California Vehicle Code §23152 makes it unlawful to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. In general, a person is said to be impaired if their blood alcohol level is a .08 or over. The blood alcohol level is measured through the use of blood alcohol tests, which were taken through the use of a breathalyzer, blood tests or urine test. The blood alcohol level of .08 is just a standard, and will vary under different circumstances.
The statute states under (a) and (b) that a person may not drive under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol level over .08. But under other sections of the statute, the person need only be higher than a .04 blood alcohol level to be found too impaired to operate a vehicle. These statutes apply when the driver is operating an Uber, or a taxi, (Section (e)) as well as commercial vehicles (Section (d)).
Section (f) makes it unlawful to operate a vehicle while under the influence of drugs and Section (g) makes it unlawful for a person to operate a vehicle under the influence of both alcohol and drugs. Drugs are harder to assess at an arrest or traffic stop than the use of alcohol alone.
An officer needs probable cause to stop a vehicle before they assess whether the driver is impaired. An officer is not allowed to stop a vehicle for no reason at all. In addition, once the driver has stopped the driver with probable cause, the officer must have reasonable suspicion before the officer can subject the driver to an alcohol or drug test. Let’s consider two examples to demonstrate the difference between a driver who is under the influence of alcohol and one who is under the influence of drugs, and why the latter proves to be more difficult to prove.
David is driving home from a birthday party where he has had several beers. He runs a red light and is pulled over by an officer. The officer has probable cause because David ran a red light so he has grounds to stop him. When the officer approaches David, David smells strongly of beer, is slurring and is slow in responding to the officer. This gives the officer reasonable suspicion to request that David submit to a blood alcohol test, which he does. His blood alcohol is a .08. There is evidence now that there was alcohol in his blood, and that he was likely under the influence.
Donny is driving home from a friend’s house where he has smoked marijuana. On his way home, he is swerving in and out of lanes. An officer stops Donny. The officer may have probable cause, but it is not as objective as it was in David’s case. The officer will have to prove that Donny was swerving. Once Donny is pulled over, the officer cannot smell marijuana on Donny, as it was not on his person. In addition, Donny is speaking slowly, but not slurring. The officer may be able to tell that Donny is under the influence of something, but does not have proof like with David.
If you are arrested under Vehicle Code §23152, it will vary as to what level your blood alcohol level can be before it is considered “impaired” and what evidence a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer will prepare to argue on your behalf. The criminal justice system and its sentencing is complicated, but readily understood by an experienced Los Angeles DUI professional. Do the best possible thing for your future and speak to one as soon as possible!