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What is the Legal Alcohol Limit in California?

Mark Halsey
Chief Editor of - Cleanbreak Recovery

Mark Halsey is a licensed therapist, founder, and chief editor of Clean Break Recovery. With over a decade of addiction treatment experience, Mark deeply understands...Read more

For those of us who live in California, it’s important to know the legal alcohol limit for drinking and driving. Whether you’re headed out for a night on the town or just out for a leisurely drive, being aware of the law can help keep you safe. In this article, we’ll take a look at the legal alcohol limit in California and what to expect if you’re stopped by law enforcement.

What is the Legal Alcohol Limit in California?

Legal Alcohol Limit in California

California has one of the strictest drunk driving laws in the country. The legal alcohol limit in California is .08% BAC (blood alcohol concentration). This means that drivers can be charged with a DUI (driving under the influence) if they are found to have a BAC of .08% or higher. In addition to the legal alcohol limit, California also has a zero tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21, meaning that any driver under the age of 21 who is found to have a BAC of .01% or higher can be charged with a DUI.

The consequences of a DUI conviction in California can be severe. A first-time offender can be sentenced to up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, and a license suspension of up to 12 months. A second offense can result in up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $3,000, and a license suspension of up to two years. A third offense can result in up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, and a license suspension of up to three years.

Implied Consent Law

California has an implied consent law, meaning that all drivers are required to submit to a chemical test of their blood, breath, or urine if they are pulled over and suspected of driving under the influence. Refusing to submit to a chemical test can result in an automatic license suspension for up to one year.

The penalties for refusing a chemical test can be even more severe if the driver has prior DUI convictions. A driver who refuses a chemical test and has a prior DUI conviction within the last 10 years can be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, and a license suspension of up to two years.

DUI Checkpoints

California has a “no refusal” policy for DUI checkpoints, meaning that drivers who are stopped at a checkpoint can be required to submit to a chemical test of their blood, breath, or urine. Refusing to submit to a chemical test at a DUI checkpoint can result in an automatic license suspension for up to one year.

The penalties for refusing a chemical test at a DUI checkpoint can be even more severe if the driver has prior DUI convictions. A driver who refuses a chemical test at a DUI checkpoint and has a prior DUI conviction within the last 10 years can be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, and a license suspension of up to two years.

Underage Drinking

Drivers under the age of 21 are subject to the same legal alcohol limit as all other drivers in California. However, California has a zero tolerance policy for drivers who are under the age of 21 and have a BAC of .01% or higher. This means that if a driver under the age of 21 is found to have a BAC of .01% or higher, they can be charged with a DUI.

The consequences for an underage DUI can be severe. A first-time offender can be sentenced to up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, and a license suspension of up to 12 months. A second offense can result in up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $3,000, and a license suspension of up to two years. A third offense can result in up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, and a license suspension of up to three years.

Top 6 Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Legal Alcohol Limit in California?

Answer: The legal alcohol limit in California is 0.08%. This means that if a person is over the age of 21, they cannot have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher while operating a vehicle. If a person is under the age of 21, they cannot have any measurable amount of alcohol in their system while operating a vehicle.

What are the Penalties for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in California?

Answer: Depending on the circumstances, the penalties for driving under the influence in California can include fines, jail time, DUI classes, and/or license suspension. The severity of the penalties will depend on the number of prior DUI convictions, the BAC level, and whether there were any aggravating factors such as injury or property damage.

What is an Administrative Per Se (APS) Hearing or License Suspension?

Answer: An APS hearing or license suspension is when the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) suspends a person’s driver’s license after they are arrested for a DUI. The DMV will mail a notice of suspension to the person and they are then given the opportunity to request a hearing to challenge the suspension. The hearing must be requested within 10 days of receiving the notice.

What are the Possible Defenses to a DUI in California?

Answer: There are several possible defenses to a DUI in California, including challenging the validity of the initial traffic stop, questioning the accuracy of the breathalyzer test, raising questions about the accuracy of the field sobriety tests, and/or arguing that the driver was not actually driving or in physical control of the vehicle.

What is an Ignition Interlock Device (IID)?

Answer: An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breathalyzer that is installed in the ignition system of a vehicle and requires the driver to blow into it before the car will start. It is used to prevent a person from driving under the influence and is often required as part of a DUI sentence.

What is a Wet Reckless in California?

Answer: A wet reckless is a plea bargain that is commonly used in California DUI cases. It is an agreement to plead guilty to reckless driving with alcohol involved instead of a DUI. While it is typically less serious than a DUI conviction, a wet reckless still carries a number of possible penalties, including fines, jail time, and license suspension.

What is the BAC legal limit for drinking and driving in California?

The legal alcohol limit in California is 0.08 BAC. It is important to remember that this limit is strictly enforced, and drivers could face serious consequences if they are caught driving with a BAC over the legal limit. It is important to always drink responsibly and to never drink and drive. If you have been drinking, it is best to find another way home, such as a taxi, ride-share, or designated driver. By following the law, you will keep yourself and others safe on the roads.

Mark Halsey is a licensed therapist, founder, and chief editor of Clean Break Recovery. With over a decade of addiction treatment experience, Mark deeply understands the complex needs of those struggling with addiction and utilizes a comprehensive and holistic approach to address them. He is well-versed in traditional and innovative therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and mindfulness-based interventions.

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