How Is a DUI Defined in California?

Facing a DUI charge can be overwhelming, with serious consequences that affect your life, career, and future. If you have been arrested for DUI in Los Angeles, it’s critical to seek experienced legal representation immediately. Contact The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi at (310) 448-1529 to discuss your case and get the defense you need.

Understanding how DUI (Driving Under the Influence) is defined in California is crucial for anyone facing such charges or seeking to comprehend the legal landscape. Under California Vehicle Code § 23152, DUI encompasses operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

  1. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol: It is unlawful to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. For commercial drivers, the limit is 0.04%, and for drivers under 21, California follows a zero-tolerance policy, meaning any detectable BAC (0.01% or higher) is illegal.
  2. Driving Under the Influence of Drugs: This includes prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and illegal substances. Any substance that impairs your ability to drive safely can result in a DUI charge.
  3. Combined Influence of Alcohol and Drugs: Driving while impaired by both alcohol and drugs, even if the individual substances do not exceed their respective legal limits, can also lead to a DUI charge.
  4. Per Se DUI Laws: In addition to impairment-based DUI charges, California enforces “per se” DUI laws, which mean you can be charged with DUI solely based on having a BAC over the legal limit, irrespective of actual impairment.
  5. Field Sobriety and Chemical Tests: During a DUI stop, law enforcement may conduct field sobriety tests and request breath, blood, or urine tests to determine impairment and BAC levels.





    Do People Typically Have a Very High BAC When They Are Charged With A DUI?

    You do not need to have a very high BAC to be charged with a DUI in California. Many individuals charged with a DUI have a BAC just slightly above the legal limit, such as 0.08% or 0.09%. While higher BAC levels can lead to more severe penalties, any BAC over the legal limit can result in a DUI charge. This highlights the importance of understanding that even minimal alcohol consumption can have legal consequences.

    What Are the Top Misconceptions People Have About DUI Charges?

    One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that the field sobriety test is mandatory. In California, you are not legally required to take a field sobriety test when pulled over for a suspected DUI. These tests are subjective and can be affected by various factors, including nervousness, fatigue, and medical conditions.

    Another common misconception is about the breathalyzer test at the scene. Many people do not know that they have the right to refuse a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test, which is the breathalyzer test administered at the roadside. However, it’s important to note that this right applies primarily to those over 21 who are not on probation for a prior DUI. Refusing this test can result in immediate license suspension and other penalties if you are under 21 or on probation. Once you are taken to the station, you are required to submit to a chemical test (breath, blood, or urine) under California’s implied consent law.

    Is the Portable Breathalyzer Different from the Breath Test at the Police Station?

    Yes, the portable breathalyzer used at the roadside is different from the breath test machine at the police station. The roadside test, known as the Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test, is used to establish probable cause for arrest. These devices are less accurate and are considered preliminary tools.


    At the police station, a more sophisticated and calibrated machine, such as the Evidential Breath Testing (EBT) device, is used. These machines provide more accurate and reliable results and are admissible in court as evidence. If you refuse the PAS test at the roadside, you will be required to take the breath test, a blood sample, or a urine sample at the station. Refusal to take this mandatory test at the station can result in more severe penalties, including license suspension and enhanced charges.

    How Public Is a DUI Arrest in California?

    A DUI arrest in California is just as public as any other misdemeanor arrest. Arrest records, including those for DUI, are generally accessible to the public and can be found through background checks or public records searches. However, DUI arrests are not typically announced to the public via social media or other broadcast methods. This means that unless someone is actively searching for an arrest record, they are unlikely to find out about a DUI charge. Privacy concerns can still arise, as potential employers, landlords, or others conducting background checks may come across these records.

    What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make When Charged with a DUI?

    One of the most common mistakes people make when charged with a DUI is complying with field sobriety tests. These tests are not mandatory and are often subjective, which can lead to an arrest even if you are not impaired. Another mistake is attempting to justify the amount of alcohol consumed to the police officer, which can be used against you later.

