It’s easy for one to assume that they can be arrested for DUI only if they were driving while drunk. However, this is not true because one can be arrested for DUI because of driving while under the influence of drugs. California VC 23152 (f) codifies that it is illegal to be behind the wheel while intoxicated by drugs. Vehicle Code 23152 (g), on the other hand, makes it unlawful for an individual to drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs combined. At the San Diego DUI Attorney, our Chappo DUI Attorneys help people facing DUI charges in Chappo, CA, including those who have violated VC 23152 (f) and (g). We will help you understand the legal limit of drugs and driving, the penalties for DUI drugs conviction and possible legal defenses.  

Legal Definition of Drugs

California law refers to drugs concerning Vehicle Code 23152 (f) and (g) as a substance or a coalescence of contents, apart from alcohol, that when consumed impairs the ability of a driver to drive like a sober person would have done in the same circumstances. A sober person, in this case, is one who has full possession and control over the vehicle and exercises caution while driving.

Some of the substances that could be abused include:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Over the counter medications
  • Illegal drugs like cocaine
  • Legal drugs like Marijuana

The majority of DUI drug arrests are associated with drugs like marijuana, Vicodin, or Ambien, which are known to impair the nervous system, muscles, and brain even if some of these drugs are prescription drugs. DUI for these drugs is further explained below.

DUI of Sleeping Pills

If you are found driving while intoxicated with Ambien or other sleeping pills in Chappo, you are subject to California DUI penalties upon conviction. The reason being prescription and over the counter drugs are also among the substances considered as drugs under VC 23152 (f). On the warning page of these drugs, it is clear that one should not drive after taking these drugs because you will not be fully awake. Defending a DUI sleeping pills charge is not easy because being unconscious cannot hold in court.

DUI of Marijuana

On January 1st, 2018, California legalized the use of recreational marijuana. What most people have forgotten is that despite being lawful to use marijuana for recreational purposes, it is still a crime to drive under the influence of this drug. As a result, some people end up getting behind the wheel after consuming marijuana hence the increase of DUI cases implicated to this drug.

DUI of Prescription PainKillers

You will be subject to California DUI penalties if you use Vicodin, Codeine, Percocet, or Oxytocin while driving. The penalties for this conviction are known to be harsh, but with a Chappo DUI Attorney, you can find legal defenses to win the case. If you drove while intoxicated by these painkillers, it will not count although you were using Vicodin for recreational reasons or it had been prescribed to you for medical purposes.

However, if the drug was not prescribed, your charges will change from DUI Vicodin to possession of a controlled substance. It is challenging to detect painkillers in the body. Arresting officers, therefore, focus on some of the following signs and symptoms when making an arrest:

  • Wilting or sagging eyes
  • Nausea
  • Tense or narrow pupils
  • Drowsiness

When any of the signs are identified by the police officer, then that is enough reason for a DUI of Vicodin arrest.

Legal Limits for Drugs and Driving

It becomes a piece of cake for the prosecutor to prove to the trier of fact that a defendant exceeded the legal limit of driving under the influence of alcohol, which is 0.08% BAC. However, there is no actual legal limit for drug intoxication in the bloodstream since it is not specific what levels can cause impairment while driving.

Due to lack of a legal limit, what is essential in a DUI drug charge is to show the defendant was driving under the influence, while under a mix of drugs and alcoholic beverages, or while addicted to a drug. People who are undergoing addiction treatment in a state-recognized program are exempted from arrests for driving while addicted to any substance.

Arrest Process for DUI of Drugs

The investigation into your case immediately begins when you are stopped in traffic by an officer. The officer will do the following things as part of the inquiry:

  • Ask you questions about your driving under the influence of drugs
  • Request you to take a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test on a Breathalyzer
  • Invite you to take at least one field sobriety test
  • Look for physical signs and symptoms of intoxication
  • See if you have restricted substances

In case you are suspected of being under the influence of a combination of alcohol and drugs, and the BAC level appears to be below 0.08%, a drug recognition expert (DRE) will be contacted. Alternatively, a mouth swab test can be used. These DRE law enforcement officers are not just found anywhere; hence, it is not a must for one to be contacted after an arrest.

