Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New DUI laws & changes in California drunk driving issues

California DUI criminal defense attorneys begin discussing new drunk driving related laws with the breath test gadgets that require you to blow before starting your vehicle.

California Ignition Interlock Devices (IID)

There were two changes to the California ignition interlock device laws this year.

The latest law comes into effect on July 1, 2009. First, the law transfers the administration of mandatory IID programs from the courts to the DMV. Second, it grants the DMV the power to require any driver whose license has been suspended because of a DUI conviction to install an IID in any vehicle they own or drive (Vehicle Code §23573).

The first California IID law went into effect on January 1, 2009. It lowered the minimum BAC necessary for the court to give heightened consideration for installment of an ignition interlock system for first-time DUI offenders (Vehicle Code §23575). Under the new law, drivers with a BAC of 0.15 can be required to install an IID into their vehicles in order to receive restricted driving privileges. Under the old law, the BAC was 0.20.

If the driver has any trace of alcohol on their breath, the vehicle will not start and the driver may lose his or her restricted driving privileges as a result. IIDs can cost drivers hundreds of dollars to install and maintain.

California DUI Probation

Effective January 1, 2009, drivers who are on probation for a previous DUI conviction may not operate a vehicle after having even one drink. The new zero tolerance law (Vehicle Code §23154) makes it a probation violation for drivers to have a BAC 0.01 or higher.

Under California implied consent law, if the police have reasonable cause to believe that the driver is operating a vehicle in violation of the law, they can make the driver submit to a preliminary blood alcohol screening test (i.e. a California breath machine or a California chemical test to check the blood).

If the California probationer's BAC is 0.01 or greater or the driver after driving refuses to take the test, California police will issue a notice of an order to suspend the driver's license, take any valid driver's license the person has with him or her and give the driver a temporary license. The temporary license is only valid for 30 days or until the driver receives the order of suspension from California DMV. (Vehicle Code §13389)

California DMV also has the authority to suspend the driving privileges for 1-3 years of any driver on probation who refuses to take or complete the blood alcohol test or other chemical test (Vehicle Code §13353.1):

- 1 year suspension of driving privileges for any driver on probation for a California DUI violation

- 2 year revocation of driving privileges for any driver on probation for a California DUI violation who also has either a previous conviction for another California DUI-related offense or a license suspension/revocation for refusing to take a previous test within the past 10 years

- 3 year revocation of driving privileges for any driver on probation for a DUI violation who has two or more DUI-related convictions or two or more license suspensions/revocations for previous refusal to take a blood alcohol test within the past 10 years

It is important for California drivers to remember that previous convictions did not have to occur in California. DUI convictions from other states and even Canada count as prior convictions so long as they occurred within the previous 10 years.

Mandatory California DUI Program Attendance

In some cases, drivers facing California DUI charges may be able to plea down to a lesser "wet reckless" charge, or alcohol-related reckless driving. The 2009 changes to this law now make it mandatory for anyone placed on probation for a wet reckless violation to attend a mandatory California DUI program for at least the education component of the course. If the person has a previous conviction within the past 10 years for either a DUI-related charge or a separate wet reckless charge, then the California driver must participate for a minimum of 9 months in the program as a condition of probation (Vehicle Code §23103.5).

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