Legal Alcohol Limits in California 2023: DUI Drunk Driving Laws

Drink and drive laws in California

In California, the permissible blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood.

For drivers under 21, the allowable BAC level is 0.01%. Additionally, if you drive a commercial vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.04% or higher, you may face penalties.

The 0.08% limit is equivalent to one to two standard alcoholic beverages. This amount, however, may vary according to a person’s gender, age, size, and other factors.

Before we go into the specifics of intoxicated driving in California, remember that this article is strictly for informational purposes. This page does not promote or encourage drunk driving in any state or place.

In California, it is illegal to drive under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or any substance.

According to data, California recorded 3,847 traffic-related fatalities, with drunk drivers accounting for 30% of the total.

The state of California has DUI driving laws to combat drunk driving. Thus, obeying California’s allowed BAC level before getting into a vehicle is crucial. If you must travel after drinking, consider taking a cab or hiring a designated driver.

By visiting California’s official website, you may stay current on the latest DUI driving rules and regulations.

Legal Alcohol Limit When Driving in California

DUI penalties are imposed in California if your BAC level is higher than 0.08%, 0.04%, or higher for commercial drivers, or 0.01% and higher for drivers under the age of 21.

Because alcohol has varied effects on people, blood alcohol levels may vary in each person. Even after having a tiny amount of alcohol, some people may feel disoriented.

Your BAC may vary depending on a variety of factors, including

  • gender
  • weight
  • your mood (including stress and fatigue level)
  • an empty stomach
  • medication intake
  • the quantity of alcohol consumption

You can use a BAC chart for reference or a BAC calculator to calculate how much alcohol you can consume before driving. These tools, however, may not suit everyone because each body reacts differently to alcohol.

Using a reliable alcohol breathalyzer is still the most accurate approach to calculating your BAC.

Punishments for Drinking and Driving in California

A study found that a BAC of 0.05% produces significant impairment and affects driving abilities. The skill domains involved were attention, cognition, psychomotor skills, and reflexes.

Every state has its own set of drunk-driving laws. Monitoring your BAC level before driving is essential to avoid penalties.

You may face criminal and administrative penalties if you are convicted of driving while intoxicated.

Here is an overview of California’s DUI driving punishments.

DUI Arrests

In California, it is mandatory to provide tests of breath, blood, or urine enforcer suspects you of DUI driving.

 A blood or urine test is still required even if you have already provided a breath test or preliminary alcohol screening (PAS). If you refuse, the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) will revoke or suspend your driving privilege.

If you are arrested for DUI, you may face the following consequences:

  • The DMV will suspend your driving privilege under California’s Administrative Per Se legislation.
  • The police may seize your driver’s license and provide you with a temporary license valid for 30 days.
  • You may request a DMV administrative hearing within ten days following your arrest.

DUI Convictions

On top of the revocation or suspension of your driving privilege, you have to comply with the following if you are convicted of DUI:

  • Completion of a DUI program
  • Filing of SR 22/SR 1P
  • Payment of applicable license reissue or restriction fees
  • Installation of an IID (Ignition Interlock Device) on your vehicle as necessary

You may also face the following additional penalties:

  • Up to six months of jail time
  • Payment of fine
  • Vehicle impoundment¬†
  • Civil lawsuits if you cause serious damages or death while driving impaired

DUI convictions are kept on your driving record for ten years. If you receive additional DUIs within that time, the court or DMV may impose extra penalties.

DUI Penalties for Drivers Under 21

If a police officer suspects you of drinking alcohol, they may request that you submit a hand-held breath test, PAS, or another chemical test.

  • The DMV may suspend your license for one year if you are guilty of a DUI with a BAC of 0.01% or above. In addition, you must finish a licensed DUI program.
  • The officer may request a breath or blood test if your PAS indicates a BAC of 0.05% or greater.
  • If a subsequent test reveals that you have a BAC of 0.05% or greater, you may be arrested for DUI, and your license may be suspended.

Possessing alcohol is also not allowed in California for drivers below 21. If you are caught having alcohol in your vehicle, police can impound it for up to 30 days.

The court may punish you and suspend your driving privileges for a year. If you do not already have a driver’s license, the court may request that the DMV hold off on issuing you your first license for up to a year.

When Can You Drink and Drive in California?

As previously said, alcohol has a variety of effects on humans. Also, the BAC levels of men and women differ.

Men’s systems have higher levels of the alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzyme than women’s. These enzymes are responsible for men’s rapid alcohol metabolism since they primarily aid in alcohol absorption. Thus, men absorb alcohol faster than women.

To estimate how much alcohol you can consume before driving in California, use the information below as a guide.

However, while the following information is derived from research, it may not fit everyone due to the fact that alcohol has various effects on people.

How Many Bottles of Beers Can You Drink and Drive in California?

Drink beer and drive in California

A man weighing around 63 kg (140 lbs) can attain a BAC level of 0.04% after consuming one 12-ounce (350 ml) beer, according to this BAC chart on California’s official state website.

On the other hand, a woman of the same weight and drinking the same quantity of beer can get a BAC of 0.05%.

According to BAC charts, the lower a person’s weight, the greater his BAC after drinking alcohol.

As a result, one to two bottles of beer is generally sufficient to stay within California’s legal BAC level. One bottle of beer should be enough if you drive a commercial vehicle. It is not suggested to consume alcohol if you are under the age of 21.

How Many Glasses of Wine Can You Consume and Drive in California?

A standard serving of wine (142 ml/5oz) can contain up to 12% ABV. Similar to the example above, two glasses of wine will keep you below California’s legal BAC level.

Commercial vehicle drivers with a BAC of 0.04% or higher may face penalties. As a result, one glass of wine is adequate to keep them from exceeding the BAC limit.

Again, no alcohol consumption is advised for drivers below 21.

How Much Whiskey or Vodka Can You Drink and Drive in California?

One shot of vodka or whiskey contains 44 ml (1.5 oz) with an alcohol concentration of up to 40%. Consumption of heavy liquors might be troublesome if you are driving after due to their high alcohol content.

One to two shots of whiskey or vodka should be enough if you cannot avoid driving after drinking. When driving a commercial vehicle, one shot is preferable. If you are under 21, drinking any amount of hard liquor is not recommended.

Sticking to DUI Laws in California

All drivers must be mindful of the risks of driving under the influence.

Avoiding driving after drinking is the best and safest option. Even if you’ve only had a few beers, your BAC and driving ability is never guaranteed.

As each individual responds differently to alcohol, only a breathalyzer can correctly measure your BAC level.

If you are impaired, you should explore alternative modes of transportation. You could take a cab or Uber or ask a friend to drive you

If you can’t avoid driving after drinking, ensure your BAC level is within the legal limit in California.

We also urge you to familiarize yourself with the DUI driving restrictions by visiting California’s official website.

About the author

Ashley Cresswell

Ashley Cresswell is a former phlebotomist with a passion for road safety. During her time as a phlebotomist, Ashley administered over 1000 blood alcohol tests to impaired drivers and was shocked to discover that many of them were simply uninformed about the legal limits for driving under the influence. As a result, Ashley conducted extensive research on scientific studies and local laws to bring drivers a comprehensive resource on drink and drive limits from around the world.