California DUI Laws

Some states refer to it as Driving Under the Influence (DUI), others refer to it as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and a small group of states called it Operating Under the Influence (OUI). (We generally refer to it as “DUI” at this site.) This criminal offense generally includes either driving under the influence of alcohol to the extent it impairs your physical and mental faculties, or driving while you have a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater regardless of whether the alcohol has had any effect on you. The offense is also mistakenly known as “drunk driving” although that term has no official meaning and is a misnomer because you don’t have to be drunk (or driving) in order to be arrested and convicted of a DUI. Questions? Call a  DUI attorney.

Drunk driving in California

Like every other state, California has a “per se” BAC limit of 0.08% pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b); and based on the aforementioned federal legislation, a lower limit of 0.04% for drivers holding commercial drivers licenses (CDL). California also has a limit of 0.01% for drivers who are under 21 or on probation for previous DUI offenses pursuant to California Vehicle Code Sections 23136 and 23140. California also makes it illegal for persons who are on probation for a DUI conviction to drive with a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.01% or greater pursuant to Vehicle Code Section 23154. While the existence of a BAC of 0.01% or greater may not always result in prosecution for driving under the influence, it will expose such drivers to a one or two-year suspension through an administrative action by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. If that same person has a BAC of 0.08% or greater, it will prompt what is referred to as a “dual action”, meaning a suspension for driving with a BAC of 0.08% or greater and a suspension for driving with a BAC of 0.01% or greater while on DUI Probation.

Driving under the influence (DUI), driving while impaired/driving while intoxicated (DWI), drunk driving, operating while intoxicated (OWI), operating [a] vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs (OVI) in Ohio, drink-driving (UK), or impaired driving (Canada) is currently the crime or offense of driving or operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or other drugs (including recreational drugs and those prescribed by physicians), to a level that renders the driver incapable of operating a motor vehicle safely.

What if You’re Not “Driving”?

The criminal offense may not involve actual driving of the vehicle, but rather may broadly include being physically in control of a car while intoxicated even if the person charged is not driving. For example, a person found in the driver’s seat of a car while intoxicated and holding the keys, even while parked, may be charged with DUI, because he or she is in control of the vehicle. In construing the terms DUI, DWI, OWI and OVI, some states therefore make it illegal to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence or driving while intoxicated while others indicate that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle. There is a split of authority across the country regarding this issue. Some states permit enforcement of DUI/DWI and OWI/OVI statutes based on “operation and control” of a vehicle, while others require actual “driving”. “The distinction between these two terms is material, for it is generally held that the word ‘drive, ‘ as used in statutes of this kind, usually denotes movement of the vehicle in some direction, whereas the word ‘operate’ has a broader meaning so as to include not only the motion of the vehicle, but also acts which engage the machinery of the vehicle that, alone or in sequence, will set in motion the motive power of the vehicle.” (State v. Graves (1977) 269 S.C. 356 [237 S.E.2d 584, 586-588, 586. fn. 8].

 

 

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