California Vehicle Code 23152(f) Defined
California Vehicle Code 23152(f) (VC 23152(f)) is the law that governs whether you are driving under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance, i.e., a drug like Xanax.
In California, it is legal for a person to drive while on Xanax IF they were legally prescribed the Xanax AND they are not under the influence of the drug.
However, if you illegally obtained the Xanax (i.e., you don’t have a prescription for it), it is always illegal to drive while having ingested Xanax. Ingesting Xanax and driving will result in an automatic Xanax DUI arrest and charge.
What Does ‘Under the Influence’ Mean?
Unlike alcohol, where the legal limit to drive is .08%, there is no legal limit that corresponds to the consumption of Xanax.
Because Xanax can be legally obtained and consumed, it can be confusing to decide whether you are “under the influence” and can’t drive, even though you are legally allowed to ingest Xanax.
Under the Influence means it is a crime for a driver to drive if he or she can no longer drive like a sober person because of taking too much Xanax (or any other drug for that matter).
Xanax Prescription in the Car
Since the law on Xanax possession and after having ingested Xanax is so complicated, it is a good rule of thumb to always have your Xanax prescription on your person. Whether it be in the car, in your purse, or backpack, that way, if you are ever questioned about whether you are in legal possession of the Xanax, you can prove on the spot that you are in legal possession.
Additionally, it is also extremely important to make sure that your Xanax prescription is up to date. An expired Xanax prescription could have the same effects as not having a Xanax prescription at all in the eyes of the law.
An example may be that someone in San Diego is driving, after having legally ingested Xanax, but they begin to weave in and out of lanes on the freeway because the drug has made the driver drowsy and tired. This would be driving under the influence of Xanax and could be the reason for an arrest EVEN THOUGH you are legally prescribed Xanax.
Possession of Xanax without a Prescription
Possession of prescription drugs like Xanax without a valid prescription is treated no differently than possession of other controlled substances.
This is the same if you are found to have someone else’s Xanax prescription. Additionally, depending on the circumstances, you could even open up that other person to criminal liability for illegally giving you their Xanax (i.e., possession with intent to distribute or distribution charges).
Under the California Health and Safety Code 11375, it is a misdemeanor to possess benzodiazepines without a valid prescription. It states:
Every person who possesses any controlled substance specified in subdivision (c), unless upon the prescription of a physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian, licensed to practice in this state, shall be guilty of an infraction or a misdemeanor.
It is punishable up to a year in county jail, a fine, and/or mandatory drug treatment.
Consequences for a Xanax DUI Conviction
A drug DUI or a Xanax DUI is a wobbler offense in California. A “wobbler offense” means that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of a case, such as multiple prior convictions, injuries to others while under the influence, and property damage while under the influence.
If charged as a misdemeanor, penalties for the crime can include jail time, up to five years of probation, a monetary fine, drug treatment, and/or a driver’s license suspension.
If charged as a felony, penalties for the offense can include up to three years in prison, a monetary fine, drug treatment, and/or a driver’s license suspension.