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Prescription Drugs and DUI in California

Under California law, it is unlawful for any person to drive a vehicle under the influence of drugs. The fact that any person charged with driving under the influence of drugs is or has been entitled to use the drug is not a defense in California. There is no distinction between ordinary prescription drugs and illicit drugs.

However, California describe a drug as anything that affects the nervous system, the brain, or muscles of the individual as to impair to an applicable degree the ability to operate a vehicle in a manner likes that of an ordinarily prudent and cautious person in full possession of his faculties. If the motorist can show that the drug did not impair her abilities to operate a vehicle, then the substance is not a legitimate “drug” under the driving under the influence of drug statute.

In a prosecution of driving a commercial vehicle under the influence of drugs, it is not enough that the drug could be detected or could impair an individual’s ability. Rather, the prosecutor has to show that the drug actually impaired the motorist’s driving ability. However, a motorist cannot be convicted of driving under the influence of drugs if she is participating in a narcotic treatment program. Moreover, a motorist cannot be convicted of being under the influence of Methadone, Levoalphacetlymethadol, Buprenophrine products or combination products approved by the Food and Drug Administration for opoid dependence, and any other drugs used in connection of a narcotic replacement treatment. If motorist is caught driving under the influence of these drugs and not in a narcotic treatment program, she can be prosecuted for DUI.


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