and rideshare drivers, that limit is .04%, and for minors, .05%.
The DMV lists “one drink” as:
- 1½ ounces of 80-proof liquor (one shot)
- 12 ounces of 5% beer
- 5 ounces of 12% wine
It’s also against the law to drive using any OTC, prescription, or illegal drug that impairs your ability to operate a motor vehicle. Some drugs increase impairment when combined with alcohol, leading to a DUI.
Will One Beer Fail a Breathalyzer?
One drink can impact your driving ability, depending on factors such as food, fatigue, medications, weight, and even gender. For someone who is a “lightweight,” It’s possible to fail a breathalyzer, especially in the presence of other variables such as an incorrectly calibrated device.
A breathalyzer measures the amount of alcohol in your breath, then translates it into what’s in your blood. Because it doesn’t test directly for BAC, a breathalyzer can give an incorrect reading that’s incorrectly higher. A blood test taken after arrest may provide a more accurate result.
How Can You Be Charged with DUI If You’re Under The BAC?
Many people believe you can’t be arrested for DUI after drinking if a breathalyzer shows you under the BAC, but that’s not true.
Even if you’re below the .08 BAC (or lower if you’re a minor or commercial driver), it doesn’t mean you can drive safely. Someone found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs and cannot drive, and a sober driver under similar circumstances can be charged.
When a police officer believes someone is impaired, the BAC is irrelevant. A person who appears impaired to the police officer may be arrested for DUI regardless of their BAC.
For instance, if someone were driving erratically, exhibited slurred speech during a traffic stop, or could not complete a field sobriety test, a police officer would see that they were too intoxicated to drive, and the BAC wouldn’t matter. The officer has reason to believe that the driver is inebriated or otherwise impaired and has probable cause to place them under arrest.
By law, the officer is required to observe the driver for 15 minutes and check for signs of intoxication before administering the breathalyzer.
Can you refuse a DUI test in California?
When you drive in California, you give implied consent to taking chemical testing when asked. There are two: the pre-arrest breath test and the post-arrest breath test.
You can refuse the test that’s requested prior to an arrest. Under California law, you have the right to refuse the breath test without penalty, so long as you are not under 21 or on probation for a previous DUI conviction. Your refusal cannot be used against you as evidence of guilt if you are charged with DUI and your case goes to trial.
Once you’re arrested and taken to the police station, you’re legally required to take either a breath or blood test. At this point, you should request legal counsel before speaking with the police. If you refuse the test, your license will be suspended for one year. There are increased penalties, such as additional jail time with a conviction and nine months of California DUI school instead of the usual three, including fees.
How An Experienced San Diego DUI Attorney Can Help
A DUI arrest does not have to mean your life is over. You have the right to legal defense. We’ve helped hundreds of people in San Diego with DUI charges and can help you. We investigate your case to build a solid defense to fight the charges. We work for the best possible outcome, including dismissal and reduced charges.
Is it worth fighting DUI in California?
Absolutely. There are multiple defenses to DUI charges. Breathalyzers are not always correct and can be affected by the following:
- Low-carb dieting like Paleo, Atkins, or Keto that causes ketosis
- “Residual mouth alcohol,” such as mouthwash
- Defective or nonfunctional equipment
- Radiofrequency interference that causes high BAC readings
- Inadequate results from field sobriety testing
These are just some of the defenses to a California DUI that a criminal defense attorney can use to have your charges reduced or dismissed.
Can a DUI Be Dismissed in California?
Sometimes a first-time DUI can be dismissed if you plead not guilty at the arraignment hearing. A criminal defense attorney can also work to have your charges dismissed due to the following:
- Improper police conduct
- Failing to read your Miranda rights
- Checkpoints that don’t comply with legal requirements
- Unreasonable traffic stop
- Incorrect BAC measurement
- Illegally charged at the preliminary hearing
If there is evidence of these or other actions, an attorney will file a motion to dismiss with the court.
Free DUI Consultation in San Diego
A DUI charge can leave you with a criminal record and lost driving privileges. At our free one-hour consultation at our San Diego office, we’ll discuss your case and your options. Many cases are settled or dismissed before trial. But for cases that do make it to court, we will work to build a strong defense and represent you throughout the entire process.
How to Contact Our DUI Attorneys
If you or a loved one are facing a DUI charge, contact one of our DUI attorneys immediately. We understand California’s DUI laws and are ready to defend you against the charges and help you steer clear of legal consequences.
Call or text our office at (619) 430-2355, or use our online contact form to schedule your appointment. Our skilled DUI attorneys have helped thousands of people in San Diego in your situation and are ready to help you.