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Basic DUI Laws

Misdemeanor and Felony D.U.I.

The basic D.U.I. law can be found in California Vehicle Code sections 23152 and 23153.

The California DMV records "points" on a person's driving record for every traffic infraction. These points are used by insurance companies to determine insurance rates. When a driver accumulates a certain number of points, their driving privileges can be restricted or suspended as a negligent operator.

In order to convict a person of DUI, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused drove a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both; or, that the accused drove a vehicle with .08 or more, by weight, of alcohol in the blood, BAC.

A DUI case may be charged as a felony (meaning the punishment can be a term in state prison for a minimum of 16 months) where someone is injured, or where the accused has three or more prior DUI convictions. (Note that certain related charges, such as "wet reckless" driving may count as a prior DUI conviction for this purpose.) Prior to January 1, 2005, these prior violations must have happened within seven years of the new charge to count against the accused as a prior conviction. However, because of recent DUI law changes, the "lookback" period for prior DUI convictions is now 10 years. If you've been arrested for California DUI on or after January 1, 2005, the court will consider any prior DUI or wet-reckless convictions that occurred within 10 years of the current DUI offense.

Remember, there are two ways to be convicted of DUI:

  1. Failing to operate a vehicle with the same caution characteristic of a sober person under the same or similar conditions (being a sloppy driver as the result of drinking or taking drugs); or
  2. Driving a vehicle while having .08 or more, by weight, of alcohol in the blood, see Blood Alcohol Calculator.

So, how do prosecutors convict people of driving while intoxicated? The evidence typically falls into one of three broad categories: Driving, Field Sobriety Tests, and Chemical Tests.

Visit Darren Kavinoky's Drunk Driving Guide website to get additional information about drunk driving and California Drunk Driving Laws.

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