    A significant mistake is talking to the police after being arrested. Once you are arrested, you should exercise your right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court, so it is crucial to avoid making statements or answering questions without legal representation present. Instead, politely inform the officer that you wish to remain silent and request an attorney. This helps protect your rights and can improve your defense strategy.

    Advice for Clients Contemplating a Guilty Plea to DUI Charges

    Pleading guilty to a DUI right away is generally not advisable. A DUI conviction can have long-lasting effects, including significant increases in insurance premiums and a permanent mark on your driving record. At The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi, we recommend consulting with an experienced DUI attorney before making any decisions. By thoroughly reviewing the details of your case, we can identify potential defenses and work towards the best possible outcome. Our goal is to mitigate the consequences you face and provide a strategic defense that protects your future.

    Step-by-Step Breakdown of the DUI Process in California

    1. Traffic Stop: Police need probable cause to pull someone over. They often use traffic violations like speeding, running a red light, or failing to stop at a stop sign as reasons for the stop.
    2. Initial Contact: During the traffic stop, the officer will make contact with the driver. If the officer smells alcohol or notices signs of intoxication (such as bloodshot eyes or slurred speech), the stop may escalate to a DUI investigation.
    3. Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs): The officer will ask the driver to exit the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests. These tests assess physical and cognitive functions to determine impairment.
    4. Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) Test: The officer may request a breathalyzer test at the roadside to measure BAC. You have the right to refuse this test if you are over 21 and not on DUI probation, but refusal can lead to immediate license suspension and other penalties.
    5. Arrest: If the officer determines there is probable cause, based on the FSTs and PAS test, the driver will be arrested for DUI.
    6. Chemical Test at the Station: At the police station, the driver will be required to take a more accurate breath, blood, or urine test. Refusal to take this test can result in harsher penalties, including longer license suspension.
    7. Impoundment: If there is no sober person available to drive the vehicle, it will be impounded.
    8. Holding and Release: The arrested individual may be held in custody for up to 24 hours or until sober. They will then be released, typically with a citation to appear in court.
    9. Police Report and Charges: The police report and any evidence collected will be submitted to the district attorney, who will determine the formal charges.
    10. Court Proceedings: Once charges are filed, the court process begins. This includes arraignment, pretrial motions, plea negotiations, and potentially a trial. At each step, legal representation is crucial to navigate the complexities and advocate for your rights.

    Why Choose The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi for DUI Defense?

    When facing DUI charges, you need an experienced defense attorney with a proven track record. Arash Hashemi has been an active member of The State Bar of California since December 2002. On his second day as a lawyer, Arash was already in court, participating in a bench trial. Over the years, he has handled a wide variety of criminal cases, from simple misdemeanors to complex felonies, including DUI cases.

    Arash has represented thousands of Californians accused of various offenses and has argued cases before the California Court of Appeals. He is admitted to practice before all California State Courts and the United States District Courts for the Northern, Eastern, Central, and Southern Districts of California. Currently serving as the 2024 President of the Criminal Courts Bar Association, Arash brings a wealth of knowledge, dedication, and a deep understanding of California’s DUI laws to every case he handles.

    Contact A Los Angeles DUI Attorney & Schedule Your Consultation Today

    For expert legal assistance with your DUI charges, contact The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi. We provide professional, effective legal representation tailored to your specific circumstances. Our goal is to protect your rights and work towards the best possible outcome.

    Misdemeanor and Felony Drug Offenses DefenseSchedule a Consultation:

    Take the first step towards defending your rights and securing your future by scheduling a consultation today. At The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi, we provide the support and legal expertise you need to navigate this significant challenge.






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      Disclaimer: The content provided here is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is not intended to predict outcomes, as individual circumstances vary and laws may change over time. Those seeking legal advice should consult with a qualified attorney to understand how current laws apply to their specific situation. For detailed legal guidance on the topics discussed, please contact our law firm directly.