Getting arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) can rapidly lead to criminal penalties and the removal of your driver’s license if you do not protect yourself with knowledge — and a skilled criminal defense lawyer. At Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C. in Santa Rosa, we believe in the importance of people knowing their rights when confronted by a law enforcement agency. We have prepared a brief DUI FAQ to help you get the basics you should know about DUI cases. If you have already run into trouble with the law for a suspected DUI, be sure to call us at (707) 418-5352 right away to get to work on your defense case.
Frequently Asked Questions About DUIs
What does California consider legal intoxication?
Someone is legally intoxicated – or inebriated to the point where it becomes illegal to operate a motor vehicle – if they hold a regular driver’s license and have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 or greater. Commercial driver’s license holders are considered legally intoxicated with a BAC level of 0.04 or greater. Lastly, anyone under the age of 21 is legally intoxicated with a BAC level of just 0.01 or greater.
Can you get a DUI even if you are not legally intoxicated?
Yes, you can be arrested for a DUI if you have any detectable BAC above 0.00 and the arresting officer claims to have seen you driving dangerously. You can also be charged with a DUI if you are suspected of driving while impaired due to drug use, even if you only take prescribed medications or over-the-counter pills.
When can the police pull me over for a DUI?
Any highway patrol officer that pulls you over for suspicion of a DUI is supposed to wait for evidence of intoxication that creates “probable cause.” To this end, it is unjust for a police officer to stop someone on a whim, regardless of the driver’s intoxication level or not. Probable cause is generally established by witnessing dangerous driving behaviors, or by receiving a third-party tip of reckless driving.
Do I have to take a field sobriety test?
You do not necessarily need to take a field sobriety test (FST) requested by a police officer after pulling you over. Generally, if you have not yet been arrested, you do not need to comply. Before you deny a FST, though, ask the officer if it is mandatory or optional. When optional, you might decide to not take the FST, as they are typically one-sided and used to secure an arrest. If you are told it is mandatory, you should probably take it, as denying a mandatory test can result in immediate license suspension. Although, mandatory tests are supposed to be more scientific, like a breath or chemical test conducted in a police station, not a stand-on-one-foot “test” conducted curbside.
What can escalate DUI charges?
Your DUI charge will escalate depending on a number of factors. Most often, people face longer jail time, higher fines, and extensive license suspension if they have preexisting DUI convictions on their record. You can also be more heavily penalized for a DUI if someone was hurt due to your driving, or if you had a child in the vehicle with you at the time of arrest.
How long is California’s DUI lookback period?
California uses a ten-year lookback period for DUI cases. In simple terms, your DUI charge will escalate to a second or subsequent DUI if you have a DUI conviction within the last 10 years on your record. This is one of the longest lookback periods in the country, and it is notoriously difficult to have DUI marks removed, sealed, or expunged.
Remember: If you need help after a DUI arrest, call (707) 418-5352 right away to talk to our DUI defense attorney in Santa Rosa. During a free case review, we can get an idea of the situation and advise you about what to do next.