You probably already know that driving under the influence (DUI) is a violation of the law in all fifty states. Throughout the U.S., more than a million people are placed under arrest every year for driving under the influence. It is our job as DUI lawyers in CA to help those charged in Orange County and throughout Southern California.
Almost all of those DUI cases are handled by the state courts. But if you’re arrested for DUI on a federal property – in a national park or on a military base, for example – you can be charged with DUI at the federal level and face a prosecution in federal court and even time in a federal prison.
Precisely what does the federal DUI law provide? Exactly where is it enforced? What are the penalties if you are convicted of a federal driving under the influence charge? And how can you defend yourself against that charge?
WHAT CONSTITUTES FEDERAL PROPERTY?
The U.S. Government owns millions of acres across the nation, including military installations, national parks and forests, national monuments and designated national historical landmarks, airports, federal courthouses, federal office buildings, and the adjacent parking lots and premises.
If you are detained by law enforcement authorities for driving under the influence on a military base or in a national park, you will probably be charged with driving under the influence at the federal level.
As you probably know, the state of California is home to many beautiful national parks. Yosemite, Sequoia, Death Valley, and Joshua Tree are breathtakingly gorgeous spots for enjoying time outdoors with friends and family.
WHAT CONSTITUTES FEDERAL DUI?
However, if you drive in a national park after you’ve had too much to drink, you may be charged with driving under the influence under the Code of Federal Regulations. Specifically, a motorist may be arrested for a federal DUI offense if:
The driver is operating a motorized vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol.
The alcohol concentration in the motorist’s blood or breath is 0.10 grams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or 0.01 grams or more of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.
The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit under the state’s law (0.08 percent in California) is stricter than the federal BAC limit.
CAN YOU REFUSE A DUI TEST ON FEDERAL PROPERTY?
A driver’s refusal to take a chemical DUI test on federal land can lead to the loss of the privilege to drive on federal property for a year. Moreover, under federal law, which governs national parks, the refusal to submit to a blood alcohol test can be penalized by up to six months in jail.
In California, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will also be notified that the driver refused to test, and that driver’s license will be suspended – unless the driver requests a hearing with the DMV within ten days of the arrest and then prevails at that hearing.
If you are charged with DUI on federal property, contact an experienced Orange County DUI lawyer as quickly as possible. Your attorney can contest a license suspension at your DMV hearing and defend you against the DUI charge in federal court.
HOW IS DUI CHARGED AS A FEDERAL CRIME? WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES?
At the federal level, driving under the influence is usually charged as a Class B misdemeanor.
However, you’ll face a more serious charge if you were impaired by alcohol and you were also driving recklessly, if your BAC level was substantially over the legal limit, or if you were carrying a passenger under 14 years old.
A first conviction for a federal DUI charged as a Class B misdemeanor is punishable with a fine of up to $5,000, up to six months in federal prison, and/or up to five years on probation.
Carrying a passenger under age 14 in a federal DUI case can increase the prison term by a year. Serious bodily injury to a minor raises the sentence by up to five years; a minor’s death increases the sentence by up to ten years. In these cases, a federal DUI offense will be charged as a felony.
In federal DUI cases, there are no juries. A federal magistrate will hear the case and will determine the verdict and the ensuing penalties.
WHAT IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY IN THE MILITARY?
Active military members who are arrested for DUI on a military base face additional penalties under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The Uniform Code also prohibits active military members from operating any vehicles, aircraft, or vessels while impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Here in California, only those drivers who are charged with DUI on military bases or in national parks are prosecuted for DUI at the federal level. Motorists charged with DUI on other federal properties – such as federal office building parking lots – are charged under California state laws.
DUI arrests are sometimes made mistakenly, but to prove that you’re innocent, you must have a skiIled drunk driving lawyer working on your behalf. No matter where you are arrested for DUI in California, you’ll need to contact an accomplished Orange County DUI lawyer immediately.
HOW CAN A DUI DEFENSE LAW FIRM HELP YOU?
An arrest for DUI does not automatically mean that a defendant will be convicted. A good DUI lawyer will investigate the charge against you, question the eyewitnesses, and compile evidence on your behalf. A good DUI defense lawyer can usually find a flaw in the government’s case.
If your federal DUI case goes to trial, your attorney will cross-examine the arresting officer or officers to find any discrepancies in the testimony, any inconsistency in the breath or blood tests, and any other factors which may strengthen your defense.
HOW ARE MOST FEDERAL DUI CASES RESOLVED?
However, federal DUI cases almost never go to trial. The overwhelming majority of federal DUI cases are resolved when defendants plead guilty or accept plea bargains or when a defense lawyer can arrange to have the charge dismissed.
The right DUI attorney will protect your rights, explain your legal options, and bring your driving under the influence case – whether it’s at the state level or the federal level – to its best possible conclusion.
If you are charged with DUI anywhere in southern California, get help immediately from an experienced Orange County DUI lawyer. A good attorney’s advice and representation is your right, and your future could depend on it.