Did you know that there are two different ways you can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in California if you are over age 21? Did you know that you do not have to be “above the legal limit” in order to be arrested and face charges for DUI?
To many people, these facts come as a surprise. Most people think that having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) below 0.08% – assuming they are over age 21 – is a complete defense to the charge of drunk driving. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Types of DUI Charges in California
The California Vehicle Code establishes two separate offenses involving drunk driving:
- Section 23152(a). It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.
- Section 23152(b): 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.
In other words, you can be charged with DUI for driving “under the influence” regardless of whether your BAC is above the legal limit. The jury instructions for DUI cases in California state that, in order to convict someone of driving “under the influence,” the jury must find that:
“[A]s a result of (drinking [or consuming] an alcoholic beverage/ [and/or] taking a drug), his or her mental or physical abilities are so impaired that he or she is no longer able to (drive a vehicle/operate a vessel) with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances.”
Of course, this is a completely subjective standard, and as a result there are numerous potential defenses to a DUI charge under Section 23152(a). If you have been charged under Section 23152(b), there are a variety of ways to challenge your BAC test results as well.
Does It Matter if this is My First, Second, or Third DUI?
If you have one or more prior DUI convictions, this will not directly affect your charges (unless this is your fourth or subsequent DUI, in which case you can be charged with a felony). However, it will affect the penalties for which you are eligible. For more information on the DUI penalties for first, second, and third DUIs in California, you can read:
- First DUI Penalties in California
- Second DUI Penalties in California
- Third DUI Penalties in California
What is a “Wet Reckless”?
In California a “wet reckless” is a lesser charge than a DUI. However, you will never face a “wet reckless” charge directly. Instead, Section 23103.5 of the California Vehicle Code provides that the prosecution can agree to a “wet reckless” charge as part of a plea bargain. If you plead guilty or no-contest to a violation of California Vehicle Code Section 23103 (the ordinary, “dry” reckless driving law) after being charged with DUI, your record will show a “wet reckless” – essentially a reckless driving charge which reflects that it was alcohol-related.
While a “wet reckless” carries reduced penalties as compared to a DUI, accepting a “wet reckless” plea is not without its consequences. To find out if seeking a “wet reckless” charge is your best option, you should speak with an experienced attorney.
What is a Felony DUI?
Finally, in certain circumstances, a DUI arrest can lead to felony charges. You can be charged with a felony DUI in California if:
- You cause an accident that results in a death or serious injury;
- You have three or more prior DUI or “wet reckless” convictions in the last 10 years; or,
- You have a prior felony DUI conviction on your record (in this case, you can face felony charges even if your current DUI would have otherwise qualified as a misdemeanor).
All DUI charges are serious; but, if you are facing felony charges, you need to be extremely careful about protecting your rights and asserting all available defenses. Depending on the type of felony DUI charge you are facing, you could be looking at years, if not decades, behind bars.
Contact California DUI Attorney Lance Daniel Today
If you are facing DUI charges in California, contact criminal defense attorney Lance Daniel to learn more about your charges and the defenses you may have available. For a free, confidential consultation, call (888) 704-3696 or request an appointment online today.