California Vehicle Code 23152(g) makes it a crime to drive while under the combined influence of both drugs and alcohol. The offense can be filed even if neither the alcohol nor the drugs, on their own, were enough to cause impairment.
The text of the statute reads:
It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle.
1. What are criminal charges under Vehicle Code 23152(g)?
Vehicle Code 23152(g) VC applies when the motorist’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired due to the combined influence of alcohol and drugs.
When a suspect’s BAC is above the legal limit, police can make a normal drunk driving arrest.
When there is no sign of alcohol impairment, but there is evidence of impairment from drugs, police can make an arrest for DUID under VC 23152(f). However, alcohol and drugs are known to have a synergistic combined effect. So a DUI case where the motorist has consumer borht alcohol and drugs can be particularly strong for the prosecution.
2. What kinds of drugs are covered?
A charge can be based on any drug that impairs someone’s ability to drive.1 It can even be based on drugs a driver is entitled to use, or has been instructed to use by a doctor.2
This includes illicit drugs like:
- cocaine, and
Prescription drugs like:
And over-the-counter drugs like:
- cold medicine, and
- allergy medication.
3. How do police make a drugged driving case?
Unlike with DUI of alcohol, California has no per se limit for the blood concentration of drugs. Cases rely on police officers’ judgment that a motorist is impaired by the drug.
Some police officers have special training in drug recognition. These drug recognition experts play a significant role in DUID investigations. To gauge impairment, they:
- conduct field sobriety tests (FSTs),
- interview the driver,
- note physical symptoms of drug impairment, and
- take a driver’s vital signs.
They can also require a suspected drugged driver to provide a urine or blood sample.
4. What does it mean to “drive” a “vehicle”?
A suspect has to drive a vehicle to be liable under VC 23152(g).
Unlike many other states, California’s DUI law covers vehicles, rather than just motor vehicles. A vehicle is defined as anything that can move on the highway and is not powered by a human rider.3 Examples of a vehicle for PC 23152(g) include:
- motorcycles, and
- electric-powered scooters or bikes.
Vehicles that are not covered by PC 23152(g) include:
- trains, trolleys, or streetcars, and
- non-powered wheelchairs.
Driving a vehicle involves intentionally exerting physical control of it to make it move.4 While movement is necessary, the engine does not have to be on.5 Circumstantial evidence can be used to prove that a DUI suspect was driving the vehicle.6
5. What are some examples?
- Smoking marijuana and drinking beer at a party and then driving home,
- Drinking liquor and taking a sleeping pill before driving, and
- Parking on the side of the road to sleep off the influence of drugs and alcohol.7
6. Are there related offenses?
A number of related offenses often get charged together with 23152(g) VC. These include:
- drunk driving (Vehicle Code 23152(a) PC). Prosecutors often file straight drunk driving charges along with 23152(g). If they cannot prove drug impairment, it lets them fall back on alcohol alone.
- possession of a controlled substance (Health and Safety Code 11350 HS). Police can search a vehicle after impounding it. If they find illegal drugs, the driver can face charges for drug possession.
- vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Penal Code 191.5(b) PC). This charge can follow a fatal accident that leads to a DUI arrest.
7. What are the legal defenses?
Drivers accused of DUI can assert legal defenses. Some of the most common include:
- there are innocent explanations for the signs of drug impairment,
- the driver was not actually drug-impaired, and
- there was no reason for the traffic stop that led to the arrest.
8. What are the penalties?
The penalties for VC 23152(g) convictions are the same as for other DUI offenses. They depend on whether there are:
- prior DUI convictions on the driver’s record,
- injuries or fatalities from a crash before the DUI arrest, or
- any aggravating factors.
Penalties for first offense DUI in California:
- up to 6 months in jail,
- up to 5 years of DUI probation,
- DUI school,
- a driver’s license suspension, and
- fines of $390 to $1000 plus penalty assessments.
- California Criminal Jury Instructions CALCRIM 2110.
- California Vehicle Code 23630.
- California Vehicle Code 670.
- California Criminal Jury Instructions 2241 (“A person drives a vehicle when he or she intentionally causes it to move by exercising actual physical control over it. The person must cause the vehicle to move, but the movement may be slight”). See also Mercer v. Department of Motor Vehicles, 809 P.2d 404 (Cal. 1991).
- People v. Hernandez, 219 Cal.App.3d 1177 (Cal. App. 1990).
- People v. Wilson, 176 Cal.App.3d Supp. 1 (Cal. App. 1985) (a drunk and sleeping driver was the only person in a car parked with its engine running on the side of a freeway).
- People v. Wilson, Supra.