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Can I Get Charged with DUI While Driving Under the Legal Limit in California

bottle of wine on the floorMost drivers know that the legal BAC limit in California, like most States, is 0.08%. There is a push to lower it to 0.05% — like Utah. Because this is what is considered the “legal limit”, many drivers believe that they cannot be charged with a DUI as long as their BAC levels are below this number. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Drivers who have a BAC below the legal limit of 0.08% in can still face DUI charges in California.

When you are pulled over by a police officer, it may be based on a suspicion that you are under the influence, typically because of driving behaviors that are associated with those who are impaired from alcohol or drugs. Police are looking for any evidence at this point that can be used to bring you in to the station and process you for a DUI.

What are police looking for?

When police ask questions at the time that they pull you over, such as, “have you been drinking tonight?”, this is in an attempt to get information that can be used to bring you in on charges of a DUI.

Most people might think that a nonchalant answer of one or two beers in the affirmative will save them from further scrutiny. However, confirming that you have been drinking only provided the officer with evidence to continue their search and conduct further tests in an attempt the charge you with a DUI.

Typically, police are also looking for any signs of intoxication such as:

  • Bloodshot, watery eyes
  • Red face
  • Sweaty appearance
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor driving
  • Fumbling with drivers license
  • Aggression
  • Drowsiness
  • The smell of alcohol

The list goes on. While the initial stop may be due to poor driving, once the police begin speaking with you, they are looking for additional signs of intoxication.

When can you be charged with a DUI with a low BAC?

In the state of California, drivers who are arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence are typically charged with one of two types of DUI offenses:

CA Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a) VC Driving under the influence
CA Vehicle Code Section 23152 (b) VC Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher


Part A of the code charges that a driver is simply under the influence. Part B charges that the blood alcohol content at the time of driving is higher than the legal limit.

So, because of this statutory scheme, you can still legally be arrested and charged with a DUI in the State of California, even if you are under the legal BAC limit.

The police will try pursuing this type of case in situations such as:

  • Drivers whose BAC was close to the legal limit
  • Drivers with signs and symptoms of which police can try to use to prove that the driver was previously above the limit at the time of the stop but by the time of the chemical test (blood or breath) the level had dropped.
  • People who have been driving extremely dangerously, or outside of the basic rules of the road

Typically, prosecutors may pursue cases like these if the BAC is 0.05% or higher, or there is evidence of drugs.

In order to prove cases like these there has to be evidence that the driver was under the influence at the time that they were behind the wheel. Prosecutors and police will typically use things like the following as evidence of driving under the influence:

  • Driving conduct
  • Poor performance for sobriety test
  • Noticeable impairment, or involvement in a collision

This is why that initial question posed by police officers is so important and why is equally important for California drivers to understand what it is the police are really trying to find out when they make that initial DUI stop.

What to Do if You Have Been Charged With A DUI in California

If you have been unjustly charged with DUI in Los Angeles, time is of the essence. Based on these false charges, your entire life could be put in shambles, and you have a very limited period of time to fight them.

This is precisely why you should always contact an experienced Los Angeles DUI Attorney to start your defense. They work entirely free of charge until your case is won and know the ins and outs of the legal landscape, to get things done properly and quickly.

Jon Bryant Artz has over 40 years of experience in California DUI Cases, helping more than 90% of his clients reach a non-guilty verdict. Give us a call today to speak with Jon today, in a free case evaluation.

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