Understanding DUI laws is crucial, given the potential impacts of a conviction on your personal and professional life. The following section offers an overview of DUI laws in California.

Legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) in California

In California, the standard legal limit for blood alcohol concentration is 0.08%. If your BAC is at or above this limit, you can be arrested and charged with a DUI. However, the legal limit can vary according to the driver’s age and the type of driver’s license they hold. Exceptions to the standard limit include:

  • Drivers under 21. California has zero BAC tolerance for drivers under the age of 21. Any detectable amount of alcohol (0.01% BAC or above) can lead to a DUI charge.
  • Commercial drivers. If you work as a rideshare driver or commercial driver with a CDL license in California, your legal BAC limit is 0.04%.
  • Drivers on DUI probation. Drivers on probation for a DUI must not consume any alcohol when driving, as their legal BAC limit is 0.01%.

Even if you are below these BAC limits, your ability to operate a vehicle is impaired, so arresting officers may still consider you under the influence and charge you with a DUI.

Implied Consent Laws in California

California’s implied consent laws require drivers in the state to provide a breath, blood or urine test to determine their BAC. These laws apply only if you have been arrested for DUI, so you can refuse a roadside test before arrest.

Violating implied consent law and refusing breath or blood tests can incur penalties, including an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension. Courts can interpret refusing BAC tests as an admission of guilt and use it against you. Moreover, a judge can impose enhanced DUI penalties, such as longer jail time, if you’re convicted of drunk driving.

DUI Penalties in California

The penalties for misdemeanor DUIs in California depend on whether you have any previous DUI convictions. Here’s what to expect.

The penalties become more severe with each subsequent DUI offense and aggravating circumstances, such as a BAC of 0.15% or higher. You can also incur additional punishments, such as:

  • installation of an ignition interlock device
  • mandatory attendance at a California DUI school
  • several years of probation

Remember that you also incur a permanent criminal record. When facing a DUI conviction, consider working with a DUI lawyer in Oakland who can help you develop a solid defense strategy and work towards a favorable outcome.

What To Expect After a DUI Arrest in California

When you get arrested for a DUI in California, the process usually involves several steps:

  1. Arrest. If a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence of alcohol, they will confiscate your driver’s license, arrest you and take you to a police station or jail for booking.
  2. Chemical test. California DUI laws require you to submit to a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Failing to comply can result in penalties.
  3. Release or detainment. Depending on the circumstances of your DUI arrest, you may be released on bail or detained until your arraignment.
  4. Administrative per se DMV hearing. After your arrest, the state confiscates your license and issues you a temporary 30-day license. In the 10 days after the arrest, you can request an administrative per se hearing with the DMV — failure to do so results in an automatic four-month license suspension after your temporary 30-day license expires. A successful DMV hearing can prevent your license from being suspended.
  5. Arraignment. An arraignment is your first court appearance. Here, you’ll be formally charged with a DUI and may enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest.
  6. Court proceedings and sentencing. If your case proceeds to trial and you are found guilty, plead guilty or plead no contest, you’ll be sentenced. Penalties for a DUI conviction can include fines, probation, license suspension and jail time.

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Last Update: June 27, 2024

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