Drunk driving laws are enacted on a state level, and sometimes they differ in how they treat and define the offense.

Driving while impaired refers to a person driving or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. On a federal level, driving while impaired is defined as having a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .08% or greater. 

All states recognize the federal legal limit for drunk driving and have per se laws that state a person with a BAC of .08% or greater is too intoxicated to operate a motor vehicle safely. However, some states have enacted lower legal limits for some drivers.

In addition to different laws, states refer to driving while impaired by different names. As a result, the acronyms for drunk driving can be confusing.

What Do the Different Terms for Drunk Driving Mean?

California refers to drunk driving as DUI or driving under the influence. However, other states may use different terms to refer to impaired driving. Some of those terms are:

  • Driving Under the Influence or DUI
  • Operating While Impaired/Intoxicated or OWI
  • Driving While Intoxicated or DWI
  • Operating a Vehicle Impaired or OVI
  • Operating a Motor Vehicle While Impaired or OMVI
  • Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or DUID

The terms and abbreviations may differ, but they all have the same meaning. The alcohol in the driver’s system impairs their ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. 

Drunk Driving Laws in California 

The primary DUI law for the state is California Vehicle Code §23152. The statute prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Additionally, the statute prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle with a BAC of .08% or higher.

In addition to setting the legal limit for all drivers, CVC §23152 prohibits drivers from operating a motor vehicle under the influence of any drug, a combination of drugs and alcohol, or while addicted to the use of any drug.

Furthermore, CVC §23152 lowers the legal limit for individuals operating a vehicle with a passenger for hire or a commercial motor vehicle. Examples of a vehicle for hire include taxis, buses, limos, and rideshares like Uber or Lyft. The legal limit for these drivers is .04%.

California also sets a lower limit for underage drivers and drivers on probation. There is a zero tolerance policy for these drivers. A person can be charged with Probation DUI or Underage DUI if they have any measurable amount of alcohol in their system. 

What Is the Difference Between DUI and Per Se DUI in California?

Per se DUI is used when the driver has a BAC of .08% or higher according to a chemical test. The law presumes that a person is too intoxicated to operate a motor vehicle with a reasonable level of care when their BAC is above this limit.

DUI, or driving under the influence, means that the alcohol in the person’s system impairs their ability to drive. Impairment means that the person cannot operate the motor vehicle with the same level of care and caution a reasonable sober person would use.

You can be arrested and convicted of DUI (but not per se DUI) in California even though your BAC was below the legal limit. You can be convicted of DUI even though you refuse to take a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol content. 

Penalties for Driving Under the Influence in San Diego, CA?

Many people assume that they will not go to jail if they have a clean criminal history and the charge is a first-time DUI offense. Unfortunately, the DUI process is more complicated than that. 

A person can go to jail for a first-offense DUI in California. It depends on the facts of the case and whether there are aggravating circumstances to consider.

Potential penalties for DUI convictions in San Diego, California, include:

  • Incarceration in county jail or state prison
  • Fines and assessments totaling thousands of dollars
  • Up to 30 months of DUI school
  • Mandatory installation of an IID (ignition interlock device)
  • Three to five years of DUI probation
  • Suspension or revocation of driver’s license
  • Community service, DUI programs, and other terms of probation 

Drunk driving offenses can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors. They are also priorable offenses. Therefore, each DUI conviction within ten years increases the punishment for the current drunk driving charge. 

Fighting San Diego DUI Charges 

The best way to fight charges of driving under the influence is to hire an experienced San Diego DUI defense lawyer. Your attorney investigates your arrest to determine if the officers had probable cause. The attorney gathers evidence to develop a defense strategy that might include the following:

  • Challenging the results of a chemical test based on a violation of Title 17
  • Presenting evidence refuting the BAC results based on a medical condition, rising alcohol levels, or residual mouth alcohol
  • Alleging the DUI arrest was the result of an illegal DUI checkpoint
  • Presenting evidence that environmental factors impacted the field sobriety tests and breathalyzer
  • Alleging police misconduct and mistakes 

Do not accept a DUI plea deal without discussing it with an experienced DUI attorney in San Diego. The attorney might be able to negotiate a better plea agreement or fight to have the charges dismissed. 

If you’re facing charges for domestic violence, drug crimes or any kind of criminal charges, call Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers at (619) 357-4977 or contact us online today.