California is internationally known for their wineries. Some of the most well known wineries are in the area North of the East Bay, including Napa Valley, Sonoma, and the Russian River Valley. There are more than 800 wineries in California's wine country, with hundreds of tasting rooms for visitors and wine enthusiasts.
Driving through wine country and visiting tasting rooms is a great weekend activity or day trip only about an hour from Alameda County. However, most of the wineries and winery tasting rooms require a car. Visitors have the option of having a designated driver or limiting the driver to only a few tastings of wine.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to keep track of how much alcohol you have consumed, especially when the serving sizes vary and servers often tack on an extra tasting or two. This can leave drivers behind the wheel when they may have had more than they expected. Many East Bay drivers end up getting pulled over on their way home from wine country, facing an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI).
California Wineries and BAC
It is a per se DUI to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or more. A per se DUI does not depend on the driver's impairment or driving ability. A blood or breath test with a BAC above the limit is enough for a prosecutor to charge a driver with drunk driving.
How Many Wine Tastings is Too Many?
Counting drinks does not always provide a clear picture of how much is too much. The old adage of processing one drink per hour does not apply equally to all drivers. The time it takes to process alcohol in the body can vary depending on the individual's weight, gender, and consumption of water and food.
According to the California DMV, a female driver weighing approximately 140 pounds will have impaired driving skills after just one drink. After 2 drinks, the same driver will be over the legal limit. However, the BAC chart assumes that one drink is a 5 ounce serving of 12% wine. Many California wines have a higher alcohol by volume (ABV) or 14% or higher.
The amount of alcohol from one tasting may depend on the size of the glasses, alcohol level of the wine, and number of wines tasted. Many tasting rooms also allow visitors to have a glass of wine after tasting, which can further increase the individual's alcohol level.
For example, a visit to a tasting room may offer 6 tastings with serving sizes ranging from one ounce to 3 ounces. If a visitor tries 6 different wines of 1.5 ounces each, that would be the equivalent of 9 ounces of wine, or almost 2 servings of alcohol. That means that one tasting may be enough alcohol to put you over the limit.
Multiple Winery Visits and Drinks With Dinner
Most weekend trips to wine country or even day trips involve visiting more than just one winery. Even if the driver intends to limit their alcohol intake, they may still visit 2 or more tasting rooms and have wine with dinner. Over the course of a few hours, the amount of alcohol consumed may not have been broken down sufficiently to legally drive back down to the East Bay.
Breathalyzer Tests Are Not Always Accurate
Even if a driver thinks they are below the limit, they may get pulled over by police on their drive home. The driver may be honest with the officer, admitting to having a few wine tastings. However, just because you are honest with the police does not mean that they will treat you any better. Admitting to drinking any wine may give the officer cause to investigate your impairment. Remember, you have the right to remain silent.
Similarly, drivers may willingly submit to a roadside breathalyzer test. Police in California use a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) device to get a sample of the driver's breath. These devices are prone to errors and can give inaccurate readings. A faulty PAS test may show the driver's BAC to be over the limit. You have the right to refuse a roadside PAS test. There are no penalties for refusing a PAS breath test.
These tests can give the police officer the impression that you are impaired even if you are totally sober. There are plenty of things that can cause you to “fail” these tests, including:
- Medical conditions
- Dangerous road conditions
East Bay DUI Attorney
You have legal rights after an arrest for a DUI in California. East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 38 years of DUI experience and understands the consequences of a DUI arrest. Representing drivers and visitors in Contra Costa and Alameda County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local DUI laws, and the local officers and prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.