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Defending Against DUI Charges in California

DUI law. Driving Under the Influence concept.

Dealing with a DUI arrest can undoubtedly be stressful. However, it’s important to note that an arrest doesn’t necessarily result in a conviction. There are a variety of defense strategies that an experienced California criminal defense attorney can employ to challenge DUI charges effectively.

If you have been arrested or charged with DUI in Southern California, call a seasoned Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense lawyer for trusted advice and zealous representation. 

Understanding DUI Laws in California

California laws state that an individual 21 years old or over, operating a motor vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more, is committing a DUI offense. For commercial drivers, the limit is 0.04% BAC, while for individuals under 21, any detectable amount of alcohol can lead to DUI charges. However, being charged doesn’t conclude guilt. The prosecution has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was indeed driving under the influence. Hence, effective defense strategies can potentially sway the case.

Questioning Breathalyzer Accuracy

Challenging the precision of the breathalyzer test results is a common defense strategy in DUI cases. Numerous factors could potentially compromise the accuracy of these devices, such as:

Improper calibration: Breathalyzers require regular calibration to maintain their precision. If a device isn’t calibrated properly, its accuracy can be questioned.

Mouth alcohol: Residual alcohol in the mouth from mouthwash, certain medications, or recent alcohol consumption could potentially lead to inflated BAC readings.

Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as GERD, heartburn, or acid reflux, can affect the accuracy of breathalyzer results.

Challenging Blood Test Results

Blood tests, although typically more accurate than breathalyzer tests, are not without potential errors. Issues related to contamination, improper storage, and even mix-ups can occur, leading to potentially false positives.

Examining Police Conduct

At times, the defense strategy can center around the legality of the police officer’s actions during the arrest. Examples of questionable police conduct include a lack of probable cause. Officers need a valid reason, such as a traffic violation or suspicion of criminal activity, to initiate a traffic stop. If probable cause is lacking, any evidence gathered may be deemed inadmissible.

Questioning Field Sobriety Test Results

Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) are inherently subjective and heavily depend on the officer’s interpretation. Various factors, such as the testing environment, the defendant’s footwear, or even certain medical conditions, can affect the test performance and, subsequently, the results.

Driving Aspect in DUI

A key element that the prosecution must establish in a DUI case is that the defendant was “driving” or had “actual physical control” of the vehicle while impaired. If the evidence doesn’t clearly establish that the defendant was driving or intending to drive, it may be used in the attorney’s defense strategy.

In California, the term “driving” under DUI laws has been interpreted to mean having volitional movement of the vehicle. The California Supreme Court in the case of Mercer v. Department of Motor Vehicles (1991) clarified that “drive,” as used in the DUI context, requires evidence of volitional movement of the vehicle.

Having the key in the ignition, without more, is typically not enough to prove that someone was driving under California law. However, it could be part of the overall evidence that helps the prosecutor establish that a person was in physical control of the vehicle. Other circumstantial evidence, such as the location of the vehicle, the position of the defendant in the vehicle, whether the engine was running, or the defendant’s apparent intent, can also be relevant.

It’s important to remember that even if a person isn’t driving, they could still be charged under California law if they are in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence. Actual physical control can be a grey area and might include situations where a person is found with the keys in the ignition, even if they are parked and the engine is off.

Rising Blood Alcohol Defense

BAC level continues to rise for a period after one stops drinking. It’s possible for someone to be below the legal limit while driving but to have their BAC level increase by the time of testing. This is known as the “rising blood alcohol defense.”

An experienced lawyer understands that every DUI case has its unique characteristics and circumstances. The defense strategies listed here aren’t exhaustive, and the most effective strategy often depends on the specifics of the case. A skilled DUI defense attorney can guide a defendant through this challenging time, assessing the best course of action to protect their rights and future.

While facing DUI charges in California is a serious situation, it’s not always hopeless. By carefully examining the evidence and crafting an effective defense, under certain circumstances, it may be possible to reduce or even dismiss the charges altogether.

The Law Offices of John D. Lueck is a trusted Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense attorney with more than 40 years of service to clients in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. DUI cases are highly sensitive and require experienced representation to ensure your rights are protected.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a crime, contact Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense lawyer John D. Lueck at 909-484-1963 for a free consultation.

Legal Disclaimer

The content on this blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended to solicit business or provide legal advice. Laws differ by jurisdiction, and the information on this blog might not apply to every reader. You should not take, or refrain from taking, any legal action based upon the information contained on this blog without first seeking professional counsel. Specific circumstances of each case can significantly affect the outcome, and it is very important to consult with a knowledgeable attorney to understand how the law applies to a specific situation.

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