1. Alcohol and Driving

You can be charged with a DUI (Driving Under the beerInfluence of alcohol) if you are found to be driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08% or more.1Vehicle Code Sec 23152You can most likely stay below this level if you drink no more than 1 drink per hour, but this varies by your body type and weight.

Your blood-alcohol limit is even lower if you are:

  • Under 21= .01% or more.2VC 23136
  • Driving a commercial vehicle3one requiring either class A or B license, or C with “endorsement”; the normal license is C without endorsement= .04% or more4VC 23152

Open container laws:
It is illegal to:

  • drink alcohol in a car5Vehicle Code Sec 23221
  • possess an open container of alcohol in a car,6Sec 23222, 23223 meaning any container that has been opened, or where the seal has been broken, or when any alcohol has been removed in any way, even if the container is now closed
  • store or keep an open container in a car, except for the trunk7Sec 23225, 23226

EXCEPT that you may do any of these things as a passenger in a bus, taxi, or limo.8Sec 23229 A few more laws apply to drivers or passengers under 21.9Sec 23224, 23229.1

2. When/where you can drink or be drunk

When are the hours I can get a drink in this town?

  • A licensed restaurant, bar, grocery store or other retail business in California may sell and serve alcohol only between the hours of 6am and 2am (the following day), 7 days per week. In other words, alcohol may NOT be served in the 4 hour period between 2am and 6am.10Cal BPC § 25631
  • In addition, these establishments are prohibited from even allowing people to consume alcohol on their premises during this 4 hour period.11Cal BPC § 25632

Can I drink alcohol in public?

Laws vary by city, but most cities do NOT allow you to drink alcohol in public, including the city of LA.12LAMC Ch IV Sec 41.27(c)

But in most cities, including LA, if the drink has less than 0.5% alcohol (such as some kinds of Kombucha drinks), it is not legally considered alcohol and is OK to drink in public.13LAMC Ch IV §41.27(c)

Is it illegal to be drunk in public?

Yes. You may not be so drunk (or high on drugs) that you are unable to exercise care for your own or others’ safety. It is also illegal to be so drunk that you are blocking or preventing the use of the sidewalk or public street. This is called public intoxication14Cal Penal Code Sec 647(f)

Is it illegal to simply carry alcohol in public?

It varies by city. In the city of LA, sealed alcohol is fine to carry around. Unsealed or “open containers” are NOT OK in or near a store that sells alcohol.15LA Municipal Code Sec 41.27(d) But other than in or near an alcohol retailer, it currently is LEGAL to simply possess an open container of alcohol in public.16While LA Municipal Code 41.27(h) says it is illegal to possess an open container of alcohol in public with the intent to consume it, you can safely ignore this. In 1995 this ordinance was declared a violation of the California Constitution and thus unenforceable under People v. Duran, 43 Cal. App. 4th Supp.1 However, while it’s not technically illegal in LA to carry open containers of alcohol in public, it’s not advisable as it may garner the attention of law enforcement.

Is my hair salon allowed to serve alcohol? Don’t they need a liquor license?

Starting in 2017, hair salons and barbershops will legally be allowed to serve complimentary beer or wine without getting any special permit or license. Salons may serve up to 12 ounces of beer or 6 ounces of wine, but only until 10p.

3. Alcohol & minors

What are my obligations as to alcohol and minors?

  • If you sell or give alcohol to a person under 21 years old, you could be found guilty of a crime, with a fine of up to $250 and 24 hrs of community service. If the intoxicated underage person then injures anyone, you could be found guilty of an additional crime, with a fine of up to $1,000 and/or jail time of up to 1 year.17BPC 25658
  • If you allow your child and/or your child’s friends, who are under 18 years old, to drink alcohol or use drugs at your home, AND you then knowingly allow any of them to drive, AND any of them cause an accident, you could be guilty of a crime, with a $1,000 fine and/or jail time of up to 1 year.18BPC § 25658.2


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What You Need to Know About Drug Laws

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