Is There a "Typical" Driver Charged with DUI in California?
Any Driver Can Be Subject to a DUI Charge
Paul Geller: DUI’s, unfortunately, can happen to anyone. I’ve handled everyone from the professionals who go out for business meetings and they have a couple glasses of wine or some cocktails; to the party goers, if you will; to just your random everyday citizen. I’ve also represented people who have serious alcohol problems.
The thing about a DUI is that it crosses over into every race, every nationality, every culture, and every financial or status group across communities. It doesn’t discriminate. Police officers will sometimes target business districts or restaurant districts. Other times they’re just on the freeway conducting a routine traffic stop that caused them to investigate further into a DUI investigation. The DUI prosecution really does not discriminate.
Does the Driver Charged with DUI Usually Have a High Blood Alcohol Level?
Interviewer: The public seems to tend to think that people who are arrested for DUI are “drunk drivers.” Is that necessarily true? Do most of your clients have high blood alcohol levels or are they close to the legal limit?
Paul Geller: No, that’s not true. I think that’s a perception that many people have. The bottom line is this – nobody in society wants to see “drunk drivers.” We don’t even want to see people, necessarily, impaired by alcohol or other substances to the extent that they can drive their vehicles safely. That’s true across the board.
Impaired Driving and the Legal Limit of 0.08: You Do Not Have to Be “Drunk” to Be Prosecuted for a DUI
The thing about a DUI, however, is to be prosecuted for a DUI you don’t necessarily have to be “drunk.” There is a statute in place that most people who are at or above the legal limit, and that in California is 0.08%, will be charged not only with what we call the per se statute, and that is driving with a 0.08 blood alcohol content or higher; but the charge is also brought against people who are just below the legal limit, if it involves alcohol. That is what we refer to as the impaired driving or “A count.”
A person could have a couple of glasses of wine, for instance, and they may not be drunk in the practical sense that we always interpret; but they may be impaired to the extent that they can’t drive their vehicle with the same caution and care as a sober person. They are just as susceptible to being prosecuted for a DUI as is the person who is extremely intoxicated and well over the legal limits.
California’s Public Opinion Influences both the Action of Law Enforcement and the State’s District Attorney and the Consensus Is to Take a Firm Stance against Drinking and Driving
So, it really does not depend, necessarily, on the person who is completely and utterly drunk or simply a little irresponsible to be prosecuted for a DUI. Of course, there’s been so much pressure put on society to take a firm stance against drinking and driving. It is difficult once a police officer makes a stop and a person admits that yes, they’ve had a glass of wine or a couple of drinks, for a police officer to then ultimately tell the person, “Well, I’ve determined that you’re okay to drive.”
There’s too much liability in that type of a circumstance. Most law enforcement agencies and, consequently, once that case lands on a prosecutor’s desk, most prosecutorial agencies would say, “Let’s charge the crime and let’s let the court figure it out.”