Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious criminal offense in California. What about driving while intoxicated (DWI)? How do these two actions compare to one another? In California, there is no separate charge for DWI. Generally, drivers are only charged with a DUI.
Find out more about the distinction between DUI and DWI with this article. Consider the results of a DUI arrest and review your legal options if you are facing criminal charges.
Defining Driving Under the Influence in California
The court may charge drivers in California with a DUI for many reasons. You could face DUI charges if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is above the legal limit. Like many other states, California expects drivers to keep their BAC under 0.08%. However, DUI charges also apply if you are:
- Under 21 with a BAC at or above 0.01%
- A commercial driver with a BAC at or above 0.04%
DUI charges also apply to drivers who operate a vehicle after using drugs in California. You may hear these charges called DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) charges. The state does not permit you to drive with any amount of drugs in your system. There is no minimum allowable limit for driving after using marijuana, for example.
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Consider the Implications of Driving While Intoxicated
Some states use DUI and DWI charges. States that use DWI charges often use them specifically to deal with alcohol use by drivers. DWI charges may also be used to prosecute more serious offenses. For example, some states use DWI charges only if a driver’s BAC is well above the legal limit.
This distinction does not exist in California. Our state only uses DUI charges. These charges may vary in severity depending on your age and BAC at the time of your arrest. However, you do not face specific charges for DWI in our state.
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The Results of a DUI Conviction in California
As we mentioned, DUI charges are treated seriously in California. You may face numerous penalties for a conviction, including:
- Jail time
- Orders to attend DUI classes
- Time spent on probation
- Restrictions on your driving privileges
Additionally, DUIs are considered “priorable” in the state of California. This means they count against you if you are arrested for another DUI offense. Each DUI charge stays on your driving record for 10 years. A conviction stays on your criminal record indefinitely.
You face increased penalties each time you are convicted of a DUI in California. You could even face felony charges if you have four or more DUI convictions within a 10-year period. You may also face felony charges if someone is hurt or killed in a DUI accident.
You may get help handling DUI charges in California by reaching out to a lawyer. Contact a law firm for more information about DUI accusations in Los Angeles.
Get Help Handling a DUI Charge in California
A DUI may have serious impacts on your life in California. Fortunately, you have some legal options if you are accused of a DUI. You may work with a DUI lawyer. Your lawyer may assess your case and begin working on a defense quickly.
Sometimes, DUI charges in California are dismissed by the court. Your charges may also be reduced through a plea bargain. In other situations, a lawyer could defend you in court, working to bring you a not guilty verdict. A lawyer could work to show that:
You Were Stopped Without Reasonable Cause
Law enforcement officers in California must have a good reason to stop you. They cannot just pull you over without reason. A lawyer could work to show that you were not breaking any laws or driving in an unreasonable way at the time you were stopped.
You Were Not Driving Under the Influence
Sometimes, drivers face DUI charges even though they were not impaired by a chemical substance. A lawyer could work to show that you were not impaired at the time of your arrest. Your lawyer could even work to dispute the results of any BAC tests you took.
You Have Rights Before, During, and After a DUI Arrest
Police must have probable cause to pull you over and arrest you in Los Angeles. Once an arrest has taken place, you have additional rights that must be honored. Your rights include:
- You must be informed of your rights via the Miranda Warning in full and in a language you clearly understand
- Police must stop questioning you as soon as you ask to contact an attorney
- You are entitled to a copy of the police report related to your arrest, which can contain information your attorney can use in defending you
Part of the Miranda Warning is advising you to remain silent. Take advantage of this right and avoid saying anything that might later be misconstrued. Request an attorney and stay quiet until they arrive.
If your rights were violated in any way, share the violation with the lawyer who represents you. He will be able to stand up for your rights and use any violation as leverage when building your defense.
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Do Not Overlook the Importance of a DUI Hearing in Los Angeles
If you are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the arresting officer will notify DMV administrators of the situation. The officer’s actions, the details of your arrest, and any confiscation of your driver’s license will be reviewed.
You are entitled to contest the circumstances of your arrest via an administrative hearing. An administrative hearing is an opportunity for you to retain your driving privileges after a DUI arrest. This beneficial hearing is not automatic. According to Department of Motor Vehicles (DMW) guidelines:
- You must request an administrative hearing within 10 days
- A DMV Driver Safety Hearing Officer oversees the hearing
- You and your attorney can review any evidence against you
- You can present compelling evidence and supportive witnesses
You will receive a decision in writing and can appeal an unfavorable ruling. There is a fee when requesting a hearing and a timeline for filing an appeal. A DUI lawyer in your area will clarify the details and explain the process and its benefits in detail.
You Could Retain Limited Driving Privileges
If your livelihood or routine transportation of family members relies on your having a driver’s license, you might be eligible for a restricted license. In general, you can apply for a restricted license if you meet the following criteria:
- You are a first-time DUI recipient
- You are 21 years of age or older
- You submitted to BAC testing
- You participate in a DUI Offender Program
- You obtain and maintain SR-22 insurance
You might also be required to install an ignition control device on your vehicle. This device will require periodic tests of your breath and will prevent your car from starting if any alcohol is detected.
A restricted license will limit your right to drive and specify when and where you can legally operate a vehicle. Your attorney will help you apply for this type of license and understand its limitations.
Get Help Understanding DUI and DWI Charges Right Now
Interested in the DUI vs. DWI comparison? California does not use the DWI distinction. All charges related to driving while impaired are covered by the DUI label. Get help if you are charged with a DUI by working with Michael Simmrin and his team. Reach out to Simmrin Law Group now if you’d like a free consultation. We could assess your unique situation right now.
Contact one of our team members today. You could also fill out our online contact form to get help.