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The Difference Between California's DUI and Implied Consent Laws

One confusing aspect of California's laws for driving under the influence (DUI) is the difference between the crime of DUI, on the one hand, and the administrative violation of implied consent, on the other. While the difference between our state's DUI law and its implied consent law is small and nuanced, it can make a huge difference in your case if you've been pulled over, arrested, and charged for DUI in California.

The Crime of DUI in California

In California, you commit the crime of DUI if you operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or if you have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or above. Because this is a crime, it can be punishable with fines and jail time, but needs to go through court, first.

The Administrative Violation of Implied Consent

An implied consent violation is very different from DUI. You violate California's implied consent laws as soon as your refuse a police officer's legitimate request to take a chemical BAC test, like a breathalyzer. However, unlike a DUI crime, an implied consent violation is only an administrative infraction, not a crime. This means the only penalties that you can face for an implied consent violation are a license suspension and a relatively light fine. Because it is an administrative violation and not a crime, you cannot face jail time for violating California's implied consent rules. It also means that your case will not go through the judicial system – the only hearings you are entitled to have are with the California Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV).

The Important Difference Between a Crime and an Administrative Violation

There are several differences between a crime and an administrative violation. However, the most important – and the most practical – difference begins with the fact that what an administrative agency has the power to give, it also has the power to take away.

Your California driver's license comes from an administrative agency, and has some strings attached. One of those is your implied consent to take a chemical BAC test whenever requested by a police officer. If you violate that implied consent and refuse to take a breathalyzer during a traffic stop, you've broken one of those administrative rules. This allows the DMV to strip you of your right to drive – a right that they gave – all on their own and without the intervention of the courts.

Sacramento DUI-Defense Attorney John Campanella

Just because an implied consent violation is not as serious as a DUI conviction does not mean that it should be taken lightly or that it will not have a huge impact on your life. Losing your ability to drive can make it difficult to get to and from work, and this can make it almost impossible to keep your job.

Defending against the DMV's attempts to strip your license after an implied consent violation is crucial, and DUI-defense attorney John Campanella knows it. Call his Sacramento law office at (877) DUI-JOHN or contact him online for the defense you need at the DMV hearing.

John Campanella

I have been representing people accused of drunk driving since I began practicing in 1995. I went to my first Sacramento DUI conference that year and listened to great DUI attorneys like Ed Kuwatch AKA, “Fast Eddie” and Lawrence Taylor who motivated me to study and practice in this area of law.

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