There are a lot of misconceptions about drunk driving arrests and criminal charges in California. Some of this is based on TV shows or movies, others are based on rumors from something that happened to “a guy I know.” Don't rely on everything you hear about what is legal or illegal for the police to do during a traffic stop. Unfortunately, you also cannot rely on the police to tell you what your rights are or when they are also breaking the law. To avoid a criminal conviction, make sure you talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney who will fight for your rights.
Some of the common myths and misconceptions about DUIs and traffic stops in California include:
- You can't get a DUI if your blood-alcohol is below the limit.
- You can't get a drug DUI if you have a prescription.
- You will win your case because the police didn't read your Miranda rights.
“You can't get a DUI if your blood-alcohol is below the limit.”
This is incorrect. You can still get arrested, charged, and convicted for a DUI even if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit. A person with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is charged with a per se DUI. However, under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a), “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.”
Drivers can get a DUI if they are considered to be under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of alcohol or drugs. This requires a showing that, as a result of alcohol or drugs, the driver's mental or physical abilities are so impaired that he or she is no longer able to drive a vehicle with the caution of a sober person.
“You can't get a drug DUI if you have a prescription.”
Like the previous misconception, driving under the influence of drugs says nothing about whether the drug is legal or illegal. Having a prescription only means that you can legally possess and consume the drug or medication. It does not act as a “pass” for impaired driving.
If your prescription medication impairs your mental or physical abilities so that you cannot drive with the caution of a sober person, you can be charged with a drug DUI, even if you have a prescription. If you are taking prescription medications without a prescription, you may also be charged with possession of a controlled substance, depending on the drug involved.
You can also face a drug DUI if you had no idea the medication would impair your driving ability. This leaves a lot of people facing criminal charges for something they did not ever know would be a problem. Make sure you talk to your doctor when taking any new medication to understand the possible side effects and how the drug may interact with alcohol.
“You will win your case because the police didn't read your Miranda rights.”
Miranda rights cause some of the most confusion for people who are facing a first time arrest. If the police do not read you your Miranda rights during an arrest, it does not necessarily mean that your charges will be dropped. Miranda rights only apply to custodial interrogation by police. The police have to read a suspect their Miranda rights when the individual is:
- Under police custody; AND
- Being interrogated.
If the police pull you over for a traffic stop and suspect you are under the influence, they can make an arrest without ever needing to advise you of your Miranda rights. In many cases, the police do advise you of your rights as a precaution for any future questioning or interrogation. However, if you are never given your Miranda rights, you can still be arrested, charged, and convicted of a DUI.
If you are in police custody and the police are questioning you, you should strongly consider asking for a lawyer, to make sure you can protect your rights and avoid criminal charges for something you didn't do.
Help After an East Bay DUI Arrest
If you end up under arrest for drunk driving in Alameda or Contra Costa County, make sure you understand your rights before you take a plea deal. With over 37 years of DUI defense experience, Lynn Gorelick understands the law and science around DUI arrests and will use her experience to fight for you. Contact Gorelick Law Offices today.