2014 California Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Laws Change

Feb 7, 2014 @ 12:00 PM — by Myles L. Berman

The state of California has expanded its focus to “drugged driving” opposed to “drunk driving” and on January 1, 2014, changes to driving under the influence laws (Sections 23152 and 23153 of the Vehicle Code) went into effect.  With the prevalence of drivers driving under the influence on California roads and highways rising, these changes were implemented in efforts to make it more distinguished for law enforcement to identify and ultimately increase the prosecution of drug impaired driving cases with“DUID” or Driving Under the Influence of Drugs.

Preceding Vehicle Code Section 23152 law, which became inoperative on January 1, 2014, prohibited a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, or who has 0.08% or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood, or who is addicted to the use of any drug, to drive a vehicle. Vehicle Code Section 23153 made it unlawful to drive under the influence and cause injury or serious injury to anyone other than the driver.

The section (e) that became operative on January 1, 2014 makes it unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a motor vehicle.  With this separation of the vehicle codes, what was “any detectable amount of a drug” is now “any drug” classified in Schedules I, II, III, or IV of the California Uniform Controlled Substance Act.  California Vehicle Code Section 312 defines a “drug” as, “any substance or combination of substances, other than alcohol, which could so affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person as to impair, to an appreciable degree, his ability to drive a vehicle in the manner that an ordinarily prudent and cautious man, in full possession of his faculties, using reasonable care, would drive a similar vehicle under like conditions.”  However, this not only includes illegal narcotics and stimulants, but also even legal prescriptions, herbs, and over-the-counter drugs

The subsequent section (f) makes it unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a motor vehicle. 

The State and lobbyists are arguing that drugged driving decreases ones judgment, motor skills, and memory and increases inhibition and reaction time, resulting in crashes, injuries, and even fatalities.  With a heightened effect of both when in combination with alcohol, the danger presented while driving under the influence of drugs must be recognized and curbed, as it poses a serious threat to public safety. 

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), the incidence of drugs in fatal crashes, both alone and in combination with alcohol, has increased steadily over the past few years.  A 2012 roadside survey commissioned by OTS used data collection procedures to study and provide a prevalence estimate for alcohol and drug use among drivers.  The conclusion indicated a spiked trend of drug impaired driving cases.  With the increased awareness of this rising problem, OTS, California Highway Patrol, and other law enforcement agencies are teaming up to federally fund and provide advanced training and drug recognition programs for officers.   

Driving under the influence penalties remain unchanged, but involve a muddle of statutes.  Punishment including but not limited to probation, jail time, fines, an alcohol education program, driver’s license suspension/restriction, and an ignition interlock device may be imposed for all convicted drivers, even first-time offenders.

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