Brief History of California DUI Laws

The first California DUI laws were established in 1911 long before
the state was crowded with over 20 million automobiles and 19 million
licensed drivers. The first state to adopt anti drinking and driving laws
was New York in 1910.

California followed the following year stating that no "intoxicated"
person shall drive. This word "intoxicated" even to this day has proved
to be a ‘slippery pig’ in determining who is drunk (impaired to the
extent that they were not able to operate an automobile safely) and who
is not.

During the 1980’s, various citizens’ groups, most notably Mothers
Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), mobilized public support around the idea
that existing drunk-driving laws were inadequate and that too often the
drunk driver went unpunished or underpunished. The problem before MADD
wasn’t that peace officers weren’t arresting drunk drivers it was that
they weren’t being properly convicted in the courts.

In 1981 the California legislature responded by adopting comprehensive
changes in the law. It was in the decade of the 80’s the majority of
legislation was made into law. Fifty-five pieces of legislation between
the years 1980 and 1986 passed the California legislature and turned into

These changes reflected two concerns:
(1) prosecution and conviction of those arrested for driving under the
influence and
(2) ensuring that blood alcohol levels (.10) were put on the books to
ease the burden
of proving the driver was under the influence.2 This resulted in
mandatory minimum sentences for all offenders including the requirement
that those convicted of a DUI were required to attended education and
counseling classes.

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