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What is the legal BAC level in California?

California is serious about cracking down on drunk drivers. As stated in the California Driver Handbook, if you are an adult driver in California who is pulled over by a law enforcement officer on suspicion of driving under the influence and your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or higher, you can be arrested. The officer also may take your driver’s license, give you an order of suspension and issue you a 30-day temporary license.

If you are a young person under 21 years of age, however, California has zero tolerance for alcohol use while driving. If you are stopped by a law enforcement officer on suspicion of DUI, you will be given a preliminary alcohol screening. If your BAC registers 0.01 percent or higher, your driver’s license can be suspended for a year. If your BAC is 0.05 percent, the officer can require you to submit to a breath test or blood test. If at that point your BAC once again registers 0.05 percent or higher, the officer will arrest you and issue an order of suspension of your license.

Law enforcement officers have the authority to require you to take one or more of the following tests:

  • Preliminary alcohol screening
  • Hand-held breath machine test
  • Blood test
  • Urine test (in some circumstances)

Whatever your age, you have no legal right to refuse to submit to any of these tests. Nor do you have the right to consult with an attorney before selecting or completing a test. Should you refuse, your driving privileges may be suspended because of the refusal alone. You may request an administrative hearing before the Department of Motor Vehicles within 10 days of receiving the suspension.

While this information should not be taken as legal advice, it can help you understand the process and what to expect.

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