In the State of California it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while you are under the influence of any alcoholic beverage. It is also illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, of 0.08 percent or higher. While it is certainly beneficial for a motorist to know what the legal limit is, that information is not actually helpful unless you know how much you have to drink before exceeding the legal limit in California.
California Vehicle Code Section 23152 states as follows:
“It is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.”
Having a per se law makes it much easier for the prosecution to convict a motorist of DWI because the need to prove that a motorist was “under the influence” is not necessary. In theory, it should make it easier for motorists to avoid an arrest and conviction as well; however, that assumption depends on a motorist’s ability to determine when he or she has reached the legal limit of 0.08 percent BAC. Unfortunately, short of taking a portable blood test there is no reliable method of determining your BAC level.
There are ways to estimate what your BAC level is at any given point in time. In addition, there are numerous online calculators and charts that people use to approximate their current BAC level; however, it is important to remember that these calculators and charts are only estimates. Relying on one of these methods could land you in jail facing DWI charges.
One commonly used rule of thumb is not to exceed one drink per hour, with a “drink” being defined as a can of beer, a glass of wine, or a shot of liquor. While this “rule” provides a good starting point, there are several important factors that will impact your BAC level which are not accounted for in the “one drink and hour” rule, including:
- Your weight – your weight is one of the most important factors when calculating BAC level. A 200 pound man can usually drink more than a 120 pound female and remain under the legal limit.
- Your sex – as a general rule, men metabolize alcohol faster, meaning they can drink more without exceeding the limit.
- Stomach contents – if you ate prior to, or during, the consumption of alcohol your BAC level will generally be lower than someone who consumed alcohol on an empty stomach.
- Alcohol tolerance – if you drink often your body may tolerate alcohol better.
- Medical conditions – numerous medical conditions affect how your body metabolizes alcohol and, therefore, how much you have to drink to exceed the legal limit.
If you have been charged with driving while intoxicated in California, or any other alcohol or drug related driving offense, consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.