Law And Rules

Once you are spending some time in a foreign country, it supposed that you know (and respect) the law of the hosting country. In most of the cases behaving according to good sense is enough to avoid infringing any law. In some other cases a little bit of extra attention is needed: this section is intended to collect all those cases in which some more details are required.

If you are an EAP reciprocity student and you found that some important rules in the US differs from you own country, please report that here: this can be very useful for future EAP students coming from your or another country!


One of the main differences you will probably find between California Law and your own country law (especially if European) is the different policy about alcohol. In California it is strictly prohibited to drink alcohol if you are under 21. Actually you not only have not to drink alcohol, but you cannot buy it or simply carry it.
This policy is strictly enforced on campus and off campus.

Remember that if you are over 21 and you want to drink for example in a bar, a pub, a club, a restaurant or whatever, you have to carry your own passport. Your country ID or driving license is generally not accepted. Sometimes they accept non-US and non-Californian IDs if you have two of them (your state ID and driving license, for example). The same rules are valid in supermarkets, if you want to buy any kind of alcohol, from beer to super alcoholic drinks.

The second important rule is that you cannot drink alcohol outside, independently of your age. Remember that you can be arrested if drinking outside, even on campus. You can only drink, if you are over 21 of course, inside designated places, that is restaurants, clubs, bar, etc. that serve alcohol.

There are some rare cases in which outside places obtained the special status that allow you to drink alcohol in them. For example some gardens of bars can reserve a special space for that, with clear signs. Or for example you can drink alcohol in Pacific Beach, San Diego, during the day (not at night).

In private houses over 21 people can drink, but you should double check your apartment policies, especially if you're living on campus. They may accept that you have parties in which of course some alcohol is present, but the also may not.

Driving Under Influence (DUI)

While driving under influence of alcohol or drugs is forbidden in most countries of the world, in the United Stated this rule is strictly enforced and punished. Differently from other countries you can be arrested if DUI and the money you have to pay may reach a very high amount. Here's an extract from the CA Driver's Handbook.

The cost of a drink
If you drink and drive, these are the approximate costs you could pay for a DUI:

Vehicle towing 150 USD
Storage 50 USD per day
Booking, fingerprinting, and photo fee 156 USD
Driver license reinstatement fee 125 USD
Car insurance increase 1000 USD per year
1st offense DUI fine 1588 USD
Assessment for the court system 816 USD
Community service fee 150 USD
DUI victims fund 100 USD
Alcohol abuse education fund 50 USD
DUI classes 550 USD
DUI Victims' Impact sessions 20 USD
Time payment charge 35 USD
Public transportation for one year 500-800 USD

If you use an attorney, the initial consultation could range from 750 USD to 1000 USD.


Remember that if you are under 21, the amount of alcohol they can detect in you blood has to be zero. If you are over 21, there are some thresholds you have to respect. A good way to be sure you're not driving under influence is to give a look to this table. There are some examples, provided by CA DMV.

If you go out at night, you will often find some police car along the way, stopping cars and checking — also — for alcohol. Remember that you cannot have any open alcohol in the car with you. Even if they are close, it's a good idea to keep them in the trunk. It's also very common finding policemen at the entrance of night clubs and bar, especially when they are closing (that is, in California, almost always 1 a.m.).


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