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California Changes BAC Limit for Ride-Share Drivers

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California Changes BAC Limit for Ride-Share DriversA new California law went into effect on July 1 that has lowered the threshold to charge ride-share drivers with driving under the influence of alcohol. The law sets the blood alcohol concentration limit for these drivers at 0.04, as opposed to the 0.08 limit for most other drivers. The change is meant to treat ride-share drivers more like commercial drivers in terms of DUI enforcement. Ride-share drivers risk losing their jobs and receiving criminal penalties if they are convicted for a DUI charge.

About the Law

The law added a section to California's vehicle code that states that it is unlawful for a driver to have a BAC of 0.04 or more while also having a passenger for hire in the vehicle. Commercial vehicle drivers, such as taxi drivers, have the same BAC limit. While drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft are considered to be providing the same service as taxi drivers, the same DUI law did not apply to them because:

  • They drive their personal vehicles instead of registered commercial vehicles; and
  • They do not have commercial licenses.

Commercial drivers are held to a stricter standard for DUI because they are responsible for the safety of their passengers. There is an assumption of DUI if a ride-share driver has a BAC above the limit, even if he or she shows no signs of impairment. A police officer can also arrest a ride-share driver for suspicion of DUI without a BAC above the limit if the officer reasonably believes that the driver is impaired.

Defenses Against Charges

Ride-share drivers who have been charged with DUI have many of the same defenses at their disposal as other drivers, including that:

  • The initial stop was unlawful because the officer had no reason to suspect wrongdoing;
  • The officer did not follow proper procedure in administering tests;
  • There was not probable cause to make a DUI arrest; and
  • The test results were in error or can be reasonably doubted.

For ride-share drivers, whether they have a paying passenger in the vehicle is an important distinction. Absent a customer, the defendant is a normal driver, and the 0.08 BAC limit would apply.

Possible Consequences

Advocates for the new law state that ride-share drivers should not have a problem with compliance as long as they refrain from drinking before work. However, a lower threshold for DUI makes it easier for a mistake to lead to a wrongful charge. A San Francisco DUI defense attorney at Burglin Law Offices, P.C., can protect you against DUI charges that lack sufficient evidence. Schedule a free consultation by calling 415-729-7300.



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