Everyone who drives on California’s streets and highways already knows that driving under the influence is against the law and that in some cases you can go to jail for a DUI conviction. Everyone also knows that driving under the influence is dangerous and that impaired drivers are frequently responsible for fatalities and other tragedies. But what you may not know is that driving under the influence is a global public safety and law enforcement problem, that teens are particularly at risk, and that men are more at risk than women – although women are catching up fast. Driving under the influence is a multi-faceted social and cultural problem that negatively impacts families and communities, national economies, healthcare and criminal justice systems around the world.
Driving under the influence is treated as a serious crime in the state of California. If you are convicted of a first-offense misdemeanor DUI in this state, the penalties can include up to six months in jail, three to five years on probation, a fine ranging from $390 to $1,000, three months of court-ordered rehabilitation, and a six-month driver’s license suspension. As if that’s not enough, in Sacramento, Los Angeles, Alameda, and Tulare County, you’ll also be ordered by the court to have an ignition interlock device – an “IID” – installed in your personal vehicle after you’re driver’s license suspension is lifted.
Subsequent DUI convictions, or convictions for driving under the influence that involve serious injuries or fatalities, will result in even harsher penalties. You probably already know that DUI laws are aggressively enforced and prosecuted in California, and now you know the penalties for a first conviction. Listed here are eight more scary truths that you may not know about driving under the influence:
TEENAGERS ARE AT RISK
On average, eight teenagers are killed every day in the United States in DUI-related traffic crashes. If you are the parent of a teen driver, talking with your teen and monitoring his or her activities is absolutely imperative. Traffic accidents are the number one cause of death of teenagers in the United States, and one-third of all teen traffic fatalities are in alcohol-related collisions. The legal drinking age in California is 21, so the “legal limit” blood-alcohol content rule of 0.08 percent doesn’t even apply to drivers under 21. Those drivers may be prosecuted for underage DUI if any amount of alcohol is measurable in their blood – no exceptions. If your teenager is arrested for driving under the influence, and if any measurable amount of alcohol is detected by a DUI chemical test, your teen will be arrested and charged, and you’ll need to contact an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney immediately.
YOU COULD LOSE YOUR LICENSE
Many Californians do not realize that when you are arrested for DUI in this state, you actually have two barriers to retaining your driver’s license; the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the criminal court. In the state of California, your driver’s license can actually be suspended simply because you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence – whether or not you are eventually convicted. After you are arrested, you have ten days to request a hearing with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to defend your driver’s license. Contact an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney immediately after a DUI arrest, and have your attorney request the DMV hearing. With only ten days to defend your driving privilege, you must act at once.
ALCOHOL PROBLEMS ARE GLOBAL
What, really, are the effects of alcohol? The World Health Organization has recently released a landmark report on alcohol use and abuse in more than a hundred nations. The report, “The Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health,” focuses on the consequences of alcohol overconsumption at both global and national levels. Alcohol is the number one choice of drug over all other drugs in the United States and throughout the world. Alcohol abuse is also a serious international healthcare concern, and governments around the world are struggling every day to deal with alcohol and its influence on crime, healthcare costs, and public safety. According to figures published by the World Health Organization, alcohol is partly or directly responsible for 2.5 million deaths each year. Globally, 320,000 young people aged 15-29 die every year from alcohol-related causes, a figure that represents nine percent of all deaths in that age group.
YOUR INSURANCE RATES WILL INCREASE
A DUI conviction means that your auto insurance rates will increase. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes amounts to more than $59 billion, so auto insurance companies impose their own penalties on drivers convicted of DUI with no hearing, no defense, and no appeal. If you’re convicted of driving under the influence in California, expect your auto insurance costs to go up – and probably never to come back down. Also after a DUI conviction, California requires you to request an SR-22 form from your auto insurance company. An SR-22 is the document which proves that you carry liability insurance, and it restores your driver’s license after your license suspension is lifted.
DUI THREATENS EVERYONE
The overconsumption of alcohol weakens the immune system, and it negatively impacts our ability to make sound judgments. Alcohol is involved in about forty percent of all traffic accidents that result in fatalities in the United States. Every day, about thirty people die in the U.S. in alcohol-related traffic collisions. 10,076 people were killed in alcohol-related traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2013. Over one million drivers are arrested for driving under the influence every year in this nation.
MORE WOMEN ARE BEING CHARGED WITH DUI
By about a two-to-one margin, males are more likely to be arrested for driving under the influence – or involved in a DUI-related crash – than females. However, in recent years, women have been closing the DUI gap. The number of women arrested for driving under the influence in California has increased every year since 1989. From 1999 to 2011, DUI arrests of women ages 21 to 30 jumped 134 percent in Los Angeles County, and DUI arrests of women ages 51 to 60 rose by 81 percent. Other southern California counties report comparable statistics. Researchers have no single explanation for the increase in women’s DUI arrests; however, a recent study issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one out of every eight women and one out of every five high school-age women surveyed admits to binge drinking. With more women working and functioning as single parents, more women are driving – and driving under the influence – than ever before.
DUI HAPPENS MAINLY ON WEEKENDS
The legal “BAC” level (blood alcohol content level) in every state is 0.08 percent for drivers age 21 and older. During a typical week, the drivers who use a BACtrack Smartphone Breathalyzer measure the highest average BAC level between 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings, where users average 0.113 percent. The lowest average BAC level is Tuesday mornings from 9:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. – 0.018 percent.
DUI HAPPENS MAINLY AT NIGHT
Fifty percent of the drivers who die in nighttime traffic accidents are over the legal BAC limit at the time of the crash, while only fifteen percent of the drivers who die in daytime traffic accidents are over the legal BAC limit. Obviously, more impaired drivers are on the road at night, so you may want to avoid unnecessary nighttime travel. California police agencies also tend to conduct sobriety checkpoints at night and rarely in the daytime.
TO LEARN MORE
If you are arrested for driving under the influence in Orange County or elsewhere in southern California, there is absolutely no reason to assume that you will be convicted or that your situation is futile. It’s possible that you’re actually not guilty. Alcohol traces from food particles or from acid reflux can make a breath test inaccurate. Medical conditions such as GERD and heartburn can also make a breath test inaccurate, as well as diabetes, hypoglycemia, or even an Atkins-style diet. If none of those conditions apply, it’s possible that you had a drink or two before getting behind the wheel, but you were still below the legal blood alcohol content level. If you blew into a breathalyzer, it’s also possible that the breathalyzer wasn’t calibrated accurately. Another possibility is that the traffic stop that led to your arrest was itself illegal. Except at a sobriety checkpoint, the police must have “reasonable cause” to stop you in traffic. These are only several of your defense possibilities after an arrest for driving under the influence.
Although convictions for driving under the influence are common, they may not be as common as you think. Good attorneys win a large number of cases for their DUI clients in this state. The conviction rate for DUI defendants in California is about 70 percent, so in three out of every ten DUI cases, the DUI charge is reduced to a lesser charge, entirely dismissed, or the defense wins the case at trial. Interested in learning more about DUI laws in California? Comment below or reach out to us on our social media channels, we’d love to hear from you. If you need legal help regarding a DUI matter in southern California, contact an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney today.