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Drugs and DUI in California

Is it possible in California to get charged with drunk driving (aka “driving under the influence”) if you’re high on drugs instead of intoxicated on alcohol? Absolutely. I’m guessing that that isn’t widely known given the fact that I snapped the above picture on April 21, 2019 on Highway 99 in Merced County, California.

Weirdly, there are several laws that apply here. I’m going to mention four of them.

First, there is California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f). It’s short and sweet. It specifically says: “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle”. You would think that this would be clear enough to not need another law, but you’d be wrong. The problem that arises under Section 23152(f), however, is that there isn’t a specific standard by which “under the influence” of a drug can be proven like it can be with a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08 or more for alcohol intoxication.

To address this problem, California has two additional laws — Vehicle Code sections 23220 and 23221 — which forbid the driver and passenger of a vehicle from using alcohol, marijuana, and marijuana products while the vehicle is being driven.

Lastly, Vehicle Code section 23152(g) makes it “unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle.”

As always, this post is not intended to be a comprehensive discussion of the topic, but I hope you found it helpful nonetheless. If you have a situation involving a drug DUI or other topics described in one of my blog posts, please do find a lawyer in your area and have a discussion about the facts of your case.



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Andy Chen

Andy I. Chen is a lawyer licensed to practice law in California and New York. Andy maintains offices in Los Altos, California and Modesto, California. Under the New York Court of Appeals' 2015 decision in Schoenefeld v. State of New York, Andy does not accept cases from those in New York state. He does, however, know many lawyers in New York state and would be happy to make a referral.

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