Drugs and DUIs
When it comes to California DUI laws, driving under the influence of many substances is illegal. Alcohol is just one of these, albeit a very common one. Many other controlled substances, such as over the counter drugs, illicit drugs or even prescription drugs have the potential to affect a person's ability to drive as safely and with as much caution as a sober person would under similar circumstances. For California DUI laws, a “drug” is considered any substance other than alcohol that affects your brain, nervous system or muscles, as these are the systems that have the most potential to affect someone's ability to drive. But proving a substance other than alcohol intoxicated someone can sometimes be difficult. How does the prosecutor prove this? What kinds of evidence do they need to convict someone? And are there any defenses that can be raised? These are the types of questions I receive every day from people who are facing DUI charges for driving under the influence of drugs.
Where's the Proof?
Testing for alcohol is relatively easy. An analysis of a blood, breath or urine sample is typically enough to establish a blood alcohol concentration (BAC). These tests are relatively simple, quick and produce results accurate enough to be used as evidence in court. There is no breath test for drugs, however, and many drugs can remain in someone's blood or urine for many days after ingestion, making even the most clinically rigorous of tests unreliable at best. Nevertheless, drug tests are the predominate method of producing evidence that someone was driving under the influence of drugs. The prosecutor must provide evidence that the person was impaired to the point of being unable to drive safely.
Typically, a blood sample will be drawn from anyone arrested under suspicion of driving under the influence of a drug. Blood analyses are relatively reliable and are used in alcohol DUI cases as well. But, just as in alcohol DUI cases, the blood must be drawn according to strict regulations to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the results. Furthermore, a blood test can only show the presence of a drug in someone's body. Blood test results cannot determine the specific level of intoxication or, in some cases, even when the person took that drug. Without knowing these two crucial elements, it is difficult to prove that person was driving under the influence of drugs.
In some cases, someone pulled over under suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs might undergo an evaluation by a drug recognition expert (DRE). DREs are trained to observe signs of impairment by any number of substances. They look for signs such as dilated pupils, abnormal vitals and central nervous system impairment. Results of such an evaluation or from a standardized field sobriety test (SFST) can be used as evidence in your case.
It is important to understand that how you drive alone is not enough to establish you were driving under the influence of a drug. Nor are the results from evaluations by DREs always sufficient to prove impairment to the point you were unable to drive as a sober person could under normal circumstances. It is typically a combination of observations from the arresting officer and a DRE and, in most cases, a blood test that comprises the prosecuting attorney's argument.
Consult with an experienced California DUI defense attorney if you have been arrested and are facing charges for DUI drugs, also known as DUID charges or drugged driving. These types of cases can be very complex because even perfectly legal drugs such as cold medicine or sleep aids have the potential to affect your ability to drive. Whether you were allegedly under the influence of alcohol or drugs, an attorney can help you identify the weaknesses in the case and craft a strategic defense to your charges.
If you are in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area and have questions about DUI charges, call experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you take on DUI charges with confidence. Attorney Martens has over ten years of criminal defense experience and will fight hard for your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.