California Vehicle Code Section 23152(c):
Driving While Addicted to Drugs

While it is widely understood that it is against the law to drive while under the influence of alcohol under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a), and many people further understand that driving while under the influence of a drug is similarly illegal under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) VC, many fail to realize that it is also unlawful to drive while addicted to a drug under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(c) VC. While violations of this Vehicle Code section are not commonly prosecuted, driving while addicted is still a criminal offense in California and conviction can lead to significant penalties.



California Vehicle Code Section 23152(c) reads:

(c) It is unlawful for a person who is addicted to the use of any drug to drive a vehicle. This subdivision shall not apply to a person who is participating in a narcotic treatment program approved pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 11875) of Chapter 1 of Part 3 of Division 10.5 of the Health and Safety

Under Vehicle Code 23152 (c), “it is unlawful for a person who is addicted to the use of any drug to drive a vehicle” but at the same time this does not apply on people who are “participating in a narcotic treatment program approved pursuant to Article 3”

In order to establish that the defendant was driving while addicted to a drug, the following elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) The defendant drove a vehicle AND (2) when he or she drove, the defendant was addicted to a drug.

A drug is defined as a substance or combination of substances, other than alcohol, that can so affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person that it would appreciably impair his or her ability to drive as an ordinarily cautious person, in full possession of his or her faculties and using reasonable care, would drive under similar circumstances.

  • A person is addicted to a drug if he or she:
  • Has become so physically dependent on the drug that he or she would suffer withdrawal symptoms if deprived of it
  • Has developed a tolerance to the drug’s effects and therefore requires higher and stronger doses
  • AND has become emotionally dependent on the drug and experiences a compulsive need to continue its use.


A conviction for driving while addicted will be treated like any other DUI offense and sentencing will depend on how many prior DUI convictions the defendant has. A defendant on a first time offense will be sentenced to a maximum six months in jail, in addition to a mandatory drug and alcohol education class, court fines, DMV license suspension and any other conditions of probation that a judge may elect to impose. A minimum of 48 hours in jail must be imposed on a first time conviction for California Vehicle Code Section 23152(c) VC.


California’s law against driving while addicted to a drug is difficult to enforce and is rarely enforced. But that doesn’t mean it is never enforced. Prosecutors are most likely to hit a person with VC 23152(c) charges if that person already has a number of DUI priors and if they had hoped to charge him or her with VC 23152(f) driving under the influence of drugs–but didn’t have the right evidence to make that charge stick.

Common legal defenses that you and your DUI defense attorney can use to fight charges of addicted driving include:

You are not actually addicted to a drug

Everybody knows that there is a lot of gray area in defining who is addicted to a drug and who is not. Casual use of a drug, even if that use is frequent, is not the same thing as addiction.

If the prosecutor does not have hard evidence that you meet the legal definition of a drug addict under Vehicle Code 23152(c) VC, you are not guilty of that crime.

You were enrolled in a drug treatment program at the time of your arrest

California’s law against driving while addicted to a drug makes a clear exception for people who are enrolled in a narcotic treatment program. Enrollment in such a program at the time you were caught driving is an ironclad legal defense to VC 23152(c).


If you have been charged with a Los Angeles DUI offense it is very important to consult with an experienced Los Angeles DUI Attorney as soon as possible. There are tight deadlines in every DUI case, especially in regard to driver’s licenses, and retaining an attorney early on can make a significant difference.

With many years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles DUI Attorney Chris Nalchadjian is highly effective at fighting all aspects of DUI charges. Mr. Nalchadjian understands the consequences a DUI conviction can carry and works hard to ensure his clients receive the best representation possible.

For more information about driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles DUI Attorney Chris Nalchadian at KN Law Firm. We can be reached 24/7 at 888 950 0011 or through this contact form.

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