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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Prosecutors typically have to have some type of evidence of impaired driving before they can file charges against a person for driving under the influence (DUI). This is because prosecutors can only secure a DUI conviction by showing evidence that a person drove or was in control of a motor vehicle while impaired or with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above a certain legal limit (for example, at or above .08% in most states). Further, prosecutors must show enough evidence, for a conviction, to convince a judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt that a driver was guilty of DUI.
Some common types of evidence that a prosecutor may use to help prove DUI include:
If a prosecutor is able to convict a defendant of DUI, then the person may face such penalties as:
DUI cases usually have to have some type of underlying evidence of drunk driving before a prosecutor will file DUI charges.
Keep in mind that state DUI laws say that prosecutors can only convict a person of drunk driving if they successfully prove certain “elements of the crime.”
For example, under California law, a prosecutor has to prove the following elements before a DUI arrest will rise to a conviction:
Note that a prosecutor must prove each of these elements with actual evidence, as opposed to mere assertions or uncorroborated claims. Further, there has to be enough evidence to convince a judge or jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a defendant was guilty of DUI/DWI.
When a prosecutor tries to prove a DUI case, he/she can use several types of evidence. Some of the most common types of DUI evidence include:
Yes. People sometimes refuse to submit to a breath or blood test either before or after a DUI arrest.
In these cases, prosecutors can still file DUI charges, even without evidence of the driver’s blood-alcohol level. Prosecutors will just have to rely on other types of evidence to support their case.
For example, a prosecutor may rely on:
Note that most state laws say that drivers who refuse a breath or blood test will face serious penalties for a chemical test refusal.
The major consequences of a chemical test refusal are:
If a prosecutor presents enough evidence of drunk driving to secure a DUI conviction, the defendant will face a series of potential penalties.
Common penalties for a DUI conviction include:
Given these penalties, people charged with DUI should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney or DUI defense attorney for help.
A skilled criminal defense lawyer or DUI lawyer can help a defendant raise a legal defense to contest any DUI charges that a prosecutor or state files.
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.