California DUI Laws: Loss of License Due to Driving and Drugs

Much of what has been said about alcohol also applies to drugs (both
legally prescribed medicines and illegal drugs). The state’s drunk
driving law is also a drug driving law since it refers to "driving under
the influence of alcohol and/or drugs."

California DUI law does not have to say which drugs are involved. Many medicines can affect the way one drives. Alcohol can enhance some of the dangerous side effects of many drugs, even those that are prescribed by your physician or purchased over the counter. It is important that you check with your physician or pharmacist before driving after taking any medication.

Almost any drug can affect a person’s driving skill. This is true of
prescription drugs, drugs you can buy over the counter, or illegal drugs.
Here are some facts:

Most drugs taken for headaches, colds, hay fever, al lergy, or to calm
nerves can make a person drowsy and this can affect his or her

Taking any drug can affect safe driving. Medicines taken together, or
used with alcohol can be dangerous. Drivers should ask their physician or
pharmacist about how any medicine may affect their driving. Many drugs
have unexpected effects when they are taken with alcohol. Drugs and
alcohol should never be used at the same time.

Pep pills, "uppers," and diet pills can make a driver more alert for a
short time. Later, however, they can cause a person to be nervous, dizzy,
and not able to concentrate. They can also affect vision.

Make sure you read the label and know the effects of any drug you use.
If it is a common drug, read the label. Any drug that "may cause
drowsiness or dizziness" is one you should not take before driving.

Any drug (and the California DUI laws do not distinguish between prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs) which impairs your driving is illegal. If an officer suspects that you are under the influence of drugs, the officer can require that you take a blood or urine test. Persons refusing these tests will be subject to the same license suspensions and revocations as for alcohol test refusals. Anyone convicted of possessing, selling, or manufacturing illegal drugs will be subject to a six-month suspension.


When you drive in California, you consent to take a test of your
blood, breath, or urine if you are arrested for driving under the
influence of alcohol or drugs, or both. A breath test is also required if
you are under 21 years of age and detained because the officer believes
you have been drinking any amount of alcohol. If you have a BAC of 0.08%
or more, or under age 21 and have a BAC of 0.05% or more, or you refuse,
or fail to complete a test, the peace officer will take away your
license, and at the same time serve you with an order of suspension or
revocation. The suspension or revocation takes effect in 30 days. Within
that 30-day period, you can request a hearing. However, a stay of the
action will be granted only if the hearing is requested within 10 days
after the date on the order and the department cannot provide a hearing
before the effective date of the action. The issues at the hearing are
only the facts related to the arrest or detention and the tests, not
whether or not you need a driver license.

If you are arrested because a police officer suspects you have alcohol
or drugs in your body, you will be required to take a test to see if it
is true. You must choose which one of the three kinds of tests will be
used. (But if you are suspected of being under the influence of a drug,
you may be required to take a blood or urine test.) If you are taken to a
clinic or hospital for medical reasons and it does not have all three
tests, you must take one of the tests avail able. You do not have the
right to talk to a lawyer or to have one present before deciding on the
test, or during the test.

The suspension or revocation is independent of any jail, fine, or
other criminal penalty imposed in court for the driving under the
influence offense.

How Long Will I Be Suspended Or Revoked?

If you did not take, or you failed to complete, a chemical test:

  • First offenseSuspended 1 year.
  • Second offense in 7 years Revoked 2 years.
  • Three or more offenses in 7 yearsRevoked 3 years.

If you took a chemical test or a breath test and the test showed 0.08%
or more, or 0.05% BAC or more, if under 21 years old:

  • First offenseSuspended 4 months.
  • One or more prior offenses in 7 yearsSuspended 1 year.

Zero Tolerance Law

California DUI laws are stricter for drivers under 21 years of age. The law requires a person under 21 to take a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test if a peace officer believes the person had been drinking. This test is administered at the scene using a hand-held PAS device.

If the person’s BAC is 0.01% or higher or the person refuses to take,
or fails to complete, a PAS, DMV will suspend the person’s driving
privilege for one year.

If there is no PAS device available, the person can choose between a
blood, breath, or urine test to determine the BAC level and if the BAC is
0.05% or more, the person may be arrested for driving under the
influence. The penalties mentioned above will then apply.

Restricted License

A restricted license (only for first offense of 0.08% BAC or more) can
be issued following a 30-day suspen sion of the driving privilege if a
chemical test was taken and you were 21 years of age or older when the
offense occurred.

You may obtain a restricted license for driving to and from a state
licensed DUI program or you may obtain a five-month restricted license to
operate to and from work and driving during the course of employment and
to and from the activities of a DUI program if you:

  • Submit evidence of enrollment in a DUI program.
  • File proof of insurance and maintain it for three years.
  • Pay all applicable fees.

Ignition Interlock

An ignition interlock is a hand-held breath testing device which is
connected to the vehicle and requires the driver to take a breath test
for alcohol each time the vehicle is started. A court may require a
driver to install such a device if the driver is convicted of driving
under the influence once. The court must require a driver to install such
a device if the driver is convicted of driving under the influence more
than once. The device must stay on the vehicle during the time the driver
is suspended or revoked plus one to three years afterwards. The driver
must pay for having the device installed and for having it checked every
two months to be sure it is still working properly.


Your license can be taken away if you break the law or become an
unsafe driver.

When you are stopped by a police officer and cited for a traffic law
violation, you sign a promise to appear in traffic court. There you may
plead guilty or not guilty, or you may forfeit (pay) bail. Paying bail is
the same as a guilty plea.

If you ignore the traffic ticket and don’t keep your promise to appear
in court, the failure to appear (FTA) goes on your driver record. If you
fail to pay a fine (FTP), the court will notify DMV and this will also
show on your driver record. Even one FTA or FTP will cause the depart
ment to suspend your license. Ending the suspension will cost you a
reinstatement fee of $15.

Each time you are convicted of a moving traffic law violation, the
court notifies the DMV. A record of this conviction is placed in your
driver license file.


The department keeps a public record of all your traffic convictions
and accidents. Each occurrence will stay on your record for 36 months or
longer, depending on the type of conviction. A traffic conviction for
driving unsafely counts as one point.

Any "at fault" accident is normally counted as one point.

Two points are charged against you if you are convicted of reckless
driving, of driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs, of hit-and-run
driving, of evading a peace officer, of driving while suspended or
revoked, or of driving on the wrong side of the road. This list is not
all -inclusive.

If you get too many "points," you will lose your driver license.

Remember, the more traffic convictions you have, the more likely you
are to have an accident.

You may be considered a NEGLIGENT OPERATOR of a motor vehicle when
your driving record shows any one of the following "point count"
regardless of your license class:

  • 4 points in 12 months
  • 6 points in 24 months
  • 8 points in 36 months

If you receive certain convictions while operating a commercial
vehicle, you will be charged 11/2 times as many points. Refer to the
California Commercial Driver Handbook for additional information.

Are you in need of a California DUI Lawyer?

DUI Attorneys |