Enjoying a few drinks is not a crime, but in California where DUI laws are aggressively enforced, drivers may be randomly stopped on the road for allegedly driving while impaired.
Anyone with a spotless DUI record can find the experience nerve-wracking, with police officers conducting procedures and using terminologies that you may be hearing for the first time. Not knowing what to do during this type of situation can lead to innocent mistakes that can affect your chances of obtaining a fair outcome in your case.
What Is DUI?
Driving under the influence, or DUI, is an offense in many states. In California, Vehicle Code Section 23152 prohibits anyone from driving while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or when they have a blood alcohol content of at least 0.08 percent.
This law does not make any person who has had a few drinks before driving necessarily guilty of DUI. For first time offenders, it’s important to remember that not all DUI arrests lead to DUI convictions. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, you may be entitled to defenses appropriate to your case.
Possible DUI Defenses
Physical symptoms not due to alcohol impairment: An arresting officer may claim to have observed physical signs of alcohol impairment at the time they made the traffic stop. Red, watery eyes, a flushed face, slurred speech, and alcoholic breath odor are some of the common allegations that arresting officers use to justify an arrest.
It’s possible that the accused was suffering from a health condition such as conjunctivitis that manifests red, watery eyes or from an allergy that can cause skin or eye redness.
Other health conditions, such as long periods of fasting or a high-protein diet, can result in mouth odors that closely resemble alcohol in the breath. Providing scientific or medical explanations for physical symptoms at the time of the traffic stop can lead to a conclusion of lack of probable cause in making the arrest.
Mouth alcohol causing false breath results: As a rule, a California police officer must observe a defendant for at least 15 minutes before conducting a DUI breath test. During the observation period, the officer must ensure that the defendant does not consume anything containing alcohol such as breath spray, mouthwash, medicines, or drinks.
Putting any of these substances into the mouth shortly before a breath test can lead to a falsely high BAC (blood alcohol content) result.
Failure to properly administer BAC test: It must be noted that California DUI law punishes driving while impaired with alcohol. What is illegal is the impairment or illegal blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time you drove. Thus, accuracy of BAC test results is crucial for a DUI conviction.
To ensure the accuracy of BAC tests, California law requires officers to observe proper procedures for conducting a BAC test such as:
- Regular calibration and maintenance of testing equipment
- Proper collection and handling of blood samples used in the test
- Proper training of testing personnel
Rising blood alcohol: BAC can rise rapidly and steadily after drinking. But what is illegal is a BAC of at least 0.08 percent at the time you drove. Your criminal defense attorney can raise the defense that the DUI chemical test may have been taken at the time you had rising blood alcohol, an inaccurate result for purposes of determining your BAC at the time you drove.
Tainted evidence resulting from illegal blood draw: The Supreme Court has ruled that for BAC blood tests to be admitted as evidence, the test must have been conducted on the basis of a search warrant or with the defendant’s consent. Absent a search warrant or consent, the blood draw may be challenged as illegal and any evidence obtained as a result should be excluded in court.
First-Time Offenders Need DUI Defense Attorneys
Driving under the influence is a crime that may appear in a criminal history check and affect your chances of obtaining employment and retaining your driver’s license. It’s easy to be confused by the complex rules, laws, and court rulings governing DUI arrests and procedures that it’s likely for a first-time arrestee to suffer a conviction unless they obtain legal representation from the time of their arrest.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can examine the charges and the evidence against you, present expert testimony favorable in your case, and file the appropriate motions for exclusion of inadmissible evidence in court.
In certain situations, first-time DUI offenders may also be entitled to diversionary programs that can defer sentencing or lead to a dismissal upon the successful completion of the approved program. Your criminal defense attorney can help you obtain the outcome you legally deserve.
In Southern California, our criminal lawyers at Gurovich, Berk & Associates have more than 3 decades of combined experience in DUI cases, helping first-time DUI offenders obtain dismissals of their charges or enter diversionary programs for their benefit.
We encourage you to call our offices at (213) 385-1555 and speak to one of our dedicated attorneys about your case.