It's widely known that Memorial Day Weekend is a popular time for vacations and parties; along those lines, it also results in an increase in DUI numbers. The California Highway Patrol reported 941 arrests for suspected DUI violations statewide over Memorial Day Weekend in 2018, up from 818 in 2017.
Driving under the influence is always a bad decision but unfortunately still occurs. The 2017 Annual Report of the California DUI Management Information System reported 141,372 DUI arrests in 2015 and has consistently maintained an arresst rate of approximately 70-80% for the last ten years. While DUI arrests and alcohol-involved crash fatalities have decreased from 2013-2015, California has extremely strict penalties for DUI offenses so if you find yourself in this situation it is beneficial to understand what rights you have and the charges you may face.
Sections 23152(a) and 23152(b) of the California Vehicle Code make it illegal for a person under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle as well as for any person who has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, respectively.
Section 23612(a)(1)(A) of the California Vehicle Code outlines California's implied consent law, which assumed that anyone who drives a motor vehicle with a California Driver's License has given consent to chemical testing of his or her blood or breath for purposes of determining BAC.
Senate Bill 1046 was signed by Governor Brown in September of 2016 and became law on January 1, 2019. Bill 1046 requires repeat DUI (alcohol) offendoers and first-time offendors whose offense involved an injury to install an ignition interlock device (IID) for a specific period of time as a condition of the reinstatement of their driving privileges.
Tips and Myths
While there is no guaranteed method to escaping a DUI arrest (and driving under the influence should always be avoided), there are some things you can do and some misconceptions that can be corrected.
MYTH: You must answer any question law enforcement asks you during a traffic stop.
While you are required to show your license and registration, you may decline to answer questions such as, "Have you been drinking?" or "How much have you had to drink tonight?" You may exercise your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by declining to answer any incriminating question, even though the officer may not have read you your Miranda rights. It is true that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law - the less you say is often to your benefit.
MYTH: You must submit to a field sobriety test.
You do not have to submit to a field sobriety test if asked to do so by law enforcement. In fact, it may be in your best interest to decline. Field sobriety tests are designed to test your motor skills and ability to operate a motor vehicle, but scientific studies have criticized their accuracy. Under the stress of being pulled over, it can be difficult for any individual, sober or intoxicated, to complete these tests without making an error, which could cause the officer to decide you are intoxicated.
MYTH: You must submit to a roadside breath test or a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) device.
Unless you are on probation for a DUI conviction or are under the age of 21, you may refuse both a roadside breath test or the use of a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) device. However, if you are arrested for DUI you must submit to a chemical test under California's implied consent law. At this point, you have the choice of a breath or blood (or urine) test. Breathalyzer test results have a built-in margin of error and can therefore be attacked more easily at trial. But, a breath sample cannot be retested. An independent lab can retest a blood or urine sample, which could potentially call into the question the accuracy of the original results.
Again, refraining from drinking and driving is your best defense against a DUI. However, if you find yourself facing a possible DUI arrest, being polite and respectful to law enforcement can go a long way. As noted above, staying silent is often best, as you do not want to give a police officer any incriminating evidence. But, cooperation and maintaining a courteous demeanor can certainly help, from influencing the way an officer writes a police report to preventing additional charges (such as resisting arrest).
Above all, if arrested for DUI, contact a criminal defense attorney who has experience with DUI offenses.
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