San Diego DUI Glossary of Terms

Absorption Rate

The rate at which alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream. This can be effected by how much you have eaten, individual biologic differences and the kind of alcoholic beverage that was consumed. When drinks are consumed over the course of several hours, absorption and burn off happen simultaneously.

Administrative License Suspension

The law that allows the immediate suspension of your drivers license at the scene of your arrest for drunk driving. Upon release from custody you are issued with a temporary drivers license that is valid for 30 days. You must request your DMV hearing within 10 days of your DUI arrest so that you can try to extend your temporary drivers license until the conclusion of your DUI case.

Alcohol Monitoring Device

Known as SCRAMs (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitors), it is a bracelet used to track the alcohol consumption of a person convicted of a DUI offense. It works by measuring the alcohol content of the wearer’s sweat from their skin and then transmitting that data by radio signal. SCRAMs can be used instead of jail time or random sobriety tests.


Abbreviation for Blood Alcohol Content which refers to the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream as a percentage figure. BAC can be measured by blood test or breathalyzer test and is used by law enforcement to determine whether you are legally drunk or not. It is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher if you are an adult and drivers under the age of 21 cannot legally drive with a BAC of 0.01% or higher.

Blood Test

A laboratory test to measure the percentage content of alcohol in your blood stream.

Breath Alcohol Content

Sometimes abbreviated to BrAC, this is a measure of how much alcohol is in a person’s breath, which is then used to calculate that person’s Blood Alcohol Content by use of a mathematical formula. If a person is smaller than average this formula can sometimes lead to falsely high blood alcohol content readings.

Breath Test

The term given to the act of blowing into a breathalyzer machine to determine a person’s breath alcohol content.


The machine used to collect a sample of breath from the DUI suspect to measure their breath alcohol content. Breathalyzers can be small, portable hand-held units for use in the field or can be larger units housed at the police station.

Burnoff Rate

The rate at which consumed alcohol is metabolized by the body. As burnoff occurs, the level of alcohol in the bloodstream drops, referred to by the term “falling curve”. This is why blood and breath tests must be taken from the drunk driving suspect within 3 hours of them driving. Readings taken within 3 hours are considered in law to be the actual BAC reading when the person was driving.

Chemical Test

The test of the alcohol or drug concentration in the DUI suspect’s blood, breath or urine. When suspected of drunk driving you have the right to choose between a chemical blood test or breath test. When you are suspected of driving under the influence of drugs you have the right to choose between the chemical blood test or urine test, unless the arresting agency does not support urine analysis in which case you must submit to a blood test.

Commercial Vehicle

A vehicle owned or operated by a commercial enterprise for business purposes. DUI laws differ for commercial vehicles, the main difference being that the legal BAC limit for drivers is 0.04% instead of the normal 0.08% as applies to drivers of non-commercial vehicles.

Community Service

This is usually offered by the court as an alternative to higher fines or jail time, and involves doing voluntary work for community projects and charitable organizations such as picking up trash or sweeping public buildings.


Abbreviation for the term Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs.

DUI School

Alcohol and drugs education center designed to prevent you from drinking and driving again. Attendance at a DUI school is usually part of a DUI offender’s probation terms.


Abbreviation for the term Driving While Intoxicated.

Felony DUI

A felony DUI is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor DUI, carrying with it harsher penalties. A drunk driving charge can be elevated to a 3rd degree felony DUI if serious bodily injury was caused, and if there is a death caused by the drunk driver it can be elevated higher to a 2nd or 1st degree felony. Your DUI charge can also be elevated to a felony if there has been no injuries caused but it is your 4th DUI offense within 10 years.

Field Sobriety Tests

These are tests that are carried out by the police officer at the scene of your traffic stop to help him determine if you have been drinking. Tests include one leg stand, walk and turn, horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), reciting the alphabet and the Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) breathalyzer test. If you are not on probation and are over the age of 21 you have the right to refuse to participate in all field sobriety tests.

Ignition Interlock Device (IID)

This is a portable breath testing unit that attaches to the DUI offender’s car, preventing the car from being driven if the driver’s breath alcohol content is over a set limit, which is usually any alcohol at all.

Implied Consent Laws

By driving in California you have given your implied consent to be tested for the presence of alcohol or drugs after you have been arrested for suspected DUI. If you refuse to submit to chemical testing after you have been arrested that is a DUI enhancement and you will receive an automatic 12 month drivers license suspension. If you refuse to submit to chemical testing after your arrest, police officers can then physically hold you down to draw a blood sample.

License Revocation

The withdrawal of your driving privileges by the revocation of your drivers license by the DMV. You will need to reapply for a drivers license after a designated period of time.

License suspension

The suspension of your drivers license which typically happens at the scene of your arrest for DUI, not upon your conviction. Upon your release from custody you will be issued with a temporary drivers license which is valid for 30 days after the date of your arrest.

Miranda Rights

Your formal advisement by the arresting officer that you have the right to remain silent and the right to contact a lawyer.

Misdemeanor DUI

Most DUI cases are charged as misdemeanors which is a less serious crime than a felony DUI. As long as you didn’t injure anyone and it is not your 4th DUI offense in 10 years then you will probably be charged with misdemeanor DUI.

Open Container Laws

Laws prohibiting open containers of alcohol in vehicles, by passengers as well as the driver.


Terms governing the replacement of jail time or other penalties with such things as attendance at DUI school, vehicle restrictions or other alcohol or drug counseling sessions. Your compliance with your probation terms is monitored by your probation officer and any violations of your probation can mean that the original jail sentence must be served.

Restricted License

This is a special drivers license that allows certain DUI offenders to be allowed to drive to and from work and DUI school at certain times of the day.

Sobriety Checkpoints

Roadblocks that are set up by law enforcement for the purpose of randomly testing people for possibly driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Zero Tolerance

California has a zero tolerance policy on underage drinking and driving which means that drivers under the age of 21 are not allowed to drive with a BAC of 0.01% or higher.

January 18, 2012