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A DUI in Federal Jurisdiction

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James W Harwood
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Crossing into Federal Jurisdiction in San Francisco can be as easy as deciding to take a shortcut through The Presidio to get home from a restaurant.  Once you drive past those carved stone markers you cross into an entirely different criminal court jurisdiction.  If you are arrested in The Presidio for driving under the influence you will be prosecuted under federal law, in federal court.

Generally speaking, the substantive driving under the influence offenses under federal law are similar to those under California law.  Federal law makes it a crime to drive a car if you are intoxicated to a degree that you are “incapable of safe operation”.  This is similar to California law, which makes it a crime to drive while intoxicated to the point where you don’t have the caution of a sober person.  Federal law sets the per se limit at .10%, but if the state you are in sets it lower, than the limit for federal purposes is also lowered.  California of course sets the per se limit at .08%. 

Punishment for DUI is generally more severe in federal courts.  Federal law regards DUI as a Class B misdemeanor, so confinement is limited to six months in the federal penitentiary.  You may be assessed a fine of up to $5,000.  Possibly the biggest difference is the federal court will put you on formal probation.  In California court, you would be placed on informal probation.  With informal probation, you just have to do what the judge tells you to do.  Under formal probation, you will be assigned a probation officer and be under much closer supervision.  Imagine having a federal probation officer calling your boss to check in on you.

It goes without saying that you should never drink and drive.  However, if you have had a few drinks and decide to drive home do not under any circumstances try driving through federal jurisdiction, such as The Presidio.  You would much rather face a DUI charge in state rather than federal court.  If you are arrested for federal driving under the influence, be sure that your attorney is licensed to practice in federal court and has DUI experience. 

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