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DUI Glossary

California DUI

California DUI Glossary of Terms

Administrative License Suspension: A law that allows the prompt suspension of the license of drivers charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) when a driver has a BAC above the set limit, or sometimes if a driver refuses to take a roadside blood or breath test. Therefore the license may be suspended before adjudication of the DUI charge.

BAC: Short for "blood alcohol concentration." BAC talks about the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream and is measured in percentages. BAC can be measured either by breath, blood or urine testing and is often used by law enforcement to decide whether a motorist is "legally drunk." Most states have adopted BAC laws that make it illegal to drive with a BAC at or above a set amount. Most states have adopted 0.08% as the BAC limit state-wide.

Breathalyzer: A portable breath alcohol testing machine used by law enforcement to measure the BAC of suspected drunk drivers.

Chemical Test: As it relates to DUI, a test of the alcohol or drug concentration in a person's blood. A Breathalyzer, blood analysis, or urinalysis can be used as chemical tests for alcohol. If other drugs are suspected, a blood test or urine test is used.

Commercial Vehicle: A vehicle driven for business purposes. In the DUI context, these are the consequences for driving a commercial vehicle while drunk.

Community Service: Depending on the offense, your state may offer community service as a way to work off fines. Community service may also be a mandatory part of your sentencing.

Conditional License: A conditional license is a license granted "on condition" of something, such as finishing a DUI course or alcohol treatment program. Once that "condition" has been met, a standard license is generally sent or reinstated.

Driver Responsibility Tax: Some states charge those convicted of a DUI with an extra tax on top of fines and court costs. This usually consists of a tax that is payable to the state for three years after the incident occurred (e.g.: $250 per year for three years). Usually, if you do not pay the yearly assessment on time leads to license suspension.

DUI School: DUI schools are typically drug and alcohol education programs designed to help you realize how dangerous drinking and driving is and to make sure you are not a repeat offender. Your state will likely have a list of approved schools for you to choose from.

DUI: Driving Under the Influence.

DWI: Driving While Intoxicated.

Felony: A serious crime, such as murder, rape or burglary, for which there is a stricter sentence given than for a misdemeanor. Felonies are usually categorized by degrees. 1st degree felonies are the most serious class (with the highest fines and penalties), 2nd degree felonies are less serious, and so on. Many states treat DUIs that cause serious bodily injury as a 3rd degree felony. If there has been a death as a result of the DUI, it might be classified as a 1st or 2nd degree felony, depending on the prosecutor and the situation.

High BAC: Threshold blood alcohol content for which greatest penalties and fines may apply, even on a first offense.

Ignition Interlock Device: An ignition interlock device is an in-car alcohol breath screening device that prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over a pre-set limit of .02 (i.e., 20 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood). The device is inside the vehicle, near the driver's seat, and is connected to the engine's ignition system. Many states need that the device be used by those convicted of DUI.

Implied Consent Laws: Some states have implied consent laws. If you have a driver's license in one of these states, you have, by implication, consented to being pulled over by a police officer to have your blood alcohol concentration measured. In many states, you may refuse to take the test, but fines and license suspensions may be the result.

License Revocation: A license revocation means your driving privileges have been cancelled. You will likely need to reapply for a driver's license after a named length of time.

License Suspension: A license suspension means you may not drive for your suspension. Driving privileges are typically administered by the Secretary of State and not the court system. If your license is suspended, the suspension will likely take effect at once upon arrest, and not upon conviction. Check your state's laws. You, or your lawyer on your behalf, may be able to negotiate a limited suspension, meaning you may drive to and from work, but nowhere else.

Misdemeanor: A crime less serious than a felony. Misdemeanors are sometimes categorized by degrees. 1st degree misdemeanors are the most serious class (with the highest fines and penalties), 2nd degree misdemeanors are less serious, and so on. Many states treat a first DUI conviction as a misdemeanor.

Open Container Laws: In some states, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in your vehicle. Many states have laws that make it illegal for drivers and passengers to have open containers in the vehicle.

Probation: When all or part of the needed jail time is suspended in exchange for good behavior, as determined by checking in with a probation officer. Jail time may be reinstated if it is found the terms of probation are being violated.

Provisional (or Restricted) License: A provisional license typically withholds certain license privileges. In a DUI context, a provisional license might be granted to someone to drive to and from work only.

Sobriety Checkpoints: A system where law enforcement agencies choose a particular place for a particular period and systematically stop vehicles (for example, every third car) to look into drivers for possible DWI. If any evidence of intoxication is noted, a detailed investigation ensues. Also known as sobriety roadblocks or checkpoints.

Vehicle Impound/Immobilization: Vehicle impound is an choice used by some states when there has been multiple DUI conviction. The vehicle may be seized, or an ignition interlock device may be installed on the steering wheel of the car, wanting the driver to pass a breath test using the device before he or she can start the vehicle and drive away.

Zero Tolerance BAC: Allowable blood alcohol content for minors (as defined by the state). This percentage can be as low as 0% (meaning no alcohol content may be detected-therefore the term "zero tolerance.") or as high as 0.02%.

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