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Understanding California's implied consent law

All California drivers need to understand the state's implied consent law. The law is one of the state's prime weapons against drunk driving, but many drivers do not know about or understand itthe law. This post will summarize the law's salient features.

The law applies to anyone who has been lawfully arrested for a DUI/DWI offense. The implied consent law is premised on the legislative finding that anyone who drives a motor vehicle in the state has given consent to the chemical analysis of his or her blood for the purpose of determining the driver's blood alcohol content level. The law requires any such person to consent to either a breath test or a blood test to determine the amount of alcohol in the person's blood stream. Drivers who refuse to consent to such a test face the possibility of a fine, imprisonment (if convicted of a DUI related crime) and revocation of driving privileges for one year. If a person has been convicted of a prior breath test refusal, the penalties are increased. The driving privileges of anyone who refuses to submit to either a blood or breath test are immediately suspended, and the arresting officer is directed to confiscate all drivers' licenses in the person's possession.

The implied consent law contains a number of procedural exceptions for people with certain medical conditions or who have been injured in the incident that caused the arrest and require immediate medical attention. Drivers may choose whether to submit to a breath or blood test if the arresting officer determines that they are able to make such a choice. The arresting officer can use a preliminary alcohol screening test to determine if the suspect has any alcohol in his or her blood stream. If the preliminary screening test is positive, the officer will inform the driver of the obligation to submit to a blood or alcohol test.

One of the most misunderstood aspects of the implied consent law is that anyone who refuses the test can still be prosecuted for drunk driving. Anyone who has been charged with an alcohol-related driving offense may wish to contact a lawyer who defends such cases. A knowledgeable attorney can provide a helpful analysis of the case, suggest defense strategies and offer an estimate of the likelihood of obtaining a favorable plea bargain or an outright acquittal.

Source: California Vehicle Code, Sec. 23612, accessed on Feb. 13, 2017

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