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Elements of DUI Offense in California

Driving under influence is separated into two groups, the first group is the common driving under the influence and the latter is driving under the influence and causing bodily injury to another person.

Under the first group, a person is guilty of driving under the influence if 1) the officer properly stopped the vehicle, 2) the motorist was driving a vehicle, and 3) motorist was under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or the combine effect of the two.

Under California law, a motorist is guilty of driving under the influence if she had a blood alcohol content of 0.08. Blood alcohol content is calculated as grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breather.

At trial, once the prosecutor shows that the motorist had a 0.08 blood alcohol content and the test was performed within three hours after driving, the motorist is presumed to be intoxicated. But this presumption can be rebutted by the motorist if she shows that she had lower blood alcohol content.

Under California law, it is unlawful for any person who is addicted to the use of any drug to drive a vehicle. There is no level needed to convict a motorist of driving under the influence of drugs. Furthermore, California makes no distinction between illicit drugs (i.e. cocaine) and prescription drugs (i.e. Lipitor). Any drug that affects the nervous system, the brain, or muscles of the individual as to impair to an applicable degree the ability to operate a vehicle in a manner likes that of an ordinarily prudent and cautious person in full possession of his faculties.

In a prosecution of driving under the influence of drugs, it is not enough that the drug could be detected or could impair an individual’s ability. Rather, the prosecutor has to show that the drug actually impaired the motorist’s driving ability. However, a motorist cannot be convicted of driving under the influence of drugs if she is participating in a narcotic treatment program. Moreover, a motorist cannot be convicted of being under the influence of Methadone, Levoalphacetlymethadol, Buprenophrine products or combination products approved by the Food and Drug Administration for opoid dependence, and any other drugs used in connection of a narcotic replacement treatment. If motorist is caught driving under the influence of these drugs and not in a narcotic treatment program, she can be prosecuted for DUI.

For the driving under the influence and causing bodily injury to another person, (1) an officer must properly stop the motorist, (2) the motorist is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, (3) the motorist is driving a vehicle, (4) concurrently do any act forbidden by law or neglect any duty imposed by law, and (5) which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.

Driving under the influence and causing bodily injury still requires a showing of 0.08 blood alcohol content or higher or that the motorist was on drugs when she was driving the vehicle. But driving under the influence and causing bodily injury requires a showing that the motorist acted against the law or neglected any duty imposed by law and that such act or neglect was the proximate cause of bodily injury to another person.

 

It should be noted that just showing that the motorist was driving when she was intoxicated is not enough. The prosecutor must show that some other act or neglect; but the prosecutor needs not point to a specific section of California Vehicle Code. Furthermore, the forbidden act must occur as the motorist is driving the vehicle; acts occurring before (grand theft auto) and acts after (robbery) did not constitute while the motorist “so driving.” Forbidden acts have a broad meaning and could constitute anything from not making the passenger buckle up, speeding on the highway, to failing to turn on emergency lights on the highway.

 

Accordingly, the prosecutor must show that the motorist’s acts or neglect proximately caused bodily harm to another. It is not enough that the prosecutor shows that the motorist had an accident to another; the prosecutor must show that accident caused bodily injuries. But bodily injury does not mean substantial or great bodily injury. At the same time, bodily injury means more than shaking up of a person or a minor headache; it means hurt to the body. Evidence that after the accident, the victim has two cuts on his forehead, a severe headache, and a stiff neck is enough to constitute “bodily injury.”


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