23152(e) VC - DUI by Uber Lyft, Taxi or Limo Drivers

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Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC – DUI by Uber Lyft, Taxi or Limo Drivers

California’s DUI per se law (Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC) states that taxis, limos, and other ride-sharing drivers must not drive with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of .04% or more while a paying passenger is riding along.

23152(e) VC states: “Commencing July 1, 2018, it shall be unlawful for a person who has 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a motor vehicle when a passenger for hire is a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the offense. For purposes of this subdivision, “passenger for hire” means a passenger for whom consideration is contributed or expected as a condition of carriage in the vehicle, whether directly or indirectly flowing to the owner, operator, agent, or any other person having an interest in the vehicle.”

For normal drivers over the age of twenty-one, the blood alcohol limit in California is .08%. In other words, in California, the legal blood alcohol content for ride-sharing drivers as well as commercial drivers is half the legal limit for regular drivers.

When is a ride-sharing driver deemed to be under the influence?

According to California law, you are under the influence of alcohol if you meet either of the following:

  • Your blood alcohol content is over .04% when you have a paying passenger
  • Your ability is impaired due to consuming alcohol

If you arrested under suspicion of drinking under the influence, within three hours of your arrest, you will be given either a breath test or a blood test. Generally, it is your choice which DUI test you are given.

Penalties for DUI by ride-sharing drivers

The chart below provides a summary on the penalties for California DUI crimes that do not involve injuries.

Type of California DUI

Imprisonment and/or Fine

1st offense misdemeanor DUI

No more than 6 months


2nd offense misdemeanor DUI

96 hrs.-1 year


3rd offense misdemeanor DUI

120 days-1 year


Felony DUI

16 mos.-3 years $390-1000

DUI with injury (misdemeanor)

5 days – 1 year


DUI with injury (felony)

16 mos.-16 years


DMV license suspension for ride-sharing DUI

You may or may not face criminal penalties for a DUI in California. Instead, the DMV may take away your license. You may also be required to install an ignition interlock device or go to a mandatory DUI school. Any of these DMV-enforced punishments may be added in addition to court-enforced punishments.

The following chart summarizes such penalties:

Type of California DUI

Term of Suspension / Revocation & DUI School

1st offense misdemeanor DUI

6 to 10 months, plus

3 or 9 months DUI school

2nd offense misdemeanor DUI

2 years suspension, plus

18 or 30 months DUI school

3rd offense misdemeanor DUI

3 years, plus

30 months DUI school

DUI with injury (misdemeanor)

1 to 3 years, plus

3, 18 or 30 months DUI school

DUI with injury (felony)

5 years, plus

18 or 30 months

Felony DUI

4 years, plus

18 or 30 months

Legal defenses to DUI by Uber or Lyft drivers

If you are a ride-sharing driver who was arrested for driving under the influence, there are a number of defenses you may take, such as:

  • The police did not follow procedure when arresting you
  • The police did not follow procedure when giving you a DUI test
  • You were not driving with a paying passenger
  • The chemical tests were unreliable or erroneous 

In this article, our California criminal defense lawyers have provided the following information in regard to Uber and Lyft driver DUIs:

1. Who does 23152(e) VC apply to?

 Drivers of vehicles who are carrying someone who is obligated to pay for being driven (a “passenger for hire”) are punishable under Vehicle Code 23153(e) VC if they are arrested for driving under the influence while such a passenger is present.

 Examples of a passenger for hire are people getting rides from taxis, Uber, Lyft, and limos. 

2. Vehicle Code 23152(e) – California’s “DUI per se” law for ride-sharing drivers

Under California’s per se DUI law regarding ride-sharing drivers, a driver need not be noticeably impaired to be convicted of a DUI as long as he or she is past the legal blood alcohol limit (.04%) while driving with a paying passenger.

 More details about California’s DUI per se law is provided in the chart below.

Type of Driver (CA Vehicle Code §)

CA Legal BAC Limits

Vehicle Code 23152(b) VC

Adult drivers and non-commercial vehicles, including off-duty Uber and Lyft drivers


Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC

On-duty Uber or Lyft drivers


Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC

Taxi and limo drivers while in their taxi/limo


Vehicle Code 23152(d) VC

Driver of commercial vehicle (while in commercial vehicle


Vehicle Code 23140 VC

Drivers under the age of twenty-one


(Vehicle Code 23136 VC)

California’s “zero tolerance” law regarding persons under the age of twenty-one

 2.1. Why is the legal limit for ride-sharing drivers being changed?

When someone is driving with a paying passenger, DUI laws become much stricter.

The California District Attorneys Association had the following to say on the subject:

“Taxi drivers and drivers for hire… present an increased risk to public safety when driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs while carrying passengers for hire… This behavior also violates their passengers’ trust that they will be able to get their passengers safely from point A to point B, despite the frequency with which we encourage the use of these alternatives to drinking and driving.”10

 2.2. Does having a BAC of less than .04% prove the driver was not impaired?

If your driving is impaired due to the alcohol in your system, it does not matter if your BAC is .04% or less, you will still be charged with a DUI.

3. Penalties for DUI by Uber or Lyft drivers

The penalties for a DUI for ride-sharing drivers is no different than from regular drivers—up to six months in jail or/or fines from $390 to $1000.

 3.1. Will a DUI driver lose the right to drive for Uber or Lyft?

Legally, one cannot be employed as a ride-sharing driver if he or she has been convicted of a DUI within the past seven years.

4. Legal defenses to DUI by taxi, limo or ride-sharing drivers

The following are the possible legal defenses a violator of Vehicle Code 23153(e) may take:

  • Unlawful arrest
  • Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations were not followed when the DUI test was given
  • The driver was not transporting a paying passenger
 4.1. “Dry reckless” as a plea bargain to DUI charges

A “dry reckless” plea (a violation of Vehicle Code 23103 VC) is a strategy to avoid a DUI conviction. 

According to VC 23103(a):

“A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”

A dry reckless conviction can still lead to a jail sentence; however, the sentence may be shorter as well as probation time. The fines will also be less, one’s license won’t be revoked, one will still be able to work as a paid driver, and penalties won’t increase for future DUI convictions.

If you or someone you know is being convicted for ride-sharing DUI charges, please contact us for a free consultation with one of our California legal defense attorneys at the H Law Group.