California's Drugged Driving Law

Learn about the laws and penalties for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) in California.

California’s drugged driving law is found at Sec. 23152 of the California Vehicle Code: It states that:

(c) It is unlawful for a person who is addicted to the use of any drug to drive a vehicle. This subdivision shall not apply to a person who is participating in [an approved] narcotic treatment program

(e) It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.

(f) It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle.

In California it’s a crime to drive while impaired from drug use. No blood testing standard is established in California – that is, there is no fixed amount of drugs within the blood system that determines conviction. Whether a driver is impaired is determined on a case-by-case basis and at the discretion of the prosecutor.

California also prohibits driving by someone who “is addicted to the use of any drug” unless the person qualifies as participating in an approved recovery program. “Addicted” refers to emotional and physical dependence on a drug so that it is taken compulsively. See People v. O’Neil, 62 Cal.2d 748 (1965)

What drugs are prohibited?

California’s drugged driving law is directed at the prohibition of controlled substances -- that is, any drug or chemical regulated by the government. A listing of controlled substances regulated by federal law are found at the Drug Enforcement Administration website. It’s not an acceptable defense to a drugged driving charge to claim that the driver is legally entitled to use the controlled substance, and that includes medical marijuana users.

What happens if a driver is convicted of drug impaired driving in California?

A driver arrested for drugged driving in California will be charged with driving under the influence and subject to DUI penalties. A conviction for drugged driving will be considered as a prior offense for purposes of calculating punishment regardless of whether a subsequent offense is due to alcohol or drugs. Read more about California’s DUI laws.

Do California drivers have to submit to drug testing?

Yes, there is an implied consent rule for blood and urine testing for drugged drivers. The refusal to take the test can be admitted into evidence against the driver.

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