What Your BAC Test Results Could Really Cost You
California DUI laws are complex because there are many variables that can significantly affect the outcome of your case. Your history of prior offenses, your age, your type of driver's license, and your BAC level can all increase the seriousness of the offense. It doesn't matter how little you drank when facing DUI charges. Sometimes, even one drink is enough to raise your BAC above the legal threshold of .08%. While it doesn't matter how little you drank, it does matter how much you drank overall. Having a high BAC, blood alcohol concentration, can mean the penalties you face for your conviction will be increased.
The blood alcohol concentration threshold for a DUI is .08% in all 48 states. You can be charged with a DUI if you blow a .08 BAC reading. Those driving with a commercial license will face a threshold of .04%, and if you are on probation for a DUI or under 21 years of age that threshold drops down to .01%. Many people don't realize that while .08% is the threshold for a DUI, you can be given increased penalties if your BAC is higher than that. High BAC drivers are seen as being more negligent and are more of a danger to other drivers. The risk of fatality in car crashes involving alcohol rises when the driver had a high BAC. Your ability to drive is influenced by your coordination and focus, which can suffer as your BAC rises.
While every state follows the .08% threshold for DUIs, individual state laws on high BACs vary quite a bit. Across the country, high BAC thresholds vary from .10 to .20%. California lands right in the middle ground. In California, the threshold for a rating of high BAC is .15%. You will still be charged with a DUI if your BAC is at or above a .15%, but the consequences of that conviction will increase in severity. A high BAC is considered an aggravating factor in your case. Aggravating factors justify enhancing, or increasing, the penalties.
Those who had a high BAC face a ten-month license suspension instead of a six-month license suspension which first-time offenders normally face. You will still be eligible for a restricted license after serving one month of your suspension if you complete nine months of DUI classes. If your BAC is at or above .20, you will have to complete the nine months of classes no matter what. A defendant with a high BAC may also be ordered to install an ignition interlock device, IID, in every car they own or drive. This restriction on your license could last up to three years. This is an automatic order for offenders in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Tulare, and Alameda counties regardless of the BAC level. Offenders in other counties may still be ordered to install an IID, even on a first offense, in light of aggravating circumstances at the court's discretion. One of these aggravating circumstances is having a high BAC. You could also be ordered to attend a longer DUI education program, attend AA meetings, or participate in drug and alcohol treatment, therapy, or counseling. If you had a very high BAC of .20% or greater, expect to face harsh sentencing.
Unfortunately, even though the penalties for having a high BAC are heavy handed, many Californians are caught driving with a high BAC every day. You should never face California DUI charges on your own, especially if your case involves aggravating circumstances such as a high BAC. The complexity of the law and the number of variables that can affect your sentencing make handling charges on your own high risk. Even if you aren't sure you need an attorney, it is best to speak with one before you appear in court. Even a simple consultation can provide you with the information you need to make wise decisions in your case. To avoid getting the harshest sentence, make sure you have an attorney advise you in the process.
If you have questions about the consequences of a California DUI, call experienced Visalia area DUI defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can advise you on what penalties you might face and how to fight your charges. Attorney Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and knows how to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.