California sanctions drivers who take to the road while intoxicated based on their blood alcohol content (“BAC”) at the time of driving. Once a driver’s blood alcohol content rises to 0.08% or above, they are considered to be driving under the influence, California Vehicle Code Section (“CVC”) 23152(b). However, because a DUI is so dangerous to other drivers, pedestrians, and to the DUI driver, in 2006, the California Legislature added CVC 23578 as an enhancement to increase penalties when drivers have a blood alcohol level above 0.15%.
Your blood alcohol content is the primary evidence used to prove that a person was driving under the influence. It can be measured in two ways: a breath test or through a blood sample. If you submit to a breath test, the results of the test will be immediately known to the police, although the arresting officer is not required to tell you your BAC at that time. If you decide to submit to a blood test, the results of that test could take days or weeks, since the sample has to be sent to a laboratory for analysis. The results of either test will be available to you at your arraignment or sent to you by the DMV in preparation of your DMV Administrative Per Se Hearing, should you have requested one.
Blood alcohol content varies among different people. Weight, gender, metabolism, and age all affect how the body processes alcohol over time. There is no set limit as to how much one needs to drink in order to be illegally driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage. Therefore, it is important to understand your limits and to act prudently.
Statistically, approximately 70% of alcohol-related driving deaths occur when the driver’s blood alcohol content is above 0.15%. Therefore, the enhancements California can impose upon conviction for DUI are significant.
A blood alcohol content of 0.15% is considered an enhancing circumstance that can lead to stiffer fines, a longer mandatory DUI school requirement, and a longer jail sentence. However, there are additional enhancing circumstances that a court will also consider.
- Was there an accident involving other cars and passengers?
- Was anyone injured as a result of your driving?
- Was a passenger in your car under the age of 14 at the time of your arrest? This could mean an additional charge (California Penal Code (CPC) 273(a)) or enhancement of child endangerment (CVC 23572(a)(2)).
- Did you refuse to take a breath or blood test after you were arrested?
- Were you driving with a suspended or revoked license?
- Were you recently convicted of a DUI?
- Were you driving recklessly, or exceeding the speed limit by 20-30 mph (CVC 23582(a))?
- Were you under the age of 21 while having a BAC of 0.05 or more at the time of driving (CVC 13202.5(a) and CVC 23140)?
If you were arrested for a DUI, you should immediately contact a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer to discuss how to defend against these enhancing circumstances.
If you are convicted of a DUI and the prosecution proved that your blood alcohol content was above 0.15% at the time of driving, then the court may impose a fine ranging from $390.00 to $1,000.00 plus penalty assessments. The determination of the fine imposed will generally depend on the actual BAC results and the circumstances surrounding the arrest. These factors, along with blood alcohol content, will also contribute to the imposition of jail time. A first-time DUI offense might result in jail time of up to six months. A second or third DUI conviction can mean up to a year in jail.