One of the more substantive newly-enacted laws affecting the public interest, is AB-2687, which commencing in July 1, 2018, imposes commercial motor vehicle blood alcohol standards on drivers of vehicles for hire. The law passed unanimously through both the Assembly and Senate—reflecting the legislative intent to protect the public. The effect of the law is that it essentially makes Uber drivers, Lyft drivers and cabbies commercial drivers under the law for purposes of driving under the influence.

The affected vehicle code sections are 23152 and 23153. Vehicle Code section 23152 provides that is unlawful for a person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood or a person who is addicted to the use of any drug to drive a vehicle. However, if a person is driving a commercial vehicle, the blood alcohol standard is reduced to that of 0.04.

Vehicle Code section 23153 mandates it is unlawful for a person, while having 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle and concurrently do any act forbidden by law, or neglect any duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle, which act or neglect proximately causes bodily injury to any person other than the driver.

Likewise, if a person is driving a commercial vehicle, the blood alcohol standard is reduced to that of 0.04.

AB-2687 added subsection (e) to each of the affected code section. The Legislative Counsel Digest notes that the new law makes: it unlawful, commencing July 1, 2018, for a person who has 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a motor vehicle when a passenger for hire, as defined, is a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the offense. The bill would also make it unlawful, commencing July 1, 2018, for a person who has 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a motor vehicle, as specified, and concurrently do any act or neglect any duty that proximately causes bodily injury to another person other than the driver.

The reason for the law is one of public service. The Assembly determined that “Taxi drivers and drivers for hire, such as Uber, are providing a commercial service to the public. The government applies different legal standards and regulatory frameworks to commercial service providers of all varieties. Such regulations are in place to ensure public trust and provide consumer protections. A lower limit for drivers of passengers for hire is consistent with those regulatory goals.”

In support of the bill, the Assembly cited the California District Attorneys Association:

“Currently, Vehicle Code section 23152(d) places the legal blood alcohol limit at 0.04 percent for commercial motor vehicle drivers. Neither taxis, nor private vehicles engaged in the commercial transport of passengers, are considered commercial vehicles, and operators are not required to have a commercial driver’s license. Thus, despite engaging in the business of transporting passengers, these drivers are not held to any higher standard of behavior.

“These quasi-commercial drivers present an increased risk to public safety when driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs while carrying passengers for hire. Were they to be involved in a traffic collision, it is likely that their passengers would suffer injury in addition to any injuries inflicted upon pedestrians or occupants of other involved vehicles. This behavior also violates their passengers’ trust that they will be able to get their passengers safely from point A to point B, despite the frequency with which we encourage the use of these alternatives to drinking and driving.”

What does it all mean? The law is explicitly one of zero tolerance: If you are a driver carrying passengers for hire, do not drink alcohol or take drugs. As driver, besides being liable for driving under the influence, you will be held liable for any act or neglect any duty that proximately causes bodily injury to another person other than the driver. DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE!

But if you are a Lyft, Uber or cab driver, don’t face the DUI alone. Even with the more stringent standards, it is always a good thing to seek the services of a good attorney. DUI can be a job killer. Make sure you have someone to defend you if the worst happens.