Driving Under the Influence of Illegal Drugs
Driving under influence of drugs (DUID) and alcohol is a crime in many states like California.
Intoxication and illegal drugs affect the nervous system, brain or muscles thereby causing physical or mental impairment that prevents a motorist from driving with the same caution that a reasonable and prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances. In California, driving under the influence of illegal drugs has the same punishment as driving while intoxicated in the event of a conviction. The penalties can be severe. But the court has the burden of proof. Seeking the assistance of a competent Orange County DUI Attorney is best course of action.
Another similarity between DUI alcohol and DUI drugs is: both are usually proved through circumstantial evidence. By circumstantial evidence it is meant that inferences are required in order t make a conclusion of fact. Thus, the officer’s observations of the person’s driving patterns and appearance as well as the performance on any field sobriety tests and chemical tests can all come into play when prosecuting either charge. This means that a skilled DUI lawyer can challenge the charge at almost every stage of the process.
Section 23152a of the Vehicle Code, the law that discusses driving under the influence of drugs provides:
It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle.
Although the two charges may sound similar, they differ in a number of ways. First, there is no blood alcohol content (BAC) in driving under influence of illegal drugs unlike that of alcohol with which to gauge a driver’s level of intoxication. Second, the breath test which is commonly used in intoxication investigation cannot be given to a driver suspected to be under the influence of illegal drugs. Instead, a blood test is administered. Also, there are rare instances wherein a urine test is conducted.
In addition to these differences, when a suspect is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, there is the so-called per se offense (having a blood-alcohol concentration, or BAC, at or above .08%; Vehicle Code section 23152b). When charged with driving under the influence of illegal drugs though, there is no blood-alcohol level (or if it is under .08%) and therefore no per se offense to charge the suspect with. Because of this, the DMV cannot administratively suspend the suspect’s license for driving under the influence of illegal drugs. This suspension is only administered when the suspect refused chemical testing or there is a BAC above .08%. As part of a criminal conviction, however, the license can still be suspended.
Moreover a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), who is an officer trained specifically to identify the symptoms of numerous drugs, is often brought to observe and testify in court regarding the physical appearace, performance with field sobriety tests, erratic driving, incriminating statements and conduct.
It is worthy to note that however that what is being punished here is the driving under the influence of illegal drugs and not for its use. The tests administered may be inaccurate; therefore a person suspected of DUID can refute such allegations with the help of a skilled Orange County DUID attorney.
At Coffey & Coffey, our attorneys defend DUI, DUID, BUI (boating under the influence) and other criminal charges exclusively in Orange County. We know that there are certain judges and D.A.s who look more favorable on your type of case. We also know there are certain judges that we defiantly want to avoid. Call us for a free in-person consultation at (800) 706-7888.