California Proposes Decreasing DUI Limit With New Bill

California may have one of the strictest DUI laws in the nation, tied with Utah, after state assemblymembers proposed a new bill that would lower the blood-alcohol content limit from .08 to .05.

Assembly Bill 1713 was proposed by Autumn Burke (D-Marina del Rey) and Heath Flora (R-Ripon) in late February. Utah was the first state to adopt a .05 BAC limit in December 2018, according to NPR.

Captain Renee Ferguson of the East Valley Sheriff Station said there is a grant the sheriff’s department follows regarding DUI check points in the county. Ferguson said these will not change unless there is a change in funding, but the sheriff’s department still enforces regular DUI check points throughout the year in Thousand Oaks.

Thousand Oaks Legislative Affairs Manager Mina Layba said it will take legislators time to review and evaluate the bill because of the amount of “heavy information” it entails. Layba said reviewing the bill right now is difficult because within the next two or three weeks, the bill will receive a hearing date and the details will change.

“Based on the subject matter and content, it would definitely be something that I would review. It would definitely be a concern of ours as a city but we have not officially taken a position,” Layba said.

“It’s just a matter of if we pull over 20 people a week and we arrest maybe five of them for DUI, that number might increase with the lower blood-alcohol level [limit],” Ferguson said. 

Art Calzado, head of security at Brendan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant in Newbury Park, said neither the bar nor security officials measure a patron’s alcohol intake using a breathalyzer test or drink-counting system. Rather, the bar will determine if a patron has had too much to drink based on how people “carry themselves.”

Calzado said if the BAC limit were to change in California, it would not affect the security at Brendan’s.

“We’re basing it not on the level of a person’s intoxication, because we really don’t know for a fact—that’s going to be more for the law enforcement type of situation. But that’s not going to be our priority. It’s based on how they carry themselves inside,” Calzado said.

Although the bill could affect the way bars serve, Ferguson said she is unsure if law enforcement will be able to detect the .03 change in a person’s BAC. Ferguson said she is also unsure if there will be changes made to the DUI penalty.

“It’s a combined effort. They need to be responsible business owners and responsible servers and we need to make sure we follow the law—whatever that is, we will follow it,” Ferguson said.

Calzado said if a patron enters Brendan’s too intoxicated and unable to drive their vehicle, a Brendan’s employee will call an Uber or Lyft, or ask someone to assist them home safely.

“We’re different from other bars in the sense we handle things in a professional manner. We act more as ambassadors and concierge, we’re not very hands on,” Calzado said. “We sometimes have to send people home or call law enforcement to assist them.”

Should the bill pass, the .03 decrease in the legal BAC limit would also decrease the amount of drinks people are able to have while still staying within the legal limit.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a 160lb. woman can have one drink and a 200lb.  man can have two.

“There’s no excuse with the ride-share services we have [like] Lyft, Uber, or a designated driver. You need to be mindful,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said the sheriff’s department would still follow regular protocol responding to calls with probable cause in the case of reports a driver may be under the influence. The sheriff’s department will pull the vehicle over, establish impairment and determine if chemical testing via a breathalyzer test is necessary, Ferguson said.

The Tipsy Goat, Brendan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant in Agoura Hills and Dave and Buster’s Restaurant and Bar declined to comment.

Rosie Riehl