Driving under the influence in California is a crime. While most people associate DUIs with drinking alcohol and driving, you can also get a DUI for driving under the influence of any intoxicating substances, including drugs. Even prescription drugs, like painkillers, can cause intoxication to the point of affecting a driver's reaction time and judgment on the road. Since many Californians frequently take prescription pills such as painkillers, it is important to know the legal ramifications of driving after taking a painkiller. First, not all painkillers will cause intoxication. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like naproxen, are not narcotic nor do they cause impaired judgment. Those that do cause intoxication are usually opiates, which will come with appropriate warnings about taking them before driving on the prescription bottle. Your doctor or pharmacist may also talk to you about the affects of these types of drugs and the affect they can have on your driving. Those that do cause intoxication can impair your driving abilities and thus, could result in you getting a DUI.
Under California law, you can get a DUI, or driving under the influence, charge if you are found to be operating a vehicle while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug. The charge is the same regardless of what substance you were under the influence of. Similarly, the penalties are the same as well. First time DUI offenders in California face fines, up to six months of suspended driving privileges, up to six months in a county jail, an order to complete an alcohol education course and potentially, an order to install an ignition interlock device, or IID, in your car. If your DUI was a result of driving while under the influence of an intoxicating drug, you may be ordered to complete a drug treatment program as well. One big difference between getting a DUI for drug intoxication rather than alcohol intoxication is that with drug intoxication, there is no blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, test given. You may be given a blood test to test the types and amounts of drugs in your system however there is no "legal limit" you are up against. Regardless, California patrols have been successful in identifying offenders who were driving under the influence of drugs. Some officers are trained in drug intoxication detection while others may use your impaired driving as probable cause to arrest you and have you take a blood test to establish the reason for the impairment. Because there is no legal limit when it comes to drug content in your blood stream, your case will hinge heavily on how your driving was impaired.
If you do not believe your driving was impaired or you were given no reason why you were pulled over, consult with an experienced DUI defense attorney right away. The prosecution must prove your driving was impaired in some way. Because drugs stay in your system for different amounts of time than alcohol, and leave your system at varying rates, it is feasible that while you had drugs detected in your blood, your driving was not impaired and you were not intoxicated. A skilled DUI defense attorney will be able to evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case and advise you on any potential defense options you have. When it comes to being intoxicated by painkillers, it must be a painkiller known to cause intoxication. In other words, you cannot get a DUI for driving after taking aspirin or a supplement. It is predominately opiate painkillers that cause intoxication. These often cause symptoms like drowsiness and slow reaction times. These can inarguably affect your driving however again; there must be evidence you were driving impaired in order for you to be legally pulled over. This evidence will most likely be in the police report the arresting officer filled out. This is a good place to start when thinking about possible defenses to DUI charges. Consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand your rights and how the DUI case process proceeds.
If you or a loved one are facing DUI charges, call experienced Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we treat all clients with respect and compassion. Attorney Martens has over 10 years experience in criminal defense and will fight hard for your case. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.