New Zero-Tolerance Law Introduced in the State Senate (Updated)


On March 8, I posted the above entitled blog. I mentioned Assemblywoman, Norma Torres’s AB 2552 which would have made it illegal to drive with any measurable amount of marijuana in the system. One of our readers, Mike Biggans, correctly pointed out that the bill was not defeated as I had incorrectly stated. In fact, the bill was amended to clarify current DUI law by creating separate sections to distinguish between DUI of alcohol, DUI of drugs, and DUI of a combination of both. The amended bill was signed by Governor Brown on September 29, 2012. So, a big thanks to Mike Biggans. An updated version of that post is here:

In June of 2012, I wrote about Assemblywoman, Norma Torres’s proposed zero-tolerance marijuana DUI law, AB 2552. The law would have made it illegal to drive with any measurable amount of marijuana in their systems. Fortunately the bill was eventually amended so as to not arbitrarily target even sober individuals. Although AB 2552 was eventually amended, the misguided assumptions under which AB 2552’s first draft was based on continue to sneak into current legislation.

Senator Lou Correa of Santa Ana has introduced Senate Bill 289 which would make it illegal to drive with any measurable amount of drugs in their system, unless the person has a prescription for it. The proposed law would also exclude people found with medical marijuana in their systems whom have a valid prescription. The bill would add the following language to California’s current DUI laws:

“It is unlawful for a person to drive a vehicle if his or her blood contains any detectible amount of a drug classified in Schedule I, II, III, or IV under the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act…unless the drug was consumed in accordance with a valid prescription issued to the person by a licensed health care practitioner.”

While people may still be charged with a DUI if they are driving under the influence, the bill would allow prosecutors to charge sober individuals who have trace amounts of drugs in their system well after the “high” is gone.  As was the problem with Torres’s proposed law, a person could be charged with a DUI of marijuana weeks under SB 289, sometimes months after having smoked and well after the person was “under the influence.” Other drugs may not stay in the system as long marijuana, but they too can stay in the system well after the person has sobered up.

Another problem with the proposed law is that someone can get charged with a DUI if they drive after taking some cough syrups even if their driving ability remains unaffected. Common pain and fever reducers also land within the prohibited schedules of drugs. I can’t imagine the majority of people not being able to safely operate a vehicle after taking many of the prohibited drugs.

Not surprisingly, supporters of the bill are those who will benefit from it. Supporters include the California State Sheriffs Association, the California Police Chiefs Association, and the California Narcotics Officers Association.

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