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California DUI Vehicle Code


VC 23152

Alcohol &/or Drugs


The Vehicle Code book (available at any DMV officer for 3.00) codified in 1935 states the following under its Drinking and Alcohol section.

This section (232152) is the misdemeanor violation.


The difference between a misdeamnor and a felony is: misdeamnor driving under the influence charges means that the charge involved no injury or property damage and the penalty is up to 6 months in jail whereas a felony has injury and the penalty could be as much as up to one year in a state prison.

VC 23152: Alcohol and or drugs:


(a). It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of an intoxicating beverage,

or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage or drug to drive a vehicle.



The problem immediately is what does "under the influence" mean?

The most common understanding of the term is when the person starts to stumble and fall, lose coordination, have slower reaction times, lose the ability to process information, experience visual impairments or go through personality changes.1

Standard Dictionary Definition.

Webster defines intoxicated as being 'elated', hardly a legal definition.

A legal definition, from 1970 states under the influence as:

person is under the influence of intoxicating liquor when as a result of drinking such liquor his physical and mental abilities are impaired so that he no longer has the ability to drive a vehicle with the caution characteristic of a sober person of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances.


The second part of the vehicle code DUI law continues to state in addition to the above "under the influence" paragraph, a driver is also under the influence when:

Paragraph (b) of VC23152 states:

(b) It is unlawful for any person who has a .08 percent or more by weight to drive a vehicle.

This more exacting definition of what under the influence is was put in the vehicle code in 1982 and is considered "per se". When you are arrested for DUI and you must submit to a chemical test, the results of that test can be used as evidence in court. This is called presumptive or prima facie evidence. Technically, prima facie means "at first view." Legally, it means "adequate to establish the fact unless refuted" (proved wrong).

Illegal "per se" law means that no evidence other than the results of a properly obtained chemical test are required to convict the defendant. In other words, if your chemical test results are a .08 (and all else was legal i.e. stop, arrests etc.) your
considered under the influence according to California law.

Legal presumptions about levels of alcohol in the blood are stated in presumptions about under the influence are stated in another law VC 23155.

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