Ride-Share DUI Laws in California

February 15, 2021

When Can an Uber Driver Get a DUI?

Ride-Share DUI Laws in California

Ride-sharing mobile apps like Uber have grown to become part of everyday life in many places. Whether it is an Uber, a Lyft, or another operator, ride-share drivers take on immense responsibility. When you drive for a ride-share, the rules of the road become stricter since you are transporting other individuals. California’s DUI laws are one example, with a lower BAC threshold for ride-share drivers to face criminal penalties.

What Is “Under the Influence” for a Ride-Share Driver?

California law criminalizes anyone driving or operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The law defines being under the influence as one of two situations:

  • First, where the driver’s physical or mental abilities are affected by the substance so much that they cannot operate the vehicle as a sober person would; or,
  • Second, where the driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) exceeds a defined threshold.

For a typical adult, the BAC threshold is 0.08%. However, an Uber or other ride-share driver cannot have a BAC of 0.04% or above while a passenger is in the car. If your BAC is 0.04% or greater with a ride-share passenger in your vehicle, you can be charged even if the alcohol did not actually impair your driving. This lower threshold is intended to promote responsibility among ride-share drivers.

Who Is Considered a Ride-Share Driver?

The law determines whether the lower BAC threshold applies to a driver based on whether there was a passenger for hire in the car. A passenger for hire is not just a friend or member of a carpool that chips in gas money for the trip. Instead, they must anticipate paying for the ride in order to be driven. These passengers for hire include:

  • Those paying operators for the ride, such as Uber or Lyft customers;
  • Those paying cash or charge directly to the driver, like a taxi cab; or,
  • Those who prepaid with a credit card or cash for a limousine with less than 10 passengers.

It does not matter whether you were driving your own personal vehicle, someone else’s car, a taxi, or a limo. If you have a passenger for hire, the lower 0.04% BAC threshold applies to you.

Penalties for an Uber DUI

Law enforcement must give you a valid blood or breath test within three hours of your arrest to prove your BAC was 0.04% or greater. If you are charged with a ride-share driver DUI, the punishments you face depend on whether you have any prior DUI offenses. A first-time misdemeanor DUI charge can result in up to six months in county jail, a fine of $1,000, and additional punishments. The consequences can include a suspended or restricted driver’s license, required installation of an ignition interlock device, and mandatory DUI school.

Additionally, a DUI conviction can prevent you from being a ride-sharing driver for up to seven years. There are also enhancements to the punishments for DUIs that result in injuries or death, or if it is not your first DUI.

After an Uber DUI arrest in Irvine, California, you will need a skilled criminal defense team to fight for your freedom and right to continue driving. Set up a no-obligation case review with the Chambers Law Firm by contacting 855-397-0210 or info@orangecountyduifirm.com today.

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