Changes to DUI laws for rideshares and marijuana use

Two new DUI laws, affecting marijuana use and rideshares, go into effect in California in 2018.

Drivers in California should be aware of some changes that were recently made to the state's driving under the influence (DUI) laws and other changes that could be forthcoming. As NBC Los Angeles reports, two new DUI laws go into effect in 2018: one lowers the blood alcohol limit for rideshare, taxi, and limo drivers while the other prohibits both drivers and passengers from consuming marijuana while in a car. Another proposed law is being considered that could see drivers under 21 lose their license for a year if they are caught with marijuana in their system.

Lower alcohol limits for rideshares

On July 1, 2018, Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare drivers will have to abide by stricter DUI laws than other motorists. On that date AB 2867 goes into effect, which lowers the blood-alcohol content (BAC) threshold for drivers of passengers for hire services (which includes rideshare, taxis, and limousines) to 0.04 whenever that driver has a passenger inside the vehicle. For most other motorists, the BAC limit is 0.08. Those who violate the law could lose their license for a year while those with commercial licenses (such as taxi drivers) could have those licenses disqualified.

Marijuana prohibited in vehicles

Another law, SB 65, tackles the issue of marijuana use in vehicles. The law makes it illegal for either passengers or drivers to consume marijuana in any way while in a moving vehicle. Violators will have negligent driver points added to their records, which could lead to higher insurance premiums and even a suspended license. SB 65 went into effect on January 1, 2018, the same day recreational marijuana use became legal in California.

Marijuana use in young drivers

Finally, SB 1273, which has not yet become law and is still being debated by lawmakers, would impose a "zero tolerance" marijuana policy on young drivers if passed. The proposed law would see drivers under 21 who test positive for marijuana in their systems lose their license for a year. Exceptions would be made for those who use marijuana for medical purposes. The bill may have problems being enforced, however, since testing positive for THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) does not actually prove that a driver is impaired. THC can remain in a driver's system for weeks after the marijuana was actually consumed and long after its impairing effects have worn off.

Criminal defense

The new laws are a reminder that anyone who has been charged with a criminal offense, especially a DUI, should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can assist clients during this difficult time, including informing them of what their rights are and aggressively defending them both in and out of court.