DUI with drugs is driving while your brain, nervous system or muscles are significantly impaired by drugs, to an extent that you are unable to drive with the same caution as a sober person. The drugs can either be legal, illegal, prescription or over-the-counter medications. DUI with drugs has increasingly become a safety concern across California and prosecutors are pushing for more arrests and convictions. If you are arrested for DUI with Drugs in or around Van Nuys and Los Angeles, CA, you may need the expert services of Leah Legal. We will represent and help you avoid potential jail time, hefty fines and other possible consequences.
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DUI With Drugs Under California Laws
California law defines a drug as any substance or mixture of substances except alcohol, which can affect your muscles, brain, or the nervous system, and noticeably impair your ability to drive like a reasonably cautious person would do under similar conditions. Such substances include illegal drugs like methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine, legal drugs like marijuana, over-the-counter drugs such as cold medicines and antihistamines, and prescription medications even when they do not intoxicate you. Any medication affecting your muscles, brain or nervous system can lead to charges of DUI with drugs, even when it is necessary for your health.
The California Vehicle Code 23152(f) prohibits you from operating an automobile while under the influence of drugs. It is also illegal for you to drive while under the influence of both drugs and alcohol under Vehicle Code 23152(g). Experts are yet to come to a consensus on the exact level of drug concentration in the bloodstream that would make you too compromised to drive. Therefore, California has no legal limit for drugs and any amount present in your blood can result in charges of DUI with drugs. Whether the drug was legally prescribed or not is irrelevant. If it impaired your driving abilities, you may be prosecuted for DUI with drugs.
Although drug possession is an infraction under California laws, you may be arrested for DUI with drugs if a law enforcement officer suspects you of driving after using the drugs. You, however, cannot be prosecuted for being under the influence based only on a positive drug test except if you are on probation. There must be evidence that the drug impaired your ability to drive. Such evidence includes your driving demeanor and conduct as observed by the arresting officer. Additionally, a testimony by a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) that preliminary tests indicated the presence of drugs can be corroborated by a positive urine or blood test. A DRE is a specially trained law enforcement officer who identifies any individual who has ingested narcotics.
The Arrest Process
A DUI with drugs investigation often starts at a traffic stop if you appear impaired. The officer will question you about your drug use and look for physical symptoms of drug use. He will also check for any visible drugs in the vehicle. The officer might request for a DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) if available, to assess you at the scene. The DRE will interview both you and the arresting officer and conduct physical tests and thereafter, urine or blood tests. Physical tests include checking your eye movement, pupil size, muscle tone, pulse rate, track marks and traces of narcotics in the nostrils and mouth.
The DRE will determine whether you have taken any drug and if positive, the type of drug it might be. During the investigation, you are legally permitted to exercise your right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment. You do not have to answer any questions from the DRE. There are no consequences if you refuse to submit to a chemical test before you are arrested.
If an officer finds probable cause for your arrest, you may be apprehended. The officer will read you your Miranda rights once you are in custody, and if they want incriminating answers to their questions. However, they do not necessarily have to read a Miranda warning if seeking the same answers before your arrest. You will be required to take a blood test if the officer reasonably believes that you were driving under the influence of drugs or marijuana.
Under California’s “implied consent” law, if you are lawfully arrested, you must submit to a urine or blood test when requested by a law enforcement officer. If you refuse the test, you may face enhanced penalties upon your conviction of DUI with drugs. Additionally, if you are unconscious or you were arrested for causing an accident, the arresting officer may obtain a warrant for an involuntary blood draw.
The blood sample is sent for a blood toxicology screen which lists any drugs detected in your system. The screen indicates whether you tested negative or positive for drugs but does not indicate the amounts detected. If you test positive for one or more drugs, quantitative analysis of your blood sample specifies the amount of each substance in your blood.
Although results of blood tests are not conclusive, the prosecutor can use them to prove the presence of drugs in your system, amounts present and sometimes, a timespan within which you may have consumed the drug. Since these do not prove impairment, the prosecutor will rely on testimonies of expert witnesses, and observations of the arresting officer and of the DRE. You may still face DUI with drugs charges if you were impaired after legally using prescription drugs or marijuana.
