It is a criminal offense to drive under the influence of drugs in California. You are driving under the influence of drugs when or driving ability is impaired by the use of a particular drug or combination of a drug with alcohol. Whether the drug you consumed is an illegal substance such as cocaine or is a prescription medication, you can get arrested and charged with driving under the influence of drugs. A conviction for DUI in California attracts severe penalties from both the court and the Department of Motor Vehicles. If you are facing charges of DUI drugs, it would be crucial to enlist the help of a competent criminal defense attorney. At Law Offices of Jeff Voll, we serve clients throughout Los Angeles, California, to ensure the most favorable outcome in your case.
Overview of California Vehicle Code 23152
In California, you will be charged with Vehicle Code 23152(f) if you drive while under the influence of a drug. Also, you can be charged with Vehicle Code 23152(g) for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol combined with drugs. For this offense, a drug is defined as any substance that impairs your mental or physical ability to drive. You can be arrested and charged with this offense for driving under the influence of:
- Illegal substances such as heroin and cocaine
- Marijuana which is a legalized drug
- Over the counter medications for medical conditions
- Drugs prescribed by a doctor even when they are not intended to make you “high.”
There is no specific limit for drugs that can match the 0.08% blood alcohol content in California. The concentration of drugs in your system will not be an essential factor in your DUI drugs case. Therefore, it is an offense to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs. Also, you can be arrested for driving while addicted to a drug unless you are undergoing treatment for the addiction.
Arrest and Trial for DUID
The criminal case begins when a traffic officer stops you. If you appear impaired, the officer will begin an investigation. This is by making observations, interrogating you, and performing a field sobriety test. The officer will then proceed to administer a preliminary alcohol screening test to detect the presence of alcohol in your breath. If the alcohol content in your breath does not exceed the legal limit, but you still appear intoxicated, the officer might suspect the use of drugs.
A drug recognition officer who is a trained expert will be called upon to take over the investigations. The drug specialist will carry out a twelve-step evaluation, which may include general observations, repetition of a field sobriety test, and submitting to a blood test. Unless you are on DUI probation, you are not obliged to answer any questions during the investigation. Also, there are no consequences of refusing a drug test unless you are under the age of twenty-one years.
If the officer has a reason to believe that you were under the influence of drugs, you will get arrested and taken into custody. The moment you are detained and not allowed to leave, the officer will read you a Miranda. Even when you have received a breath test, you may be required to submit to a blood test if:
- The officer has an apparent indication that your test results will show the presence of drugs
- There is a reasonable cause to believe that you were driving under the influence of drugs combined with alcohol.
After taking the blood tests, your samples will be taken for analysis to check for the presence of drugs in your system. These results will be used as evidence against you in the criminal case.
At the trial, the arresting officer will give a testimony of your driving conduct. This will include the symptoms you exhibited and your general behavior when you were driving. The drug recognition expert who handled drug investigations will also be required to testify in your case. The results of your blood tests are one of the most significant pieces of evidence in the trial. These results will be presented in the form of a report which indicates the presence and quantity of drugs in your system. All testimonies given will be considered when making a conviction for DUI drugs.
Legal Penalties or a DUID Coition in California
Under California Vehicle Code 23152(e), driving under the influence of drugs is charged as a misdemeanor. However, this offense can be charged as a felony under the following circumstances:
- You have a prior conviction for felony DUI
- You are charged with a fourth or subsequent DUI
- As a result of your DUI, a third party suffered severe bodily injury or was killed
The penalties you receive after a conviction for DUI drugs in California will vary for different cases. Some of the factors that a judge may consider when giving a sentence include:
- Your criminal history including that of DUI or a prior conviction for wet reckless which is a typical plea bargain for DUI
- The circumstance under which you committed the DUI drugs offense
- The possibility of you benefiting from enrollment in a DUI program
- Whether or not a third party suffer injuries as a result of your actions
If there were no injury of a third party, a first DUI drugs conviction would attract the following legal penalties:
- Informal DUI probation for three to five years
- Fines of up to $1,000
- Six months driver's license suspension by the Department of Motor Vehicle
- Mandatory attendance to DUI school for six months
California law is stringent on DUI repeat offenders, and thus a conviction will cause more fines, more extended probation, and DUI school time. Also, with each subsequent offense, you will receive an increased jail sentence and a longer driver's license suspension period. If you are facing DUI drug charges, you will not be eligible for drug diversion programs in California. However, with the help of a competent criminal defense attorney, you can try to get your DUI charges withdrawn.
During an arrest and after getting arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, chemical tests will be administered to determine whether you used drugs. Taking chemical tests is a personal choice. However, if you refuse to submit to the chemical tests, you will face legal consequences, including:
- A mandatory jail sentence less than 48 hours whether or not you get convicted for DUI drugs
- Automatic driver's license suspension by the Department of Motor Vehicles for up to one year.
Defenses against DUI in California
If you are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, it does not always mean that you will get convicted. There are defenses you can present against your case in an attempt to evade the harsh penalties that accompany a conviction for this offense. With guidance from a knowledgeable attorney, you can preset one of the following defenses for DUID:
- There was no probable cause for arrest. During a DUI drug arrest, the arresting officer must have a reason to believe that your conduct was impaired. If you can prove that there was no probable cause for the arrest, you will have a chance to fight your charges.
- The presence of drugs in your system is not a sign of impairment. The way a drug affects a person's system differs between individuals. Also, there is no specific relationship between the amounts of drugs found in your body and your level of impairment. You can claim that although there were drugs in your system, your conduct was not influenced by the drug.
- You can give alternative explanations for a drug like symptoms. When an officer stops you for suspected DUI drugs, there are general signs they look for to quantify your impairment. Most of these will be detected during a field sobriety test. Having a flushed face, reddened eyes, and smell of drugs or alcohol can give the officer a reason to believe that you were under the influence. However, you can argue that these symptoms were caused by other factors such as sickness, fatigue, allergies, or an injury.
- Challenge the accuracy of chemical test results. Results of biochemical tests made from your blood or breath are the most reliable evidence in a DUI criminal case. Several factors can compromise the accuracy of these results, including contamination of equipment or improper storage and handling of the samples. With the help of a criminal defense attorney, you can try to challenge the accuracy of these results.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
The laws of California are stringent on drivers who operate motor vehicles while intoxicated with drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both. You will be arrested and charged under California Vehicle Code 23152(e) if you are driving under the influence of a drug. For DUID, a drug is any substance that impairs your ability to drive like a cautious person. Presetting defenses for DUI drugs in California can be quite complicated. Fortunately, at the Law Offices of Jeff Voll, we are ready to guide you through the case. If you are facing these charges in Los Angeles, California, contact us today at 323-467-6400.