Understanding DUI Under 23152(a) VC

A man was recently arrested on suspicion of DUI after he almost hit two men in the parking lot of a San Diego In-N-Out restaurant. According to police, the man was driving in a “reckless manner” and unable to control the vehicle. Once the vehicle came to a stop, the driver got out and started swinging a machete in the direction of the two men he’d almost hit with the car. Investigations into the incident are ongoing.

Driving Under the Influence in San Diego

California has two distinct DUI laws. The first, Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC, makes it a crime to drive when your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above the legal limit. You violate 23152(b) VC every time you get behind the wheel with a BAC at or above .08 percent.

However, you don’t have to have an elevated BAC to be guilty of DUI. The state’s second law, Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC, makes it a crime to drive a vehicle when you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 23152(a) VC can be used as a catch-all for incidents where drivers have little-to-no alcohol in their systems.

What Does it Mean to Be Under the Influence?

“Under the influence” is a fairly broad and vague term. It’s also very subjective. This means that whether or not you’re considered to be under the influence is often left to an officer’s discretion. However, there are some guidelines to establish when a driver is under the influence in violation of 23152(a) VC.

A driver is under the influence when, after consuming drugs or alcohol, their “physical and mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that [they] no longer have the ability to drive with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances.”

In other words, you can be considered to be under the influence if you are unable to exercise the physical and mental tasks that are necessary to drive safely. You have to be able to drive just as safely as someone with no drugs or alcohol in their system. If you can’t, you can be guilty of DUI.

How is Intoxication Determined?

How does an officer decide that a driver isn’t capable of driving as safely as someone who is sober? It all comes down to the circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence, on its own, doesn’t necessarily prove that a driver is under the influence. However, the several pieces of circumstantial evidence, when considered together, can be used to infer that a driver is unlawfully under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Many pieces of circumstantial evidence can be used to create a presumption that a driver is under the influence. Examples include:

  • A driver who is swerving or unable to maintain their lane
  • Speeding, driving recklessly, and/or running through stop signs
  • Driving in the wrong direction against traffic
  • The smell of alcohol or drugs coming from a vehicle
  • A driver’s inability to communicate or maintain eye contact
  • A driver’s aggressive demeanor, and
  • Failed field sobriety tests.

These pieces of evidence can be used to support the argument that a driver was under the influence. A driver will have the opportunity to explain any of these behaviors to defeat DUI charges.

Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC Applies to Drug and Alcohol Use

You can be guilty of DUI even if you haven’t consumed any alcohol. The California DUI law also applies to drivers who are under the influence of other drugs, including marijuana.

Since drugs do not show up in blood alcohol test, 23152(a) VC is often used to charge drivers who are under the influence substances other than alcohol. These can be illegal controlled substances or legal prescription medications. Either way, it’s illegal to get behind the wheel if you’ve consumed drugs, legal or illegal, and cannot operate the vehicle safely.

Always get help if you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI in San Diego. You don’t necessarily have to have an elevated BAC to be guilty of the crime. Hiring an attorney to handle your defense is the best decision you can make. Call our criminal defense lawyers today to learn more about how we can help to protect you after an arrest.

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