California’s DUI laws can be complex and confusing. In this section, our attorneys break down the rules and explain the process.
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You were arrested for DUI/DWI after a breathalyzer test showed you had a .09% blood alcohol content. You were taking over-the-counter medications at the time because of a cold. Could these have affected your breath test?
In some cases, yes. Certain medications can increase your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Some examples include:
Also note that other medications have similar side effects of alcohol (for example, drowsiness) that may suggest you are intoxicated. Some examples include:
Some medications may affect your BAC levels. In particular, some may make it seem like you have a higher BAC than you actually do.1
Examples of these medications include:
Note that there are other medications and matters which on their own contain alcohol. Ingestion of these could lead to a false positive on a breath test. Examples include:
There are still other medications that cause side effects that may suggest alcohol intoxication. Such side effects are drowsiness, sedation, and decreased motor skills. Examples of such medications include:
Yes. There are several other factors that can affect BAC levels and breath test results following a stop for drunk driving. These are:
There are portable alcohol testers that you can purchase for personal use. So, for example, if you go out and have 4 glasses of wine in two hours, you can use the portable tester to gauge your BAC.
Please keep in mind, though, that these testers are not as reliable as the ones used by police to determine your use of alcohol and its effect on your body.
But you can still use them to gather useful baseline information regarding your personal blood alcohol levels.
Not really, no. There are no sure-fire ways to speed up your body’s metabolism of alcohol.
The passage of time is really the only true way to help lower your alcohol levels. In general, the more you drink, the more time your body needs to process the alcohol from your system.
They can, yes. All states have a “per se” legal limit when it comes to driving while intoxicated.
In 49 states of the U.S., the per se legal limit is .08%. This means you can get arrested for DUI if your BAC is .08% or greater. Note that Utah is the only state where the per se legal limit is .05%.6
Also note that your penalties for DUI can grow harsher if you are arrested for drunk driving with “excessive” BAC levels.
For example, California law says that an excessive BAC is one at .15% or higher. If you are arrested for DUI with a BAC at these levels, you will receive steeper DUI penalties (in comparison to cases where your BAC was under .15%).7
In contrast, Idaho law says that an excessive BAC level is one at .20% or higher. You will receive harsher DUI penalties then with a BAC at these levels.8
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.