DUI cases are relatively simple in what is considered as evidence and what facts of the case are examined. In California, it is illegal to drive on a public road with a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, of .08% or over. To prove you broke this law, the prosecution much prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you were driving at the time you were under the influence and had a BAC of .08% or higher. When being pulled over, the first part is proven automatically when the officer confirms your identity and confirms it was you who were pulled over. However, if an officer approached you while your car was parked, he or she will have to prove you were driving while impaired. The second part, proving you were under the influence while you were driving, consists of the bulk of a DUI case. Being "under the influence" is subject to interpretation, just as the law is. Humans vary widely in their build, composition and tolerance for drugs or alcohol. Some people can have several drinks and still not be impaired while others may not be safe to drive after just one. Similarly, California DUI laws state that .08% is the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, you can have before being charged with a DUI. If you have a CDL and are driving a commercial license, your BAC cannot be over .04% and if you are on probation for a prior DUI, your BAC cannot be higher than .01% before being charged with a DUI. At .08%, whether or not you felt impaired, you can be charged with a DUI. Because so much importance is placed on this percentage, your BAC test readings are critical pieces of evidence in your case. Your BAC test will usually be taken with either a breath or a blood sample. Sometimes, if the other options are not possible, a urine test can be done but these are not very accurate and reliable. Your BAC test may have been done prior to arrest, at the point of arrest or later on at the police station. Usually, the officer administering the BAC test must wait for 15 minutes before giving you the test. This is called the observation period. They should also let you take the test twice for maximum accuracy. The results of this test will be included with the police report and used as evidence against you in your case. Other parts of the police report will also be considered as evidence. The officer will have noted any other signs that you were intoxicated at the time you were pulled over, such as blood shot eyes or poor performance on a roadside sobriety test. While in light of a confirmed BAC of over .08%, these pieces of evidence may not make a difference in your case; they can still be challenged for their inaccuracy. Your eyes can be blood shot for many reasons and field sobriety tests put those with already poor coordination at a disadvantage. Speak to an attorney if you feel these pieces of evidence may be used unfairly against you. If you had other, demonstrable reasons for these other signs of intoxication, you may be able to have them dismissed as evidence in your case. The results of BAC tests also can be challenged. Breathalyzer BAC tests are known for their inaccuracy. The machines themselves have to go through regular maintenance and calibration, otherwise their readings can provide false positives. The person administering the test also needs to have been trained on its use. Similarly, various medical conditions, medications and foods can result in a false positive BAC, especially if your breath sample was taken on an old or outdated device. Newer devices, when properly maintained, have excellent accuracy but not every police department will have all new equipment nor will every machine be maintained and used properly. In any case, do not refuse to take a BAC test once you are arrested and asked to take one. Refusing one, if you are lawfully arrested, will result in the DMV taking immediate action against your driving privileges. Refusing will result in an automatic one-year license suspension under the California DMV for first time offenders.
If you are facing DUI charges in Tulare, Kings or Fresno counties, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can help. Experienced in DUI and criminal defense, attorney Christopher Martens can fight aggressively for you to ensure you are charged fairly and justly based on correct facts. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your options for defending your case.