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How Does Your Blood Alcohol Level Impact Your DUI Case?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Oct 25, 2022

I've handled thousands of California DUI cases over the years, and your blood alcohol level is crucial.  The reason it's vital is that it tells the prosecutors and judges how dangerous you are to the public. 

Most people familiar with driving under the influence in California recognize a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 as the legal threshold for being "under the influence."

How Does Your Blood Alcohol Level Impact Your DUI Case?

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) measures the amount of alcohol in somebody's bloodstream and is often called “blood alcohol level.”

BAC is expressed as a percentage, such as .08%, the legal limit in California. This percentage refers to the grams of alcohol present in every 100 milliliters of someone's blood.

A higher number indicates that somebody has more alcohol in their system, while a lower number means less alcohol. BAC is measured directly by a DUI blood test or estimated by a DUI breath test.

There are two types of breath tests: the pre-arrest “preliminary alcohol screening” (PAS) tests and the post-arrest DUI breath test machine.

DUI chemical tests for BAC are considered scientifically accurate in measuring blood alcohol, and the results are admissible as evidence in a driving under the influence prosecution. Our Los Angeles DUI attorneys will review this topic in more detail below.

What is the Blood Alcohol Content Standard?

For most drivers, the BAC standard applies in most cases. This means that if you are pulled over by police and arrested for suspicion of being impaired, you can be charged with California Vehicle Code 23152 VC DUI if your blood alcohol content is at or above the "legal limit."

What is the Blood Alcohol Content Standard?

For most California drivers, the legal limit is a BAC of 0.08; for commercial drivers, it is 0.04. The officer usually measures the BAC using a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) or a breathalyzer machine. 

If arrested for DUI, you must submit to a PAS or blood test or face automatic suspension of your license, regardless of the outcome.

The higher your blood alcohol level, the more dangerous you are.  The more likely you were to have killed or seriously hurt somebody on the road.  That's how these guys base what they do for you.

If you're just pulled over because you forgot to turn your lights on, your blood alcohol level is low, or you're at the legal limit, many times, they might give you a break.  They might mitigate that case down to a lesser charge, keep you out of jail and give you the bare minimum.

If, on the other hand, you have a high blood alcohol level, you got in an accident, or you were speeding or doing something dangerous, they will want to put you in jail. 

They're going to want to teach you a lesson and show the public this is what we do to people who drive drunk.  This is what we do to people who don't follow the rules, and they are setting an example for you.  You don't want to be that person.  You don't want to be in that position.

What if You Test Below the Legal Limit?

Typically, testing below the legal limit means you won't be charged with driving under the influence, but there are some exceptions.

You can still be impaired while below the legal limit and get arrested and charged with VC 23152 DUI.

Why? This is because California's DUI laws also apply to drug use, including marijuana and prescription medications, which aren't detectable via a PAS.

Another reason is that some people are more sensitive to alcohol and could be impaired even if their BAC is below the legal limit.

If the police officer suspects you are impaired, they can arrest you with or without a BAC screening. If your BAC is below the legal limit, you could still be charged with a DUI if the prosecutor can prove that your driving ability was impaired by the alcohol you consumed.

What is the Zero Tolerance Law in California?

There are two specific instances where the zero tolerance laws apply, meaning you can face penalties if any amount of alcohol is detected in your system. Zero tolerance applies to drivers under age 21 and those currently on DUI probation.

What is the Zero Tolerance Law in California?

Under Vehicle Code 23136 VC, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system, generally BAC 0.01.

If you're under age 21 and police pull you over and detect even a small amount of alcohol via a PAS, you can have your license suspended.

Keep in mind that VC 23136 is a civil offense, not a criminal, so violating it won't result in DUI charges but rather the loss of your driver's license.

But if your BAC exceeds 0.05, you could still be charged with DUI along with the violation of the zero-tolerance law. Further, as an underage driver, you don't have the right to refuse a PAS if the police officer wants to give you one.

Suppose you were convicted of DUI in California and are on summary probation for that offense. In that case, you are also subjected to the zero tolerance laws as a term of your probation under Vehicle Code 23600 VC.

What Can a DUI Lawyer Do for You?

So, you've got to hire an attorney right away.  Hire somebody like me.  I can look at the blood and the breath results, compare it to what happened and start to mount the argument that you weren't a danger out there. 

If we can't do that, then there are other options that we can look at – submitting a mitigation package to the prosecutors, maybe fighting the case, depending on the circumstances.

Still, the crucial thing for you is to realize that you've got to have an attorney if you've been arrested for a DUI.

DUI Defense Attorney in LA

You need to know what your blood alcohol level is.  If you took blood, you probably don't know what it is, and you usually won't find out until the court date because it takes them a while to get that blood result, especially in Los Angeles, which is significantly impacted by a lot of DUI cases.  A lot of the labs are backed up.

So, if you need the best, I've been doing this for 30 years.  I've worked for the District Attorney's office.  I've worked for a superior court judge, and I've been defending DUI cases since the early 1990s. 

I know how to evaluate a blood alcohol level.  I know how to make sure that it's accurate, and finally, if you do have a high BAC, I will be able to do everything I can to mitigate the circumstances to try to keep you out of jail.

If your blood alcohol level is low, I will be able to fight for you to get a letter charge and minimize the impact that a DUI can have on your record, your freedom, your driving, and all that you hold necessary. 

If you need the best, pick up the phone now.  Make the call.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. The Hedding Law Firm offers a free case evaluation via phone or contact form.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.

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