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What does "driving while addicted" mean in California?

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Everyone knows it is unlawful to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Did you know that in California, it is also illegal to drive a vehicle if you are addicted to a drug? This law is intended to keep people safer on the roads by preventing addicts from driving.

Driving while addicted to a drug: The thought behind the law

Safety is a high priority in California. Many states do not have laws stopping people who are addicted to drugs from driving, but in California, the law addresses the situation directly. The reasoning is this: If someone is addicted to a drug, he or she may feel withdrawal symptoms or have an altered state of consciousness. This makes it unsafe to drive.

Despite the new law that is meant to protect you from careless and negligent drivers, it can be tough to prove that a driver's drug addiction caused you to be harmed in an accident.

Proving a personal injury claim

Law enforcement officials have to prove that a person suffers from addiction, which can be difficult to do. To start with, the driver must show signs of being dependent on the drug emotionally as well as physically. He or she must have the compulsive urge to keep using the drug.

Prosecutors also must show that the person has a tolerance for the drug and requires more potent or frequent dosages to sustain the effects. Finally, the prosecution has to show physical dependency with withdrawal symptoms. Failing to show any of these would mean the defendant could not face accusations of driving while addicted.

What about the lawful use of medical marijuana?

Marijuana was made legal in California on Jan. 1, 2018, but that doesn't mean that it's legal to drive a vehicle in the state while under the influence. Just like alcohol or prescription medications, which could result in intoxication or impairment, using marijuana before driving can lead to an accident.

If you were hurt because of a driver's negligence -- whether due to DUI or DWI -- it is not impossible to prove that you have a right to compensation for your losses.

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