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California Driver Handbook - Alcohol and Drugs


California Driver Handbook - Alcohol and Drugs

Admin Per Se

When you drive in California, you consent to have your breath, blood or, under certain circumstances, urine tested if you are arrested for DUI of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.

If arrested, the officer may take your DL, issue you a temporary DL for 30 days, and give you an order of suspension. You may request a DMV administrative hearing within 10 days. The arresting officer may require you to submit to either a breath or blood test. You do not have a right to consult with a lawyer before selecting or completing a test.

If your BAC is 0.08% or higher, the peace officer may arrest you (CVC §§23152 or 23153). If the officer reasonably believes you are under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs, and you have already submitted to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) and/or breath test, you may still be required to submit to a blood or urine test because the breath test does not detect the presence of drugs.
If you refuse to submit to the required blood and/or urine test(s), your driving privilege may be suspended because of your refusal. Even if you change your mind later, your driving privilege may be suspended for both reasons, although both actions will run concurrently.

Under 21—Zero Tolerance for Alcohol Use

If you are under 21 years old, you must submit to a hand-held breath test, preliminary alcohol screening (PAS), or one of the other chemical tests. If your BAC measures 0.01% or higher on the PAS, you may be suspended for 1 year.

If your PAS shows a BAC of 0.05%, the officer may require you to submit to either a breath or blood test.

If a subsequent test reveals a BAC of 0.05% or higher, the officer will issue you an order of suspension and arrest you for DUI (CVC §23140).

Court DUI Convictions

If you are convicted of DUI of either alcohol and/or drugs or both, and you have an excessive BAC level, you may be sentenced to serve up to 6 months in jail and pay a fine between $390–$1,000 the first time you are convicted. Your vehicle may be impounded and is subject to storage fees.

On the first conviction your driving privilege will be suspended for 6 months and you will be required to complete a DUI program, file a California Insurance Proof Certificate (SR 22/SR 1P), and pay all fees before your DL can be reinstated. The length of the program may vary. If your BAC is 0.15% or higher, and you already have a record of other alcohol-related violations or you refuse to submit to a chemical test, the court may order you to complete a 9 month or longer program. If your BAC is 0.20% or higher and the court refers you to an enhanced DUI treatment program, your DL will be suspended for 10 months. You could also be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicle. An IID prevents you from starting your vehicle if you have any alcohol on your breath. If anyone is injured as a result of your DUI, the suspension period is 1 year.

In cases involving serious injury or death, you may face civil lawsuits. All DUI convictions will remain on DMV’s records for 10 years. The courts and/or DMV may impose more stringent penalties for subsequent violations during that period.

A BAC below legal limits does not mean that you are safe to drive. Almost all drivers show impairment by alcohol at levels lower than the legal limit. The impairment you exhibit at the time you are stopped may be enough to convict you of a DUI even without a BAC measurement.

Get a DUI – Lose Your License!

It is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or more (0.04% for commercial vehicle drivers and 0.01% if under 21). Other factors, such as fatigue, medications or food may affect your ability to legally operate a vehicle. The table below gives an estimate of blood alcohol levels based on the number of drinks consumed, gender, and body weight. REMEMBER: Even one drink is likely to affect your ability to drive safely!

Drivers 21 and Older—DUI Programs and Restricted Driver Licenses

Completion of a DUI program is required for all DUI convictions. Generally, if you are over 21 years old, enroll in a DUI program, file a California Insurance Proof Certificate (SR 22/SR 1P), and pay the restriction and reissue fees, DMV will issue you a restricted DL, unless you hold a CDL. First DUI convictions are allowed a license that restricts you to drive to/from work, during the course of employment, and to/from a DUI program. However, if you are considered a “traffic” or “public safety” risk, the court may order DMV to not grant you a restricted DL. Other actions against you may also prohibit the issuance of a restricted DL.

Note: Commercial drivers are disqualified for 1 year and cannot obtain a restricted CDL without downgrading to a noncommercial license (see California Commercial Driver Handbook [DL 650] for more information).

Second and subsequent DUI convictions result in increased penalties, including a 2 year suspension or a revocation of up to 5 years. After you complete a prescribed period of your suspension/revocation and either enroll in, or complete a portion of, a DUI program, you may obtain a restricted DL to drive anywhere necessary, if you:

  • Install an IID on your vehicle.
  • Agree not to drive any vehicle without an IID.
  • Agree to complete the prescribed DUI program.
  • File an SR 22.
  • Pay the reissue and restriction fees.

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