A DUI is a drunk driving offense that is among the most prevalent criminal offenses committed each year. Anyone can be convicted of a DUI offense, regardless of their character, since many people underestimate how much alcohol they have imbibed or the effect it has had on their judgment. Others merely take the risk of attracting the attention of law enforcement while driving since they may have driven while under the influence countless times.
Do not ignore the enormous consequences a DUI can have on your life. Though most DUI convictions are misdemeanors, you still risk jail time, fines in the thousands of dollars, loss of driving privileges for months or years, and substantially increased insurance premiums.
Further, your conviction is public record so any background check will reveal a conviction, which could adversely affect your ability to find employment, rent a residence, enroll in school, or an opportunity for job advancement. Should your DUI conviction be a felony, which can be charged depending on if you have had multiple DUI convictions or you caused an accident resulting in serious bodily injury or death, you risk years in jail and a possible lifetime ban on driving.
Before you can be stopped by a police officer, the officer needs reasonable suspicion to believe you violated a traffic offense or some other crime. If you were observed driving erratically or rolled through a stop sign, the officer has legal cause to stop you. If the officer notices certain signs of intoxication such as slurred speech, watery eyes, fumbling for your license, or unsteadiness on your feet, the officer can request that you take a chemical test of your blood alcohol content, usually a breath test.
In California, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. If your BAC is elevated, such as 0.15% or higher, increased criminal penalties may apply. If your BAC is at least 0.08%, you are presumed to be under the influence of alcohol. For drivers under 21, your BAC must be negligible. Commercial drivers have a BAC limit of only .04%.
You may also be charged if you refuse BAC testing or even if your BAC is below the legal limit if the officer has probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence and can point to certain articulable facts, such as your driving conduct or your physical appearance and demeanor, that would lead him/her to believe your driving conduct was impaired.