California Driver Handbook - Alcohol and Drugs
Alcohol/Drugs and Driving Is Dangerous
Alcohol and/or drugs impair your judgment. Impaired judgment or good sense affects how you react to sounds and what you see. It is also dangerous to walk in traffic or ride a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Much of what has been said about alcohol also applies to drugs. California’s drunk driving law is also a drugged driving law. It refers to “DUI of alcohol and/or drugs.” If an officer suspects that you are under the influence of drugs, the officer can legally require you to take a blood or urine test. Drivers who refuse these tests are subject to longer DL suspensions and revocations.
The use of any drug (the law does not distinguish between prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs) which impairs your ability to drive safely is illegal. Check with your physician or pharmacist and read the warning label if you are not sure that taking the medication will affect your driving. Here are some facts:
- Most drugs taken for colds, hay fever, allergy, or to calm nerves or muscles can make a person drowsy.
- Medicines taken together or used with alcohol can be dangerous. Many drugs have unexpected side effects when taken with alcohol.
- Pep pills, “uppers,” and diet pills can make a driver more alert for a short time. Later, however, they can cause a person to be nervous, dizzy, and not able to concentrate. They can also affect the vision.
Any drug that “may cause drowsiness or dizziness” is one you should not take before driving. Make sure you read the label and know the effects of any drug you use.
Use or Possession of Alcohol or Cannabis Products in a Vehicle
The law is very strict about use or possession of alcohol or cannabis products in a vehicle on or off the highway. It is illegal to drink any amount of alcohol, or smoke or ingest any cannabis product while driving or riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle. A container of alcohol carried inside the vehicle must be full, sealed, and unopened; however, this law does not apply to nondriving passengers in a bus, taxi, camper, or motor home. An open container of alcohol must be kept in the trunk of the vehicle or a place where passengers do not sit. Keeping an open container of alcohol in the glove compartment is specifically against the law. In addition, the law prohibits the possession of an open container of cannabis or cannabis product when operating a motor vehicle.
Drivers Under 21 (Possession of Alcohol)
If you are under 21 years old:
- You may not carry liquor, beer, or wine inside a vehicle unless you are accompanied by a parent or other person as specified by law and the container is full, sealed, and unopened.
- If you are caught with an alcoholic beverage in your vehicle, the vehicle may be impounded for up to 30 days. The court may fine you up to $1,000, and either suspend your driving privilege for 1 year or require DMV to delay the issuance of your first DL for up to 1 year, if you are not already licensed.
- Your driving privilege will be revoked for 1 year, if you are convicted of either driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01% or higher or driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and/or drugs. On the first offense you will be required to complete the educational portion of a licensed DUI program. A subsequent offense may require a longer DUI program and you will not have a restricted DL to attend the DUI program.
Exception: You may carry alcoholic beverages in closed containers, while working for someone with an off-site liquor sales license.
Drivers of All Ages
It is illegal to drive after consuming excessive amounts of alcohol in any form (including medications such as cough syrup), or taking any drug (including prescription medications), or using any combination of alcohol or drugs that impairs your ability to drive.
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits
It is illegal for any person to operate a vehicle with a:
- BAC of 0.08% or higher, if the person is 21 years old or older.
- BAC of 0.01% or higher, if the person is under 21 years old.
- BAC of 0.01% or higher at any age, if the person is on a DUI probation.
- BAC of 0.04% or higher, in any vehicle requiring a CDL—with or without a CDL issued to the driver.
- BAC of 0.04% or higher, when a passenger for hire is in the vehicle at the time of the offense.
DMV can take an administrative action against your driving privilege after you are detained or arrested for a DUI. The court may take a separate action for the same offense. DMV’s action is related only to your driving privilege. The court’s action may involve a fine, jail time, delay of the DL, and completion of a DUI program.
When notified of a DUI conviction by the court, DMV will take an additional action to suspend or revoke your driving privilege.
Similar provisions (California Harbors and Navigation Code) apply when you operate any vessel, aquaplane, jet skis, water skis, or similar devices. These convictions are placed on your driving record and will be used by the court to determine “prior convictions” for motor vehicle DUI sentencing. These convictions are also used when determining the length of a suspension or revocation action or the reinstatement requirements, because of a violation you committed while driving a motor vehicle.