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Driving While Addicted

By Aline Miranda on August 26, 2016

Driving while addicted to drugs is unlawful in California under California Vehicle Code 23152(c), regardless of impairment. There is an exception for those participating in an approved drug treatment program.

An individual does not need to be under the influence of a particular drug at the time to be in violation of the law. Driving and being addicted to a drug at that time, are sufficient to prove the violation. The law identifies “drugs” as any substance or combination of substances that could so impair the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a driver that it would impair the individual’s ability to drive. This definition obviously would include illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin, but legal drugs are also included. For example, let’s say an individual becomes addicted to prescription painkillers. Section 23152(c) makes it illegal for that person to drive, whether or not the driver is under the influence while driving.

“Addiction” to is defined by the law as a physical dependency on the drug resulting in withdrawal symptoms if doses are missed, a tolerance to the substance has been developed which requires a larger dose for it to be effective, and the individual has developed an emotional dependence on the drug and is compelled to continue using it. Provided all 3 of these criteria are met, the individual is addicted to a drug, as far as the law is concerned.