Most people know that if you are stopped by police while driving with a certain BAC percentage, you will be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). These are the questions that usually come along with that statement: “What is my state's legal limit?” and “What if I don't feel drunk even at that legal limit?”
Let's break these questions down a little bit. First, what is the legal limit in California? The laws in California state that anyone with a .08% or greater will be arrested and charged with DUI. Keep in mind that if you are a minor (under 21 years old), the limit is .01% and commercial drivers cannot hit .04% or greater.
This concept, automatically being arrested for having a .08% BAC, is considered to be a “per se” DUI law. Per se laws hold that a .08% (or more) BAC is the point at which a person is considered to be intoxicated. In many cases, this is the only evidence needed to find an individual guilty of DUI. Currently, every state has a per se DUI law.
So, this brings us to the next question that usually gets asked when talking about legal limits and DUI: what if you don't “feel” drunk with a .08% BAC? It doesn't matter. You will still be charged with DUI. The implementation of DUI per se laws works to avoid this exact defense. Per se laws therefore make it much easier for the prosecution to prove their case.
Consider this, no matter how well you may do on any field sobriety test at the time of the arrest, or how well you conduct yourself during the conversation with the officer, if you blow a .08% BAC or higher, you will be arrested.
However, please keep in mind that just because you may have taken a chemical test and the results came back unfavorable, this doesn't mean that you are automatically guilty! A proper DUI defense lawyer will work with you in order to go over the specific facts of your case and determine if and how any mistakes were made by police along the way.
A common problem is related to the validity of chemical test results. There have been cases in the recent months of crime labs that have been producing inaccurate BAC results. One consistent issue that keeps coming up when crime labs are acknowledging mistakes is the poor maintenance of the machines that are used to test blood samples. Issues with these machines can continue on for months until anyone notices a defect. This can lead to thousands of samples being compromised!
Another concern that comes up is the fact that not all police officers follow chemical or field sobriety testing guidelines properly. This can be because the officer purposely avoids or ignores the approved policy or there was a gap in training and the officer is making these mistakes with no ill will. Either way, that is not your fault and you should not have to pay for those mistakes!