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Many people who are charged with driving under the influence claim that they were not drunk or intoxicated at the time of the offense, but were merely “buzzed.” In California, it is illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher. The DUI statutes make no reference to “buzzed” driving.
Generally people believe that as long as they feel sober enough to drive, they will not risk a DUI arrest. The thinking goes that it is ok to get buzzed, or just a little drunk, and then drive home. In reality, people have a very poor gage regarding how intoxicated they really are, and what someone may only think is “buzzed” driving really would be considered impaired driving under the law.
In many cases, a person will believe they are sober enough to drive when in reality his or her blood alcohol content is well above the 0.08 percent legal limit. Studies have shown that people who do not feel extremely intoxicated will have difficulty maintaining balance as well as impaired motor skills when tested. A number of factors including a person’s age, gender, weight or whether or not they have eaten recently will all affect a person’s level of impairment. Thus a person who has had a large meal and has consumed a few drinks may not feel drunk but may have a BAC that is above the legal limit. It may be risky to depend on one’s personal evaluation of sobriety when getting behind the wheel.
Even when a driver has a blood alcohol content that is below 0.08 percent, he or she can still be charged with DUI. The DUI laws prohibit driving under the influence as well as driving with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher. If the prosecutor can establish that a driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, that driver may be convicted of DUI even with a BAC of under 0.08 percent. This may be shown where a driver engaged in highly egregious driving conduct consistent with impairment or performed poorly on field sobriety tests.
It is also important to remember that a driver can be charged with DUI if he or she mixes drugs and alcohol. The driver may have a BAC that is under 0.08 percent, but a blood test may show the presence of intoxicating drugs in his or her system. In these situations, the driver could be charged with driving under the influence in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f).
There are some drivers who cannot drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system. For drivers who are under the age of 21, driving “buzzed” or with any alcohol will result in a yearlong driver’s license suspension, during which there would be no availability for a restricted license. In addition, those who are on probation for a DUI offense would also face a similar “zero tolerance” restriction.