You Don’t Have to be “Drunk” to get a DUI Conviction
February 7, 2012

Remember, there are two ways to be convicted of DUI in Orange County:
1. Failing to operate a vehicle with the same caution characteristic of a sober person under the same or similar conditions (being an impaired 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.

The phrase “drunk driving” is misleading. A driver doesn’t need to be “drunk” to be considered under the influence for the purposes of a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction in California. The relevant question is whether a driver was impaired so much that he/she was not as cautious or alert as a non-drinking person would have been under similar circumstances.

While the prosecution needs to thoroughly analyze the facts in the case to prove DUI, an Orange County DUI defense attorney must do the same to disprove a DUI charge. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution requires some minimal level of objective justification for making the stop, meaning the officer initiating the vehicle stop must be able to give a reason why he stopped a car beyond just a suspicion or hunch.

An actual vehicle code violation is most commonly cited in most DUI stops, but not required to justify a stop. Some common vehicle code violations include non-working taillights, failing to use a turn signal, or rolling through a stop sign.

Next, the arresting officer will note any observations of the common objective symptoms of intoxication (odor of alcohol, slurred speech, red eyes, flushed face, etc). The officer will detail in his police report the driver’s ability or inability to pass the field sobriety tests. Last, scientific evidence will be gathered though a breath or blood test to determine the concentration of alcohol in the driver’s blood or breath.

However, this scientific evidence is not absolutely necessary for a DUI conviction. Individuals who have refused to submit to any chemical blood or breathe test for alcohol concentration have been convicted of DUI solely on the basis of the testimony of police officers as to the defendant’s erratic or unlawful driving behavior.

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