#1 – California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) is the standard misdemeanor DUI charge
A VC 23152(a) count is filed in the vast majority of all California criminal cases for driving under the influence. DUI is one of the most common crimes in California and VC 23152(a) is the most common charge filed in a California DUI prosecution.
#2 – VC 23152(a) does NOT require the District Attorney to prove that your were “over the legal limit”
When most people think of getting a DUI, they think of being “over the limit”. In the State of California, the legal limit is .08. Therefore, most people make the assumption that you can only get a DUI if you are over .08. Unfortunately, this is not the case. You can be arrested and prosecuted for DUI with any blood alcohol level under VC 23152(a). Being “under the limit” is not a valid defense to VC 23152(a).
#3 – VC 23152(a) does require proof that you could not drive with the care and caution of a sober person
While no specific blood alcohol level needs to be established for the prosecutor to prevail in a charge of VC 23152(a), the law does require proof of impairment. The language of the jury instruction that will be given to a jury in a DUI case requires a finding that you “could not drive with the same care and caution as a sober person”.
#4 – Tolerance is a valid defense to VC 23152(a)
Alcohol effects every one differently. Most us have that one friend who gets tipsy after one glass of champagne. Under VC 23152(a), that friend could be guilty of DUI even at a BAC of .05 or less. He may be “under the limit” but he is in no shape to drive. On the other hand, many of us also have that friend who can have 3 or 4 beers and seemingly function just fine. Someone who drinks on a regular basis will develop tolerance to alcohol and may be able to function well even though they are above a .08. A person in that situation may be “over the limit”, but they are still able to drive with the same care and caution as a sober person.
#5 – VC 23152(a) rarely travels alone
In the vast majority of California DUI cases, VC 23152(a) charges will be filed in connection with a charge for VC 23152(b). Unlike VC 23152(a), the charge for VC 23152(b) is strictly based on the BAC level at the time of driving. If the prosecution can prove that you were over .08 at the time of driving, you will be convicted of 23152(b), even if you can present tolerance or another viable defense to VC 23152(a).
#6 – VC 23152(a) can be charged as a felony
While VC 23152(a) is usually charged as a misdemeanor, a simple DUI charge can be filed as a felony under VC 23550. There are two ways that a simple DUI charge can be elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony. The first way for this charge to become a felony is if you have three or more prior convictions within the past 10 years. The second way for this charge to become a felony is if you have one or more prior convictions for felony DUI.
# 7 – VC 23152(a) can result in serious consequences
One common mistake that is often made in court is that people assume “it’s just a DUI”, I don’t need a lawyer. In reality, a DUI prosecution is an extremely complex case with significant consequences even for a first time offender. You must deal with both the court process and the DMV process and the penalties include fines, classes, probation, jail time, loss of driving privileges, loss of employment opportunities, increased insurance premiums, and more. If you are facing a charge of VC 23152(a), don’t go alone. Contact an experienced DUI lawyer ASAP. I would be happy to answer any questions you have and we offer a free initial consult in all cases. Call my office today at 800-797-8406 to get started.