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Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI)

It is technically not illegal to drink alcohol and drive.  It is, however, illegal to drink to the point where the alcohol in your system impairs your ability to operate a motor vehicle.  And, it is illegal to drink and drive where your alcohol blood concentration level is over the legal limit of over .08 (for people who are 21 and older).    

So, in order for the prosecutor to prove that you are committing a crime of driving under the influence, the DA must show: 

  1. That you were driving and
  2. Your blood alcohol concentration was over .08 OR
  3. You were simply under the influence of alcohol 

Driving.  You obviously have to be operating a motor vehicle or be in control of the vehicle.  So, it gets tricky if you were just sitting in the driver’s seat, the engine was not on, and your car keys were in your trunk.  Or, if you fell asleep behind the wheel, intoxicated, with the car parked.  Take note – not driving can be a defense.  

.08 or above.  Law enforcement generally does a breath test or blood draw to determine what your blood alcohol level is.  If you are right on the cusp, you may want to have an expert look at your breath test results.

Under the influence.  Let’s say your BAC is well below under .08.  The DA, however, can still pursue you for DUI charges under the theory that you drove while under the influence.  The DA may look at factors such as driving pattern and your physical appearance to determine you were driving while under the influence. 

Now, if you are under the age of 21, the drinking limit is .01 or higher.  If you are on DUI probation, the drinking limit is the same – .01 or higher.  There is basically zero tolerance for alcohol use if you are under 21 or on DUI probation.  

How is someone typically stopped for a DUI or suspected of a DUI?  Police may see someone violating a traffic infraction, swerving in the lanes, or merely investigating a car crash.  It is after they pull the person over and, for example, smell an odor of alcohol or see blood shot watery eyes, is when police may start a DUI investigation.  

What are the consequences of a DUI?  For a first time DUI, you likely will be looking at informal probation, DUI school, county jail of up to 6 months, fines between $390-$1000, and your DL will be suspended for 6 months.  Depending on whether you are in Orange County or another outside county, you may be looking at local conditions as well.  Depending on what your BAC results were, the DUI school duration could be increased as well as your DL suspension. 

Is a Wet Reckless an option?  What is a Wet Reckless?  A wet reckless is less serious than a DUI.  It is sometimes an option when your BAC is closer to .08 or under .08, the facts in your case are weak, or you have some compelling reason (i.e – immigration consequences along with other factors) that would convince the DA to give you something more favorable than a DUI.  A Wet Reckless is advantageous because there is no court-ordered driver’s license suspension, the fines are lower, and the probation period is shorter, to name a few.  A Wet Reckless, however, is “priorable,” meaning, if you get another DUI in the next 10 years, your Wet Reckless will be considered your “first,” and your most current DUI will be considered your “second” for sentencing purposes.  You will also be considered a repeat offender.  

Why does this all matter?  As you have read above, DUI’s are a tricky but common offense that can affect anyone.  It can hurt your professional career, job, or schooling aspirations.  And, it is a crime with many nuances that only an experienced criminal defense attorney should handle.  Contact Kristine Koo today to schedule your consultation.   

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