Elements of the Offense
In a California driving under the influence (DUI) case, as in any criminal case, the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty. Prosecutors bear the burden of proving every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Every criminal prosecution, including prosecution of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) cases, hinges on the prosecutor's ability, or inability, to prove each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If a judge or jury finds there to be reasonable doubt as to any element of the crimes charged, the defendant must be found not guilty.
The elements of a California DUI case may seem simple, but an experienced California DUI defense attorney has specialized knowledge of the complexities of a DUI case, and will use the details (which will likely be overlooked by general criminal defense attorneys or lawyers specializing in other areas of the law) to a client's advantage. A DUI defense law firm that specializes in DUI and DMV defense should conduct an in-depth inquiry regarding any DUI investigation which led to an arrest for driving under the influence.
Four primary elements of a California Driving Under the Influence (DUI), or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) case include the following. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused:
California drunk driving arrests usually trigger two different charges. The first charge, under California Vehicle Code 23152(a), alleges that the defendant was driving under the influence. California law provides that a driver is under the influence if “as a result of drinking or consuming an alcoholic beverage/and/or taking a drug” his or her "physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that he no longer has the ability to drive a vehicle with the caution characteristic of a sober person or ordinary prudence, under similar circumstances."
A motorist is usually also accused of a second DUI charge, under California Vehicle Code 23152(b), which provides that it is unlawful for an individual to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over .08 percent or greater. This offense may also be called a violation of the California per se law. Blood alcohol content BAC of .08 percent or greater is the level at which a person is considered in violation of California Vehicle Code section 23152, subdivision (b).
It is important to note that in addition to the primary elements of a California Driving Under the Influence (DUI), or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offense, there are additional elements which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a person to be convicted of driving under the influence. Specifically, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s blood alcohol level was 0.08 percent or more at the time of driving. It is sometimes the case that the chemical test is not taken close in time to driving. If the prosecution fails to prove a breath or blood sample was taken within three hours of driving, it becomes more difficult to convict a person of driving under the influence or driving with a blood breath alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more.
Successfully challenging one or more of these elements in a California DUI arrest is critical to every successful criminal DUI court or DMV defense. The standard in every court in California is that the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt or the defendant cannot be convicted. This is the highest level of proof in the California judicial system. A criminal defense lawyer who is skilled in defending California DUI charges will know just how to communicate this responsibility to jurors at a driving under the influence jury trial.
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