It’s common for people to still feel sober after only one or two drinks, even though their BAC is over 0.08%. But when your BAC is nearly twice that, pretty much anyone should be able to recognize that they are too intoxicated to drive. Additionally, drunk driving becomes dramatically more dangerous as a person’s BAC rises. Because driving under these conditions shows an increased recklessness on the driver’s part and presents a greater risk to others on the road, California enforces stricter penalties for DUIs with high BAC levels. Fortunately, it is possible to fight these enhancements with the help of a skilled DUI defense attorney.
What is a High BAC for a DUI?
If your breathalyzer or blood test result is higher than .15, the prosecution will most likely try to add on a high BAC enhancement to your DUI charge for your excessive blood alcohol concentration. These enhancements are defined under California Vehicle Code section 23578 (VC).
An additional enhancement will be added if the BAC was above .20 under Vehicle Code section 23538(b)(1) (VC).
It’s important to note that while juveniles are subject to a .01% BAC under the state’s Zero tolerance laws, they still face the same penalties for these high-use enhancements. The same goes for commercial drivers with particularly high BACs though their maximum BAC while driving is only .04%.
These penalties are not typically used in DUI cases involving drugs, including marijuana, because, unlike with alcohol use, there is no legal limit to how many drugs a person can safely consume before driving.
High BAC DUI Penalties
In cases where the person convicted has a BAC above .15, the defendant will be forced to perform public work service for a few days on top of their other DUI penalties. Additionally, if the BAC was above .20, the defendant will be required to attend a nine-month alcohol treatment course instead of the three-month program most people get after a DUI.
These two sentencing enhancements are mandatory, but a judge may choose to add additional penalties to the sentence as well, such as:
- mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device for the next 3 years
- residential treatment
- lengthier jail sentences
- longer DUI classes
- attendance at a MADD victim attendance panel
- mandatory AA meetings, increased fines
- community service
- longer probation periods
- mandatory use of an alcohol monitoring bracelet
Related DUI Enhancements
Interestingly, these are the same penalties added in cases where the driver refuses to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test. The basic idea behind this increased sentencing for those who violate the implied consent law is that if the punishment for refusing to take a chemical test is the same as if a driver has a high blood alcohol content, people will be more likely to submit to the test.
Additionally, anyone caught speeding at more than 20 miles an hour above the speed limit on a public road or 30 miles an hour on a freeway will face an additional driving under the influence enhancement for excessive speeding.
You Can Fight the Charges
While enhancements carry mandatory penalties, the enhancements themselves are not mandatory, even if you had a very high BAC. Even if you cannot beat your DUI charges entirely, the right drunk driving attorney can at least help you avoid a sentencing enhancement and may even be able to have the charges plead down to a wet reckless. The District Attorney, which prosecutes misdemeanor DUI cases in the North, South and East San Diego County courts, is often willing to agree to a lower blood alcohol result to avoid the enhancements.
The chances of avoiding these enhancements are much higher if they are anywhere near the cut-off line. For example, it is much easier to have a judge decide against adding an enhancement if your BAC was .15% than if it was .19%.
Common defenses to these enhancements include arguing that the officer failed to administer the DUI test properly, that the officer waited too long to administer the test, or the blood test sample became contaminated.
Whatever the circumstances of your arrest, a drunk driving attorney can help you fight the charges. Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss.