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What Happens If I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in California?You have likely seen a Breathalyzer used in a traffic stop, either on television or by someone who has been pulled over. Since driving under the influence (DUI) is an important topic discussed in driver education classes, you may have even been able to try one out yourself. Many courses bring in the handheld machines to let students test them out by putting the small tube in their mouths, blowing, and seeing the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) record appearing at 0.00. While you were sitting soberly in class, you probably never imagined yourself being in a situation where you would have to take the test. Unfortunately, many drivers will be asked to submit to the test at some point in their lives, with possible criminal charges to follow.

Knowing the Law

When sitting in your driver’s education course, all of the seemingly minor details of California roadway regulations can start to blend together. What you may have forgotten over the years is the details of California’s DUI implied consent laws. Upon signing up for their California driver’s license, all Californians sign over their right to refuse a breath alcohol test when asked by law enforcement. According to this law, any driver who is lawfully arrested for a DUI must submit to a chemical test to measure their BAC. You may be wondering what is considered a “lawful arrest.” An arrest is considered lawful if the officer has probable cause to conclude that you are driving under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances. 

So if you have yet to be arrested and a police officer asks you to submit to a breath test, are you required to do so? The general answer is no. The implied consent law does not extend to those asked to complete a chemical test before they have been arrested. This is known as a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS). However, those under the age of 21 or on probation for a DUI must submit to the test since they are not allowed to drive with any alcohol in their system.

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How Does Getting a DUI Impact My California Car Insurance?Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is a treacherous but common mistake that is made throughout the U.S. on a daily basis. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 10,511 deaths from drunk driving accidents in 2018. Getting behind the wheel while intoxicated is rarely intentional — many people may not recognize how easy it is to surpass the 0.08 blood alcohol concentration limit. Typically, anyone who consumes one standard drink per hour remains under this 0.08 line, but it can be easy to get carried away without even realizing it. Being charged with a DUI has serious consequences, many of which can impact your finances and your future.

Financing My Security

As is the case in most states, California requires all car owners to have proof of insurance of their vehicle. This shows that they are able to provide financial assistance for any injuries or damages that may have been caused by their driving. California’s average auto insurance rate is slightly higher than the national average — around $1,868 as compared to the national average of $1,548. However, this marginal difference increases significantly upon a DUI conviction. On average, insurance rates nationally increase by 65 percent if convicted of a DUI charge. In California, this insurance price rises to $4,937, a 164 percent increase from the state’s average rate. DUI charges typically result in the highest rate increase of any driving charge.

Other Consequences

The price of your car insurance will likely be the least of your worries if you are convicted of a DUI in California. For first offenders, their license will be immediately suspended for at least four months, an ignition interlocking device will be installed to the vehicle, and a $125 license reissue fee will be required. The guilty party can also face up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. The driver is required to attend a DUI program and file an SR-22, labeling themselves as a high-risk insurance holder. This will affect their insurance rates, as described above, and make it difficult for them to find affordable insurance rates. Any subsequent DUI convictions have the same requirements with increased jail time and fines.

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Why Can You Be Charged with DUI for Using Marijuana in a Parked Vehicle?Though recreational marijuana is legal in California, there are still many restrictions on how you can use it. For instance, you are not allowed to have marijuana in an open container in your vehicle. When transporting marijuana, it must be in a sealed container. Using marijuana in a parked vehicle may be a violation if you are near a public place where use is restricted, such as a school. There is also the possibility that you could be charged with driving under the influence of marijuana if you are caught using the substance in a parked vehicle.

Marijuana DUI Without Driving

A police officer does not need to have witnessed you driving in order to arrest you on suspicion of DUI involving alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs. There may be circumstantial evidence that you had recently been driving, such as:

  • Where your vehicle is parked
  • Whether the vehicle is still running or the keys are in the ignition
  • Whether you are sitting in the driver’s seat

Combining this evidence with a reasonable suspicion that you are impaired from marijuana use may be enough for the police officer to arrest you for DUI.

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What Are the Penalties for Having an Open Alcohol Container in Your Car?When it comes to criminal law, alcohol does not mix well with driving. Drivers should know that it is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol, which California defines as having a blood alcohol concentration that is greater than 0.08 percent. It can also be illegal to possess an alcoholic beverage in a vehicle, depending on where the beverage is and what has been done with it. Violating the open container law in California is not as serious as being convicted for DUI, but the consequences can eventually add up to more serious penalties.

Defining Open Containers

An open container violation can occur if a police officer notices a container in plain view inside of a vehicle or discovers it during an authorized vehicle search. California law deems an alcohol container to be open if:

  • The top has been opened
  • A seal has been broken
  • The container is partially or totally emptied

The officer does not need to catch you drinking the beverage or driving the vehicle to issue a citation for an open container violation.

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Posted on in DUI

Compounding a DUI with a Hit-and-Run ChargeA person who gets into a vehicle accident may panic and flee the scene before police arrive – especially if they fear that the officer may arrest them for a crime such as driving under the influence. A hit-and-run charge involving personal injury or death can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the injuries and the circumstances of the accident. The same applies to DUI with injury and DUI vehicular manslaughter charges. The penalties become more severe when you combine a DUI charge with a hit-and-run charge. However, California is trying to fix a loophole in its criminal code that can benefit people suspected of DUI who flee an accident.

Hit-and-Run vs. DUI

It is difficult for prosecutors to prove that someone charged with a hit-and-run was also under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident. It may be hours or days before the defendant is arrested for the hit-and-run, by which point there is no longer chemical evidence of DUI. While a hit-and-run is still a serious charge, consider the difference in penalties:

  • A felony hit-and-run causing basic injury carries up to three years in prison, and a felony hit-and-run causing serious injury or death carries up to four years in prison.
  • A felony DUI with injury carries up to six years in prison, and a felony DUI manslaughter with gross negligence carries up to 10 years in prison.

Thus, a drunk driver who commits a hit-and-run could receive a lesser punishment than if they had remained at the scene. California legislators recently proposed a law that would increase the maximum prison sentence for a hit-and-run resulting in death to six years.

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