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The Basics of DUI DWI in California

There are two types of DUI in California. One relies on checking the driver's blood-alcohol level, while the other is based on the observations of the officer on the scene. Under California DUI law, a driver can be convicted of either type of drunk driving. However, the punishments are the same.

If you have been arrested for drunk driving, you will want to educate yourself about California DUI laws. You will also want to contact a California DUI lawyer as soon as possible.

The Two Types of DUI in California

There are two ways to be arrested for DUI in California. The first is if your driving is impaired by the use of drugs or alcohol. The second, which is known as per se DUI, occurs if your blood-alcohol content (BAC) is .08 percent or higher.

Although it might seem odd that there are two different types of DUI, the two laws exist to stop any driver who may be impaired and who has been drinking. Some people with a BAC less than .08 percent may pose a risk on the road, while other drivers who have a BAC of .08 or higher may not seem impaired. The law is structured to keep all impaired drivers off the road, as well as those who have high BAC levels.

Testing Driver Impairment

To be arrested for impaired driving, even if your BAC is under .08, an officer simply needs to have probable cause. Probable cause means the officer has a reasonable suspicion that you are impaired.

A police officer can develop probable cause a few different ways. One way is to observe your driving behavior. The following are some driving behaviors that an officer may find suspicious:

  • Hesitating to pass through a green light
  • Driving in multiple lanes at once
  • Weaving from lane to lane
  • Driving excessively slowly
  • Speeding

After pulling the driver over, the officer will then make observations of the driver's behavior and physicality. The following are some examples of behaviors and physical traits that an officer may look for to establish probable cause:

  • Red or bloodshot eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • The smell of alcohol
  • Slurred speech
  • Erratic behavior

If the police officer believes you are driving while intoxicated, he may ask you to step out of your car and perform several field sobriety tests. These tests are intended to test your mental and motor skills to gauge whether you are impaired. Examples of the most common field sobriety tests used in California include:

  • Following a moving object with your eyes while keeping your head still
  • Walking a straight line, turning, and repeating
  • Balancing on one foot with your arms to your sides

Testing Blood-Alcohol Content in California

To arrest someone on charges of per se DUI in California, an officer must determine the driver has a BAC of .08 percent or higher.

To get an accurate estimate of someone's BAC, an officer will frequently use a device known as a breathalyzer. A breathalyzer is a tool that, when blown into, can detect trace amounts of alcohol in a person's breath, which reflect the amount of alcohol in the person's bloodstream. If the breathalyzer reads .08 percent or above, the officer will place you under arrest for pro se DUI.

Implied Consent Law in California

California is one of many states that have what are known as implied consent laws. Under these laws, as long as you hold a valid state driver's license, you have agreed to subject yourself to alcohol and drug testing if a police officer suspects you of committing DUI.

If you are at risk of being charged for DWI in California and you refuse the breathalyzer test, under the California implied consent law you could have your driver's license immediately suspended.

In addition, if you have been convicted of a DUI in the past and refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test in California, you could be sentenced to jail.