Arrested For Drugged Driving? Here is What You Need To Know.
Did you know that in California you can be arrested for driving under the influence of Tylenol PM? The diphenhydramine in this over-the-counter mediation can be deemed to impair your driving enough to charge you with a crime. If this surprises you, then you should spend some time getting educated about California's drugged driving laws.
In California, you can be arrested and charged for drugged driving. This offense is officially known as Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID). It is different from offenses involving alcohol. Educating yourself about these laws will help you to know what to do if you are ever stopped on the road and accused of drugged driving.
If you have been arrested and charged with drugged driving, you will need some quick education about what is going to happen to you. You will also want the help of an experienced attorney. At the Law Offices of Jeff Voll, we can help mitigate the potential consequences and avoid the most serious penalties resulting from a DUID conviction.
What Counts as Drugs?
California Law law defines a drug as any substance other than alcohol that affects your nervous system, brain or muscles. If the substance impairs your ability to drive as well as a sober person, then you can be charged with driving under the influence of drugs.
Any of the follow are considered drugs under California law:
- illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine or heroin
- prescription drugs including some sedating antidepressants, vicoden or oxycodone
- even over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol PM, antihistamines or decongestants
The bottom line is that if the substance impairs your driving, then you are going to be subject to prosecution. It does not matter if you have a prescription or have legally obtained the substance. If it impairs your driving then you can be charged with drugged driving.
The Roadside Stop
If you are pulled over for impaired driving, you will likely be tested for drugs or alcohol. You may be asked to take a field sobriety test, a breath test, a blood test or a urine test. If the police suspect that some kind of drug impairment is involved, they usually bring in a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) to manage the investigation. This person is trained to recognize the biological signals of drug impairment, like dilated pupils.
Keep in mind that you can refuse to submit to these tests in the field. You can only be compelled to take these tests if you are arrested and brought to the police station. Refusing to submit to these tests in the field will not hurt your case if you must go to trial. Submitting to these tests only gives the police more evidence that they have no right to obtain.
Breathe and blood tests can determine the alcohol content in your blood. A blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 means that you can be charged with a typical DUI.
Urine and blood tests are used to determine whether you have drugs in your system. There is no legal limit for the amount of drugs that you may have in your system before you can be charged. This makes it difficult for prosecutors to prove that the presence of drugs led to impaired driving.
Often times, a person may be suspected of both drug and alcohol impairment. If it is suspected that drugs is the primary cause of the impairment, the police will offer a choice between a blood or a urine test. Breathe tests will not be used in these particular cases. If you are offered this choice, you should take a urine test. It is less invasive and readily available.
Penalties for Drugged Driving
If this is your first offense, you will be charged with a misdemeanor. Here are the typical penalties you will face:
- 3 to 5 years on DUI Probation. Standard probation conditions include not driving with a substantial amount of alcohol or drugs in your system, submitting to roadside breathe tests when requested by a police officer and refraining from further violations of the law. If you violate these conditions, a hearing will be held where additional penalties can be imposed.
- Fines that can total $1800.
- Completion of a 3-month DUI school for alcohol treatment.
- Suspension of your driver's license.
These are minimum penalties that assume no one was injured or killed in the incident. If an injury or death occurred, or if this is a second or third offense, the penalties can include:
- Some jail time.
- The installation of a locking device on your car. In order to unlock your car for driving, you must take and pass a breathe test.
- Revocation of your driver's license.
A DUID can be filed as a felony under certain conditions:
- It is your fourth DUI offense.
- You have a prior felony DUI conviction.
- The incident involves the injury or death of a third party.
A felony offense will have the maximum penalties allowed. These include significant jail time, large fines, long alcohol treatment programs, loss of your driver's license for years and even the loss of your car.
Defending Against DUID Charges
If you are charged with DUID, there are defenses available to fight these charges. In fact, drugged driving charges can be quite difficult to prosecute. Here are few, but by no means all, of the defenses that can be used in DUID cases:
- Since there is no legal threshold that constitutes drugged driving, there is no legal point where you are officially impaired. This is not the case with alcohol where there is a specific blood concentration level that constitutes impaired driving. This means that the prosecutor must not only show that you had drugs in your system at the time of your arrest, but he must also show that the levels were enough to impair your driving. Since different drugs react with different people differently, this must be argued on a case by case basis. You can defend yourself by questioning whether the level of drugs you tested for would have really impaired your driving. It is possible to have some drugs in your system and still drive safely.
- Other physical conditions may be mistaken as drug impairment. Exhaustion or anxiety might be to blame for any driving impairment. Drugs may not be responsible. If other innocent conditions may be responsible for any impairment, it is difficult to demonstrate that the drugs were the cause of the impairment.
- Blood and urine samples may be incorrectly collected, stored and tested. This invalidates the results of the test. Often, simply re-testing the sample correctly shows that a mistake was made.
These, and many other defenses, can be used to reduce or drop the charges and mitigate penalties.
In addition to DUID, you can be charged with simply being under the influence of illegal drugs, a violation of the Health and Safety Code. If you are charged with both being under the influence of drugs and DUID, then you will not be eligible for drug rehabilitation programs available for people who are charged only with being under the influence of drugs. This double charge means that you will face a 90-day minimum jail sentence.
If you are facing these dual charges, you will need a defense attorney to help you navigate these issues. Experienced attorneys can often get one or the other charge dropped so that you face lesser penalties. There are often legal issues with the way searches are conducted during the investigation that make the test results invalid. A defense attorney can identify these legal problems with the investigation from the initial traffic stop to the final chemical testing.
Losing Your License
You may have your license suspended for six months if you are convicted of DUID. However, the California DMV will not immediately suspend your license. You can request a DMV hearing within 10 days of your arrest. Doing this reduces the chances of a suspension if you are convicted.
Do You Need a Lawyer for a DUID Arrest?
As you can see, DUID laws are serious and complex. Prosecuting this crime can be difficult. An experienced defense attorney can be of great assistance in presenting your case in the best light. Your attorney will be able to take advantage of the difficulties that this law presents to prosecutors. He may be able to reduce the penalties that you will face and even get the charges completely dropped.
If you are arrested for drugged driving, you will want an experienced attorney like Jeff Voll at your side. Your first step should be to call the Law Offices of Jell Voll at 323-467-6400 for a free consultation about your case.