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Can police arrest me for a DUI if I’m below the legal limit?

On Behalf of | Dec 27, 2019 | Drunk Driving Defense

After agreeing to be the sober driver for a night out, you only have one beer when you get to the bar. After a few hours, you and your friends pile in your car to go home. When a California Highway Patrol car flashes its lights behind you, you are glad that you stayed sober.

However, after smelling alcohol in the car, the officer asks you to step out of the car for a field sobriety test. Should you worry about a DUI arrest?

A high enough BAC can lead to charges

Under California law, you can face DUI charges with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more. After a blood or breath test, police can give your BAC to the court as evidence that you were too drunk to drive.

A low BAC can still lead to a DUI

However, the law also has a broader definition of a DUI. You can face charges if an officer thinks alcohol affected your driving, regardless of how much is in your system. Police can give other evidence for your DUI. Even if your BAC is below 0.08%, the arresting officer can say that you shouldn’t have been driving.

For example, the officer may tell the court that you were swerving or not following the rules of the road. If the court believes the officer’s evidence, they can charge you with a DUI. Despite your BAC being below the legal limit, you can still face punishments.

Your word against the arresting officer’s word

When you go to court for a DUI, the judge will consider your word against evidence collected by the police. If prosecutors can’t prove you were over the legal limit, they will use the arresting officer’s testimony. You must show the court that the officer is mistaken, and you shouldn’t have been arrested.

One drink can mean an arrest

When you take steps to avoid drunk driving, you don’t expect the police to arrest you. But in California, officers may arrest you for a DUI even if you just have one drink.