Under California law, it is illegal to drive under the influence of any drug, under Vehicle Code 23152 (f). With the advent of medical and now recreational marijuana, authorities have stressed this section of California DUI law in an attempt to dissuade drugged driving. But it's more than just driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana that can result in a DUI charge. California law defines a drug as any substance other than alcohol that can affect your nervous system, brain, or muscles. As you can see, this covers a very broad group of substances.
Unfortunately, many people aren't aware of this loose definition of “drug” California DUI law recognizes. Some don't realize you can be arrested for a DUI if you are caught driving under the influence of:
- Common sleep aids
- Narcotic pain relievers
- OTC (over the counter) medications such as cough syrup
Any substance that can impair your ability to drive as a sober person would under similar circumstances is considered a “drug” for DUI law purposes. The substance does not necessarily need to be illegal nor does it need to be a street drug. It could even be a drug you take daily for a common health problem with or without a valid prescription. As long as it can impair your driving, you could be charged with a DUID, or driving under the influence of drugs. The base penalties for a DUID are the same as they are for a DUI, but the judge can also order you to undergo drug treatment or submit to periodic drug tests. The judge may impose these additional penalties at his or her discretion.
You may be wondering how the prosecutor can prove you were driving under the influence of a drug. There is no standardized blood test as there is for DUI cases involving alcohol. Nor can a breathalyzer pick up on drug concentrations in someone's blood. Proving a drug impaired someone can be accomplished a few ways. Typically, when an officer suspects you were driving under the influence, he or she may administer a breathalyzer test. If the test indicates you were not under the influence of alcohol, the officer may call a drug recognition expert (DRE). DREs are police officers trained in recognizing drug impairment. They will use a variety of methods to gauge impairment including standardized field sobriety tests, checking your vitals, and taking a blood draw for lab analysis. But some drugs can remain in someone's blood even after the effects have worn off. And even if a drug is detected in someone's blood, how can the prosecutor prove the defendant was under the influence while he or she was driving? All these methods are problematic, which is why DUI cases involving drugs can be so complicated.
Facing charges for a DUID can be just as stressful as facing charges for a DUI. Although you won't have a BAC test result hanging over your head, you could have blood tests or a report from a DRE that claims you were indeed impaired. You need to speak with an experienced California DUI defense attorney if you are facing charges for driving under the influence of any substance. An attorney can help you in a few ways. An attorney can explain what your charges mean and advise you on the penalties the court may impose. He or she can also obtain a copy of the police report and examine the evidence that has been gathered including the results of the DRE's examination and the blood test. Then, your attorney can devise a strategic defense to your charges and help you prepare for court.
You should never face DUI charges alone, no matter the substance you were allegedly impaired by. You need to speak with an attorney to determine the weaknesses in the prosecutor's argument and the strengths you have on your side. Sometimes expert witnesses may need to be called in to argue against the prosecutor's claim that you were impaired or to explain how your blood test results do not necessarily indicate your level of impairment.
If you have questions about DUI charges, call experienced Visalia area DUI defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can advise you of your rights and help you take on DUI charges with confidence. Attorney Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and knows how to defend your rights. 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.