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California DUI: At What Point Does “Driving” Occur?

It is well-known that driving under the influence is not just dangerous, but also illegal. All 50 states have laws against drunk driving, but these laws do vary in the details. As a result of the differences, it is possible for a person to be found guilty of a DUI in one state for doing something that would not be a DUI in another state.

What is the legal limit in California?

The legal limit for drivers who are over 21 years of age is a blood alcohol level of 0.08%, unless the driver is operating a commercial vehicle, in which case the legal limit is only 0.04%. Drivers who are under 21 years of age are considered to be driving under the influence if their blood alcohol level is 0.01% or higher. It is difficult to determine the number of drinks a person must consume to reach any given blood alcohol level because there are so many things that can have an impact. The best course of action is to avoid driving after consuming any alcohol.

What is considered “driving?”

The definition of driving might seem obvious, but in the context of DUI’s the exact behavior and actions that are considered driving differs by state. In some states, a person can be charged with a DUI just for placing the keys in the ignition. In places where this is the law, you might get a DUI just for sitting in the car and turning on the ignition for the purpose of turning on the heat and stay warm while waiting for friends. You could, therefore, get a DUI without moving the vehicle or even having any intention of moving the vehicle. In California, however, the car must have actually moved in order for you to be deemed as having driven the vehicle. While you will not be charged with a DUI in California if the vehicle remains entirely stationary, it is possible to be guilty of a DUI for moving only a very small amount.

While you must have moved the vehicle in order to be guilty of a DUI, it is possible for the police to infer that you did move the vehicle. This could happen if you were found sitting in your car somewhere that you would have to have driven to. For instance, if you were found in a remote location, with no place to buy liquor, and no bottles or liquor in or near your vehicle, the police could infer that you drove to that location. On the other hand, if you were to be found sitting in your car in front of your friend’s house, there is a good chance you entered your car and did not move it. In this case, the inference that you were driving would not be unreasonable.

If you have been arrested for a DUI in California, contact the experienced DUI attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox LLP to discuss your case and your rights.  We look forward to making a difference for you!

1447 Ford Street Suite 201 Redlands, California 92374
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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.