Our experienced car accident lawyers believe that drunk-driving (DUI) car accidents are 100% preventable. There is no reason for anyone, who has had anything alcoholic to drink, to get behind the wheel of a car.
Yet, the statistics keep telling us that drunk-drivers are not going anywhere. What we have decided to do is to explain how California looks at driving under the influence (DUI) and also show how your Blood Alcohol Content or Concentration (BAC) Level relates to the type of punishment you can receive.
Here are the 12 Things You Need To Know About California Drunk-Driving (DUI) Laws:
- Minimum BAC Level — .08
- Zero Tolerance BAC Level — .01
- Enhanced Penalty BAC Level — .16
- Implied Consent Law
- Open Container Law
- 1st Offense — License Suspension for 4 months
- 2nd Offense — License Suspension for 2 years and Mandatory Jail Time
- 3rd Offense — License Suspension for 4 years, Mandatory Jail Time and Vehicle Confiscation
- Mandatory Alcohol Education
- Mandatory Assessment and Treatment
- You May Have an Ignition Interlock Installed on Your Car
- You Can Apply For a Hardship License
1. Minimum BAC Level — .08
This is now the minimum BAC level for all drivers that are over 21-years-old. BAC is the amount of alcohol in a driver’s bloodstream. BAC is the percent, by weight, of alcohol in a person’s blood, based upon grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
BAC levels are determined after taking a chemical test at a police station. Breathalyzers do not accurately determine your BAC level, and police, in most cases, without a person’s consent, are not permitted to withdraw blood for the BAC test.
According to California Law only a licensed physician and surgeon, registered nurse, licensed vocational nurse, duly licensed clinical laboratory scientist or clinical laboratory bioanalyst, a person who has been issued a “certified phlebotomy technician” certificate, unlicensed laboratory personnel or certified paramedic acting at the request of a peace officer may withdraw blood for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content therein.
2. Zero Tolerance BAC Level — .01
This law is designed for drivers that are under 21 years of age. Since it is illegal for someone less than 21-years-old to drink alcohol, California Law states that underage drinkers may not drive at all.
Having as little as one drink would be enough to give you a DUI if you are an underage drinker and you drive a car.
The Zero Tolerance Law also applies to someone on probation for drunk-driving. Until that probation is lifted, a car driver may not get behind the wheel after drinking any alcohol, regardless of how minimal. These drivers are also subjected to the Implied Consent Law (No. 4), even if an officer does not suspect that person to be DUI.
3. Enhanced Penalty BAC Level — .16
If you are more than double the legal limit, you will be subject to greater penalty than a normal DUI. Since car accidents are very likely when someone drives this drunk, California Law comes down harder on these drunk-drivers.
4. Implied Consent Law
This law is in effect in California, and it means that someone suspected of DUI must submit to a chemical test — either breath, blood or urine testing. Basically, by driving in California, you are giving your “implied consent” or approval for an intoxication test.
Refusing to submit to a test carries a penalty of a mandatory suspension of your driver’s license. Therefore, some people believe that this law violates a driver’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, so not all states have this law for drunk-drivers.
5. Open Container Law
You cannot have an open alcohol container with you in your car. This law applies to not only the driver but also to every passenger in the car.
6. 1st Offense — License Suspension for 4 months
If you are found guilty of DUI and drunk-driving and are a first-time offender, you will lose your license for four months in California. This is no mandatory jail time unless your DUI conviction comes with other charges (i.e. if you were in a car accident or were speeding).
As previously mentioned, you will also lose your license if you refuse an officer’s request for a breathalyzer or blood test. You will lose your license, in this instance, without the need of a DUI conviction in court.
7. 2nd Offense — License Suspension for 2 years and Mandatory Jail Time
If you are caught for a second time drunk-driving, the penalty will be severe. In addition to losing your license for two years, you will spend time in jail. No one should ever DUI, but it is vital that you learn your lesson after the first occurrence. In addition to making it very hard to get to work every day without a driver’s license, you will be putting everyone on the road at risk for car accidents.
8. 3rd Offense — License Suspension for 4 years, Mandatory Jail Time and Vehicle Confiscation
It only gets tougher each time you are caught drunk-driving. In addition to a four-year license suspension and increased jail time, you will lose your vehicle. The police will impound your vehicle, and you may never get it back.
9. Mandatory Alcohol Education
Upon your first conviction for DUI, you will be enrolled in a mandatory program designed to help you with addiction. In some states, these programs can help lower the time that your license is suspended, but these programs are mandatory in the Golden State.
You will not receive your driver’s license again without completion of at least one of these programs.
10. Mandatory Assessment and Treatment
Very similar to No. 9, these programs are also mandatory. Assessment programs will determine your drinking level. If you are found to be dependent on alcohol, you will be forced to attend an alcohol treatment program.
These programs typically come in the form of counseling or support groups, i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
11. You May Have an Ignition Interlock Installed on Your Car
An ignition interlock device is a machine connected to a car’s ignition that checks for the presence of alcohol on a car driver’s breathe. In order for the car to turn on, the driver must blow into the machine, with alcohol-free breathe, and must continue to do so periodically while driving.
If your ignition interlock device senses alcohol, the car will not start or will turn itself off and you will be forced to pull over.
In California, there is a possibility that you will be given this device if you are caught DUI. This is a good way to prevent repeat offenders, and, as car accident lawyers, we feel this technology is important for preventing drunk-driving car accidents.
12. You Can Apply For a Hardship License
After 30 days, California Law allows for limited driving privileges to be restored to people convicted of DUI even while their license is suspended. These car drivers must be able to demonstrate a special hardship (i.e. being the sole support of their families) to justify having their driving privileges restored to them.
A hardship license often only gives a driver the privilege to drive to work and back. The reason being, these car drivers are a risk to cause a car accident if they drunk-drive again.
So there you have it. The best way to make sure that you never need to know any of these rules is to never drive a car after drinking an ounce (or less!) of alcohol. Our car accident lawyers know the dangers of drunk-driving. It causes fatal car accidents, and it can be the source of pain and suffering lives of the people that live after an auto accident. You could lose your job (if it requires you to drive), or worse, you could lose your freedom.
Is drunk-driving ever worth the price you have to pay if your DUI causes a wrongful death car accident?
Call us now at 1-858-551-2090 or click here for a free consultation with an experienced car accident attorney and find out how we can help you. We speak English and Spanish, and we look forward to providing advice for your case. No fee if no recovery.
SENIOR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY & FIRM FOUNDER
Michael Pines is a former insurance company attorney who graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1987. While he was an insurance attorney, he learned from behind the scenes how insurance companies work and how they decide how much to pay injured people. Now that he works against insurance companies, Michael’s inside knowledge has resulted in significant benefits to his clients injured in car accidents. Learn more about Michael Pines