What to Expect at Your Trial
First, the arresting officer testifies about why he or she perceived that you were impaired. The reasons given may include your unsafe manner of driving and your physical signs of intoxication. Often, the arresting officer will testify that you were not driving with alertness typical of a sober person. The officer will also testify that you exhibited signs of inebriation such as an unsteady gait, slurred speech, a flushed face, and red, watery eyes. If you took a breathalyzer test that produced negative results, the officer will testify that he or she suspected that your symptoms of impairment were from drugs. This piece of testimony will be valuable for the prosecutor if you claim a lack of probable cause for your DUI with drugs arrest.
Second, the DRE will testify and this testimony will be the most valuable evidence in your DUI with drugs case. Training of DREs includes techniques to effectively testify in court. The district attorneys’ office also works with DREs to make their testimony persuasive. Therefore, DREs usually appear very polished and professional.
The DRE will testify about his or her extensive training and qualifications and their three main responsibilities. These responsibilities are; confirming that your impairment was not a result of alcohol only, confirming that you were under drugs and not a medical condition, and concluding that you had taken a specific category of narcotics. To prove impairment, the DRE will testify about the evaluation process and focus on evidence that supports the conclusion about the type of drugs that impaired you.
Third, the prosecution will introduce your blood test results. The results include a toxicology screen to prove the presence of drugs and a quantitative analysis report that shows the amounts of drugs detected. An expert witness will testify about studies indicating that impairment can be caused by the level of drugs in your system.
What the Prosecutor Must Prove
To sustain charges of DUI with drugs against you, the prosecutor must prove that you were driving, you drove while under the influence of a drug and that you were impaired while driving. Often, your case will depend on observations of the arresting officer that imply impairment. However, indications of drug-related impairment can result from other factors like fatigue or medical conditions.
Even if your blood sample tests positive for a controlled substance, that does not prove that you were impaired. Drugs metabolize differently in different people. Even if you were driving with a drug in your system, the prosecutor must provide evidence of impairment like erratic driving.
Penalties for DUI With Drugs
Under California Vehicle Code 23152(f) DUI with drugs is a misdemeanor. It becomes a felony if it is your fourth or subsequent DUI, or if you have a previous conviction for even a single felony DUI. DUI with drugs is also charged as a felony if you killed or seriously injured a third party or if it is your third or subsequent DUI with injury. Generally, the consequences of DUI with drugs depend on the number of your previous convictions. For purposes of determining punishments, any form of a previous DUI is considered a prior.
For a first-time DUI with drugs with no injuries to a third party, penalties include a jail term of not more than six months, a fine of between $390 and $1000, and a DMV license suspension for not less than six months. However, you may receive informal DUI probation for between three and five years or DUI School for a minimum of three months in lieu of jail time.
For a second DUI with drugs conviction within 10 years, you will receive a jail term of between 90 days to one year, a minimum fine of $390, suspension of your driver’s license for two years and complete a DUI program. Under Vehicle Code 23542, you may be eligible for probation but only after serving a mandatory 96 hours in jail.
A third DUI with drugs offense within a 10-year period carries a penalty of 120 days to one year in jail, $390 minimum fine, your driver’s license is suspended for three years, completion of a minimum 30 months of DUI program and a three-year designation of a habitual traffic offender after your conviction. You must serve at least 30 days in jail before you qualify for probation.
Your fourth or subsequent DUI with drugs crime within 10 years is a charged as a felony. The penalties include 16 months to four years in jail, or jail time for between 180 days to one year and a fine of between $1000 and $5000. Additionally, you may be designated as a habitual traffic offender for three years following your conviction and your driver’s license suspended for four years.
If you have any prior felony DUI convictions in the previous 10 years, you may go to jail for one year and pay a $390 minimum fine. Your driver’s license may be revoked for four years and you may receive a three-year habitual traffic offender label following your conviction. If your DUI with drugs injured a third party, you may receive stiffer penalties.
