California Alcohol Laws

Not knowing your alcohol laws could be detrimental when selling or purchasing alcohol. If living in California, learning about alcohol laws could help you avoid fines, penalties or even jail time.

On this page we’ll help break down some of the important laws that can help in your alcohol serving or selling establishment. 

 

California Minimum Age Laws

Servers of alcohol who are strictly cocktail servers must be 21 years of age or older. Other servers may be 18 years of age or older. If working in food service, an employee must be at least 18 years old to serve an alcoholic beverage. The penalty for violating this requirement is a misdemeanor. 

Any employee who is planning to or will be serving alcohol must hold a valid alcohol server certification (BPC § 25682).

California law lets those under 21 to consume alcohol in a private location. Only if a parent, guardian or relative is present and above the age of 21.

It is illegal for a minor to have a BAC of .01% and operate a vehicle.

Employment of Servers Under 21 (Statute 25663)

 

Buying and Selling Alcohol in California

It is unlawful to sell alcohol between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. It is also unlawful for any person to knowingly purchase alcohol or consume between those hours. The penalty is a misdemeanor.

Alcoholic sales during prohibited hours include a maximum penalty of $1,000.00 and/or 6 months in county jail. Bars cannot sell alcohol after 2 a.m. and patrons have to be out by 3 a.m. or by the time stated in a city ordinance.

Point of sale is the point of delivery and not when the drinks are rung up. If customers are in a restaurant they may take home partially consumed bottles of wine.

Any person who sells, furnishes, gives or causes to be sold, furnished or given away, any alcoholic beverages to any obviously intoxicated person is guilty of a misdemeanor. Sale to an intoxicated person has a maximum penalty of $1,000 and/or six (6) months in county jail.

 

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol

​It is unlawful to drive a vehicle under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol. Penalty is a misdemeanor. 

Additionally, 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. For minors it is .01% for commercial drivers it is .04% BAC.

 

First DUI Conviction in California

The first DUI conviction leads to 96 hours in jail or up to 6 months. Fines range from $390 plus
“penalty assessments” that could increase to $1000. It also includes a license suspension for 6 months, and a possible payment for an ignition interlock device (IID).

An IID prevents the vehicle from starting if there is alcohol in the driver’s breath.

 

Second DUI Conviction

For a second DUI conviction the penalties are more severe. Jail time depending on the sentencing can range from 3 months to one year. The fine stays the same at $390 to $1000 plus other charges. The state will suspend the driving license for one year and an installation of an ignition interlock device might be ordered once the offender is able to drive again. Proof of insurance will also be necessary.

 

Alcohol in Vehicles

Drinking in a vehicle is illegal in the state of California. All open containers must be in the trunk and out of sight. The only exception to this rule is if passengers are in a bus, taxi, camper, or motorhome. If under 21 there cannot be any alcohol present in the vehicle unless with a parent or someone 21 and over. If a driver is found with a BAC of 0.01% or higher the penalty is a suspended license for 1 year. A DUI education program must also be completed. 

 

Alcohol Boating Laws in California

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs while operating a boat is illegal. A BAC of .08% or higher proves intoxication. However, the state may use a BAC between .05% and .08%, with other evidence, to prove intoxication. California does not have an “open container” law while boating. 

Penalties for a DUI while operating a boat are:

  • If someone is injured, the fine can escalate to $5,000 and up to a year in jail
  • Can lead to suspension of license
  • Could lead to one year of jail or fine up to $1,000
  • A boating safety course will need to be completed
  • Causing death to another person could lead to 10 years in jail

Knowing these laws can help in preventing possible liability to yourself and others. Our California Responsible Beverage course will give you all of the information you need to to deal with possible alcohol intoxication and learn to look for signs.

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