Impaired Driving = DUI (Driving Under the Influence)

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What is “Impairment” As It Relates to Driving and DUI?

Many scientific studies have been done on the effects of alcohol consumption on our mental, visual, and physical functioning. It is a scientific fact that sufficient level of alcohol effects our physical and mental functioning. When our mental, visual, and physical abilities are compromised such that our ability to drive our motor vehicle with the same caution and skill of a normal sober driver is lost, then we are considered legally “impaired”. A driver who is proven to be “impaired” faces criminal liability under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a).

Recognition of Impairment By the Driver

According to the leading scientific experts on the subject of alcohol impairment (Source= Garriott’s Medicolegal Aspects of Alcohol-Fifth Edition) it is difficult for most individuals to recognize impairment in their own functioning at blood alcohol concentrations at or below 0.10. This conclusion meshes well with our observations as DUI Attorneys. Most of our clients who were found driving with BAC concentrations at approximately 0.10 or lower report the they felt very little if any impairment. I will often ask my clients if they felt impaired or “buzzed” and I have discovered that most my clients who are below a BAC of about 0.10 report feeling no “buzz”. In fact most of my clients with relatively low BAC’s express surprise that they were found to be over the 0.08 limit.

Levels of BAC and Onset of Impairment

Of our various physical, mental, and visual functions the first two primary functions that are altered by alcohol is Visual functioning, and our visual perception- which effects decision time. These areas of functioning are effected somewhat even with a very low blood alcohol concentration of 0.01. Some our next most sensitive functions, as it relates to alcohol consumption, are our visual tracking,our psycho-motor steadiness, and our ability to pay attention to one primary task, and changes to our tendency towards “risk taking”. These functions are altered at as low of a BAC as 0.02. Therefore, while we probably feel fine with a blood alcohol concentration at or around the 0.08 mark, many of our areas of physical, mental, and visual functioning are compromised even though we are unable to perceive it.

The Issue Of Impairment as it Relates to DUI Cases

The state legislature created a short-cut for prosecutors with Vehicle Code Section 2315(b). This section makes sets the level for presumptive impairment at 0.08 (BAC). Therefore, if one is found to be at or above the 0.08 level, the prosecutor need not prove “impairment” as the law declares that defendant impaired. In contrast, California Vehicle Code section 23152 (a) established that driving impaired is illegal, so that a prosecutor who can prove “impairment” even at a blood alcohol concentration of less than 0.08, or perhaps, impairment based on drugs or other substances, can still secure a criminal conviction. Therefore, contrary to commonly held misconceptions, one can be found guilty of DUI even with a BAC level lower than 0.08.

If you are being charged with a DUI, you should recognize that this is a complex area of law. You should seek the advice of skilled DUI Lawyer immediately to improve your chances of a favorable outcome under your given circumstances.

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