How Ignorance of the Law Plays Into DUI Cases

gavel in courtroom

One of the common sayings in the American legal system is ignorantia juris non excusat, which means that ignorance of the law is no excuse. In other words, anyone facing criminal charges is responsible for their actions, even if they do not know the law exists or how it applies in their scenario.

For example, with driving under the influence, if you didn’t know that you could be arrested for DUI if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is less than the .08% legal limit, it doesn’t matter to the police whether you knew about the law or not. You can still face DUI charges as long as the state can prove that your ability to drive safely was compromised due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs, or both.

Under VC Section 23152(a), you can be arrested for DUI so long as the police believe you are impaired by alcohol or drugs. If you didn’t know that, unfortunately, you can’t use it as a defense. The intent of this law is to prevent people from being excused from a criminal charge simply because they were unaware of a law. It’s the same thing with domestic violence. A man can’t avoid prosecution because he didn’t know it was illegal to punch and kick his wife. It doesn’t matter if it’s legal in his home country. Spousal abuse is illegal here.

Laws Not Known to the General Public

Laws should be made known to the general public. It is assumed that laws made public are known by all, but laws that are secretly passed and unknowingly enforced cannot be used to hold the accused accountable. Not only that but for the average person, it can be very difficult to understand the laws, especially since they can be complicated and hard for the non-attorney to comprehend.

In some criminal cases, if it cannot be proved that the law was common knowledge, the accused cannot be charged with the crime. On occasion, if an individual is unaware that they committed a crime or the risks associated with their actions, they are excused of charges. However, in DUI cases, intent doesn't usually apply, as you are made aware of these laws when you obtain your driver's license.

How Does this Apply to Law Enforcement?

Ignorance of the law is also meant to stop police from using illegal tactics, methods, and force in the arrest of a citizen. Additionally, the use of DUI checkpoints to stop and question citizens that have not demonstrated any guilty behavior can also be questioned as a violation of their rights. However, California currently allows for these checkpoints.

Wondering if law enforcement used illegal arrest tactics in your DUI arrest? Contact The Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry to discover if your rights were violated.

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