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What is the Offense of Drunk Driving in California?

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Drunk Driving in California  –  California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 23152 makes it a crime for any person to “drive” a motor vehicle when they are impaired by any substance, so the term drunk driving is actually incorrect. The legislative intent of California’s drunk driving laws was to prevent any person from driving a motor vehicle when they were impaired by ANYTHING. A person could be guilty of driving while impaired by:

  • Alcohol
  • Prescription Medications
  • Over the Counter Medications
  • Illegal Drugs
  • Any other compound or substance. (i.e. a professional painter who is impaired by paint fumes).

administrative per se

So a person who is impaired by prescription medications or a person who is impaired because they have been working with perfectly legal chemicals can be prosecuted just as aggressively as that person who has had too much alcohol to drink.

California Vehicle Code section 23152(a) holds that:

            “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a motor vehicle.”

Note that this section of the law does not require that a person have a specific Blood/Alcohol Concentration. The only requirements are that the person was driving a motor vehicle and that the person was “under the influence” of an alcoholic beverage.

California Vehicle Code section 23152(e) holds that:

            “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.”

Note that this section has nothing to do with the consumption of alcohol and does not require any particular amount of a drug in the body. It simply requires that the person be under the influence.

California Vehicle Code section 23152(f) holds that:

            “It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcohol beverage and drug to drive a motor vehicle.”

Here again, the law does not specify that the driver have any particular amount of alcohol and/or drug in their blood; merely that they be under the influence.

Special Note: It is important to note that while the California Superior Courts may charge and prosecute a person for a criminal violation of the above listed sections, the California DMV has no authority to administratively suspend a driver’s license of a person who is under the influence.

When can the DMV suspend my driver license for drunk driving?

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is prohibited for suspending a person’s driver license for driving while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or their combined influence. The only time the DMV is authorized to administratively suspend a driver license is when they have a blood/alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater (0.01% or greater for drivers under the age of 21 or drivers who are on DUI probation).

Under California’s Administrative Per Se Laws, a person who drives a motor vehicle with an alcohol level that exceeds the legal limit is presumed to be impaired and the DMV may suspend that person’s driving privilege automatically.

California Vehicle Code section 23152(b) holds that:

            “It is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood, to drive a vehicle.”

Here, the standard or proof is that the person drove a motor vehicle and that they had a blood/alcohol level that exceeded the legal limit. Here, being under the influence is not something which must be proven. The Vehicle Code presumes that a person is impaired at a level of 0.08% or greater.

How can CDA help me?

The DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates (CDA) are a group of Administrative Law Specialists who defend drivers at Administrative Per Se (APS) hearings before the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

The California DMV will automatically act to suspend or revoke your driving privilege if:

  • You are over the age of 21 and were arrested for driving a motor vehicle with a blood/ alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater.
  • You are under the age of 21 and were found to be driving a motor vehicle with a blood/alcohol concentration of 0.01% or greater. An arrest is not required for the DMV to act.
  • You are on DUI probation and were found to be driving a motor vehicle with a blood/alcohol concentration of 0.01% or greater. An arrest is not required for the DMV to act.
  • You were driving a commercial vehicle and found to be driving with a blood/alcohol concentration of 0.04% or greater.
  • You are any age and were arrested for suspicion of DUI but refused to submit to a chemical test at the request of a law enforcement officer. Known as a Chemical Test Refusal, this is a serious violation in the eyes of the DMV.

If any of these categories apply to you, make no mistake; the DMV will be acting very quickly to suspend or revoke your driver license.

Fortunately, before the DMV can arbitrarily suspend or revoke your driver license, you are entitled to defend yourself and that is where CDA comes in. We have been scheduling and winning APS hearings at the DMV for many years.

If the DMV is your Problem...

California Drivers Advocates is your solution. We Are Here To Defend Your Driving Privilege. Contact our DMV Defense Experts here.