Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

The drudge post: California’s DUI law is damn tough

By William Brand
Wednesday, December 31st, 2008 at 5:27 pm in Uncategorized.

I feel like the New Year’s drudge, but California driving under the influence laws are so stringent, I’ve got to say something.  This excerpt comes from my week column which ran today.

  • Final note: If you live in the Bay Area and plan a night of partying tonight, be warned. California law is tough: “It is unlawful for any person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.” Weigh 160? Drink one 5 percent beer, you’ll have to wait an hour to be legally sober. My advice: Check to find out how to reach the pub of your choice easily, by public transit.

This brought a call from a reader on the peninsula, who says he got curious about how little or how much beer it takes to become legally intoxicated, so he bought a good breathalizer and started experimenting.

  • “I weigh 175 pounds and an am 5-11,” he said. He drank one Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and waited an hour. He blew a still-legal 0.04.  Later, he tried again, this time drinking two SNPAs.  Bingo. He was way over the limit and, he said, totally shocked.

Next, I got an e-mail from a longtime reader, Paul, who works in our court system. He gives would-be drinking-driving drunks this info:

  • I have been working in Misdemeanor Courts the past month doing many DUI cases. Serious bummer…best to spend the extra to drink good stuff and be safe, and not pay an Atty later (and unless you are destitute, Public Def charges money thru the Dept of Rev.)
  • More bad news for DUIs…even if you are on a bike the Penalty Assesment beginning at midnight tonight for any infraction, misdomeanor or feloney is raised to 280 percent…which makes a $100 fine well over $400 with all the additional charges and fees.

So I asked, did he mean on a bicycle or a motorcycle? A human-powered bicycle, he said. And you can even be arrested on a DUI for riding a horse under the influence.  It’s all disturbing, maybe not as serious as if you were driving a car, he adds.

One hint: Designated driver. Second hint: Check out for mass transit routes to your favorite pub. Hint three. The hell with it: Figure on paying for a cab and leave the wheels at home.

Have a happy and safe New Year.  b

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  • craig

    what can you say/do…we live in a polce state…seat belt laws…helmet laws…cell phone laws..the list is long..luckily i have a designated most of the time..

  • brewnot

    Used to be (way back in the early 80’s) the rule of thumb for 180 lb man was:

    1 beer/glass wine/shot added .02% BAC
    1 hour dissipated at the rate of .02% per hour

    I got this from a San Police officer. The BAC chart published by the DMV at the time more or less reflected this.

    So if you had three beers, waited an hour, you should be at 0.04%. [.02 X 3 (3 beers) – .02 (1 hour sober up)]

    The story from the reader who bought the breathalizer tells a whole different story.

    Time to rethink my strategy. Error on the side of caution. I need to keep my license more than I need to drink beer away from home.

  • William Brand

    The keyu seems to be how much you weigh. I weigh 155 and am 5-7 and really have to watch what I drink before driving. Friends who are taller and 30 or so pounds heavier apparently can drink more.

    I also think there’s a genetic component. Some people can just drink more without much effect. I had a friend in high school who could drink like a fish and still be fairly sober. Our joke was, we’d get a case of Coors, I’d dribnk four cans and he’d drink most of 20. He;’d always drive me home because I was wasted.

  • William Brand

    About police state rules..Gonna do a post on the subject in a moment…

  • The Duke of Dunkel

    I just noticed that one of the events planned for SF Beer Week is a beer bike tour…

    While it sounds like fun, I’m not sure I’d want to be the responsible party behind that venture.

  • William Brand

    Yeah, I’ve sadly learned that you can get a DUI arrest for riding a bicycle under the influence.