What Would Have Happened If Bruce Springsteen’s Arrest Had Taken Place In California?

AJ Gilead

What Would Have Happened If Bruce Springsteen’s Arrest Had Taken Place In California?

| 5 min

It emerged recently that rock icon Bruce Springsteen was arrested late last year for allegedly driving while intoxicated in New Jersey. It was also claimed he appeared intoxicated, failed a field sobriety test, and then declined to provide an initial breathalyzer test. His recent Jeep advertisement, that had first aired during the Superbowl a few days before, was taken off the air. 

As further details emerged, it was revealed that Springsteen openly admitted having two shots of tequila and had been intending to operate a vehicle but hadn’t done so at the time of arrest. Furthermore, he was later breathalyzed at the police station and had a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.02%. Well below the state limit. Additionally, in the state of New Jersey, unless there is an injury or fatality, a DWI is typically a vehicle offense and not a crime. It seems Mr Springsteen had done nothing wrong. In New Jersey at least. 

But what if his arrest had occurred in California?  

What is the minimum BAC in California?

For a DUI offense, the minimum BAC for adult drivers of non-commercial vehicles in California is 0.08%, the same as in New Jersey. It’s 0.04% for commercial drivers and for taxi, limo and ride-sharing drivers.

So, someone in California with a reading of 0.02% would not be charged with DUI.

What happens if drunk driving in California doesn’t end in injury or damage – is it a criminal offense?

What makes New Jersey different in these cases is that unlike other states, if no injuries or fatalities occur, a DUI is typically a motor vehicle offense and not a crime.

If a person is arrested in California and found guilty of DUI, it would likely be a misdemeanor offense. Most drunk driving charges in California are classed as misdemeanors but can become felonies if someone is injured or killed, or the driver has three or more DUI convictions in a 10-year period, or has previously been convicted of a felony DUI.

Can you refuse to take the breathalyzer test at the scene in California, as Bruce did in New Jersey? 

A preliminary alcohol screens (PAS) test is typically done before any DUI arrests are made. They usually occur at traffic stops or DUI checkpoints. In California, as in all states, a driver can refuse to take a PAS or breathalyzer test unless they are under 21 or on probation for a prior DUI offense.

If someone is arrested for DUI, then there will be another compulsory test afterwards.  

Bruce didn’t ride his motorcycle, but was about to do so - is that considered a DUI offense in CA?

In this case, yes, and so would anyone over the BAC limit. The officer must first have probable cause to stop or detain them. The officer involved allegedly saw Springsteen drink the tequila shots and Springsteen openly admitted it. Next, intent to drive under the influence needs to be established, even if the vehicle is parked. After the shots, Springsteen had returned and climbed onto his motorcycle.

Anyone with a BAC of only 0.02%, would not face arrest in any state. The main difference between New Jersey and California would have been how the case was tried if inebriated and no one was injured. In New Jersey, it would have been a motor vehicle offense, whereas in California, it’s a misdemeanor.

As has been seen, laws and regulations differ from state to state and change all the time. Therefore, to fully understand all of the consequences of a DUI charge, it’s essential to hire an attorney who understands the penalties and defenses available, and can give you the advice you need on how to restore your license and get your life back to normal.

Jan 26, 2021
AJ Gilead