Other than jail time, license suspension and fines, there are other consequences of DUI with drugs convictions.
Since DUI with drugs is a crime, you will have a criminal record that appears on background checks for housing or employment. If a job involves driving, a potential employer may be unwilling to hire you. If you hold a commercial driver’s license, you will lose it temporarily after a conviction which may interfere with your income.
A DUI with drugs conviction on your record may lead to higher insurance premiums for your car. Your insurance carrier will decide whether to raise the premium and by how much based on their internal formulas. In case of a license suspension, you must purchase an SR22 certificate before your license is reinstated. An SR22 certificate is evidence of your minimum liability coverage. To get the SR22, you may have to purchase high-risk insurance which increases your premiums.
Common Defenses Against DUI With Drugs Charges
You can use several defenses to fight your charges of DUI with drugs. Some of the defenses relate to the arrest procedures as required by law. You may argue that there lacked a probable cause for the arresting officer to make a traffic stop or initiate an investigation for DUI with drugs. Additionally, you must be advised of your rights after your arrest, the police must follow Title 17 of the California Code of Regulations, and provide procedural evidence of drawing, storing and analyzing your urine or blood samples. If any of these procedures were not followed, you can use that loophole in your defense.
There is no scientific evidence showing a correlation between impairment and the amount of drugs in your system. Therefore, the presence of drugs does not necessarily mean you are under the influence. Moreover, drugs affect different people in different ways and with time, drug users develop tolerance to substances they use regularly.
The drug detection window is the amount of time that a drug is detectable in your blood or urine after you use it. Often, this window is longer than the period of time when you are high. The drug detection window often varies based on your weight, height, metabolism, tolerance, history of use and the method of ingestion. These factors also affect how long you remain under the influence and how long the drug remains in your system. Many drugs can remain in your system for days or weeks without any effect.
There are innocent explanations for signs similar to those of drug impairment. They may result from physical and medical conditions such as injury, anxiety, sickness, fatigue, allergies and diabetic ketoacidosis. Even recognizable signs of drug impairment can have innocent explanations. For example, poor balance can be caused by inner ear disorders or uncomfortable footwear; involuntary eye jerking (horizontal gaze nystagmus) occurs naturally to some people; and pupil size may be caused by light, darkness or excitement.
Even when your blood or urine samples test positive for drugs, they are not always accurate. Invalidity may be due to improper handling and storage of samples, improperly drawn blood or contaminated medical equipment. Under California DUI laws, law enforcers must preserve a portion of your blood sample for up to a year for retesting. Your defense team will request for the sample for independent retesting. The results can be used if they are helpful but if they are not, they are disregarded.
Crimes Related to DUI With Drugs
There are several crimes under California laws that are closely related to DUI with drugs.
California’s Vehicle Code 23152(c) is the state’s law on “driving while addicted”, which makes driving while you are dependent on any drug illegal. This crime is a form of DUI and the penalties are the same as those of DUI with drugs. The only exception is if you are on treatment in an approved program but you are still prohibited from driving while “high”.
Vehicle Code 23152(c) requires the prosecutor to prove that you were addicted to drugs and not a habitual or casual user. Often, prosecutors will charge you with driving while addicted when their case of DUI with drugs is weak, but your urine or blood samples tested positive for drugs.
Under Health and Safety Code 11550, you may face a misdemeanor charge for drug use if your urine or blood sample tests positive for illegal substances. To be convicted of using drugs, the prosecutor only needs to prove the presence of drugs in your system. If drugs are found in your vehicle, you may be charged for possession under California’s Health & Safety Code 11350. If you are in possession of drug paraphernalia you may be charged under Health and Safety Code 11364.
Contact a DUI Attorney Near Me
If you are arrested for DUI with drugs, it would be wise to contact an experienced attorney who has what it takes to defend you. The wrongful conviction of an innocent person is an injustice, therefore, Leah Legal will represent you and will fight hard to obtain the best possible result for you. If you are in Van Nuys and the greater Los Angeles area, contact our Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer at 818-484-1100 and let us handle your case.