January 16, 2014 By Matthew Wallin

On Jan. 1, 2014, changes to driving under the influence laws went into effect in California. Due to a rise in DUI arrests involving drugs, these changes primarily reflect legislative intent to identify, regulate and control “drugged” driving, including impaired driving as a result of drugs that may be:

  • Legally prescribed by a physician (including medical marijuana);
  •  Obtained over the counter; and/or
  • Illegal to possess, such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and ecstasy.

What Changes Were Made to Existing California DUI Laws?

California DUI laws
A number of new California DUI laws have been put into effect in 2014.

Vehicle Code Section 23152 makes it unlawful to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants such as alcohol or drugs. Vehicle Code Section 23153 makes it unlawful to drive under the influence and cause injury or serious injury to anyone other than the driver.
California DUI laws were reorganized for 2014 to distinguish between:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol;
  • Driving under the influence of a drug; and
  • Driving under the influence of a combination of alcohol and a drug.

Additionally, it is still unlawful to do any of the following:

  • Drive under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or more;
  • Drive a vehicle if you are addicted to the use of any drug, unless you are participating in an approved narcotic treatment program; and
  • Drive a commercial vehicle with a BAC of .04 percent or more.

These separate offenses were already unlawful under the former law. However, it is now easier for police to identify drugged as opposed to drunk driving and charge you with what is commonly referred to as a “DUID” or Driving Under the Influence of Drugs.

If a required chemical test comes back positive for a controlled substance, you can be charged with DUID even if the drugs in your system were consumed at an earlier date. Evidence of impairment from use of medications purchased over the counter may also be used against you. In such cases, you may have been technically “under the influence” at the time of your arrest.

A prosecutor still bears the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

What Is a Drug?

California Vehicle Code Section 312 defines a “drug” as follows:

“any substance or combination of substances, other than alcohol, which could 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.”

Under this definition, a drug could be:

  • A prescribed drug such as Vicodin, Tylenol with Codeine, Ambien or Xanax;
  • An over the counter medication like Benadryl or Excedrin PM;
  • Any illegal substance.

The important thing to remember is that driving under the influence of a drug can impair your ability to safely drive a vehicle just like alcohol.

How Do the Changes in California DUI Laws Affect Californians?

Drugged driving is more common on California roads and highways than drunk driving, according to a 2012 study commissioned by the California Office of Traffic Safety.

The survey of more than 1,300 anonymous volunteers showed that 14 percent of drivers tested positive for drugs that may impair driving compared to just 7.3 percent who tested positive for alcohol. Of those who tested positive for drugs, marijuana was the most prevalent at 7.4 percent, slightly more than alcohol.

“These results reinforce our belief that driving after consuming potentially impairing drugs is a serious and growing problem,” Office of Traffic Safety Director Christopher Murphy said in a statement.

Consequences of Driving Under the Influence in California

Penalties for driving under the influence remain unchanged. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you still face:

  • 3-5 years Probation;
  • Up to one year in jail;
  • $390 to $1,000 in fines (and an additional “penalty assessment” that can triple your fine);
  • A mandatory minimum 6-month suspension of your driver’s license;
  • A mandatory minimum 3-month alcohol education program (“DUI school”); and
  • Attendance at a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (“MADD”) panel;

As before, prior DUI convictions within 10 years count against you and increase mandatory minimum sentencing, the length of your driver’s license suspension and the length of your alcohol education program.

Felony charges may apply if anyone other than the driver was injured or seriously injured as a result of a DUI- related accident and/or you have 3 or more prior DUI convictions within a 10-year period.

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today if You are Facing Drunk or Drugged Driving Charges

If you or someone you know has been arrested for driving under the influence, you should speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney at Wallin & Klarich today.
A DUI conviction is not always an easy case for the prosecutor to make. Using an effective defense strategy specifically tailored to the facts of your case, we may be able to get the charges against you reduced or dismissed altogether. We can help you minimize the consequences and get you the best possible long term result.

Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience fighting for the rights of our clients. With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, Wallin & Klarich has been successful defending thousands of clients charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.

Your Answer


  1. My brother said that he got a letter in the mail stating that he has to take a class or pay a fine for drunk driving charges for an offense that was resolved over a year ago due to a recent law passed by Obama. Is that true? I never heard of such a thing.

    1. Hi Debra,

      If your brother’s case was resolved and he has completed all necessary punishment that was ordered by the court, there should be no additional penalties he faces. If you wish to discuss your brother’s case in further detail, please contact us at (877) 466-5245 for free phone consultation.

      Thank you

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