Before making an arrest, the arresting officer must have probable cause to stop you or take you in custody. For DUI drugs, after a seizure, you don’t need to read the Miranda rights immediately. The Miranda warning will only be read when you are already in custody, you are not allowed to leave, and when the law enforcement officers want to ask questions that might lead to self-incrimination.

For instance, it is vital to read your Miranda rights before answering questions relating to the kind of drug you had consumed and the amount consumed. However, in a DUI arrest police can ask these questions without reading you the Miranda warning.  

Evaluations Conducted by the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE)  

In the event this officer is called after you have been stopped, he or she will:

  • Corroborate that your blood alcohol concentration is below .08%
  • Take a statement from the arresting officer
  • Evaluate your physical symptoms. In this step, the DRE will; check your pulse rate more than once, examine the size of your pupil, check for traces of drugs in your mouth and other parts, and check the rigidity or flaccidity of your muscles.
  • Re-administering field sobriety tests (FSTs)
  • Observing the driver’s behavior
  • Request you to take a blood or urine test

This analysis by the DRE is not often conducted where you are stopped. Usually, you are taken to the closest police station from where you were stopped. There, the DRE officer can take time to conduct a better evaluation than when standing on the roadside. After the assessment, the DRE law enforcement officer gives his or her findings of the evaluation.

The Rights of a Driver during DRE Investigation

After a traffic stop and the arresting officer calls the DRE officer on you, you can exercise your Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.  Unless you are put under arrest, there are no consequences of refusing to take questions or a chemical test. However, if you are underage or currently on a DUI probation, then you will suffer the consequences of failing to take a chemical test or answer questions.

DUI of Drugs Trial Process

After an arrest, the blood sample of the driver is sent for DUI blood toxicology screening. If they come back positive, it is an indicator you are addicted to a particular drug, you were under the influence of a drug, or you were under a mixed force of narcotic drugs and alcoholic beverages. Even with all the evidence, you cannot be convicted without facing trial. The trial process begins by:

  1. The testimony of the arresting officer

The officer who made the arrest must testify in court by explaining why he or she deemed the defendant impaired. Some of the things the jury or judge might need highlighting include:

  • The defendant was driving in an unsafe manner
  • The defendant had physical signs of intoxication
  • How the defendant performed in the PAS test and FSTs

The main interest of the jury is to find out everything wrong about the defendant.

  • Standard testimony of the arresting officer

Apart from testifying about how the defendant driving without caution as sober driver ought to do, he or she also gives an official statement. Mainly, the standard report focuses on the signs and symptoms of inebriation. These signs include slurred speech, red and watery eyes, or flushed face. Aside from these, the officer can testify that the defendant was unable to perform field sobriety tests as expected.

  1. DRE officer testifies

The testimony of the DRE is the most important in DUI drug cases. These law enforcement officers have the training on how to testify in court. Due to that, their testimony is highly reliable in court and helps the prosecutor build a strong case. The DRE officer while testifying:

  • Corroborates the defendant’s level of impairment that was drug and not alcohol-related
  • Verifies that the defendant was under the influence of drugs and has no medical condition
  • Confirms that the defendant was under the control of a drug or combination of drugs

Keep in mind that the drug recognition expert is the person who evaluates the driver thoroughly after being stopped. Due to the skills they have acquired through training, these law enforcers are in a position to conclude that the driver was under the influence of cannabis, soma, cocaine, methamphetamines, hallucinogens like ecstasy, heroin, Vicodin and any other drug that is described under California VC 23152 (f) and (g).

Remember, not every place you can get a drug recognition expert. At times the arresting officer is the only person who does the evaluation. In the event he or she doesn’t possess adequate training, the evidence against you will be weak, leading to a weak case. With the right Chappo DUI Attorney in such a case, you can easily file a motion to suppress the evidence and testimony by the arresting officer. That way, the prosecution is left with little or no evidence which can result in dismissal or reduced charges through a plea deal.

  1. DUI blood test results  

During a trial, after the arresting officer and the DRE have testified, the third step is the introduction of DUI blood test results by the prosecutor. The findings come in the form of toxicology screening showing the presence of drugs and the number of narcotics detected by the testing. An expert witness is called to elaborate on the results and explain to the court the extent to which specific quantities can cause impairment.

Elements the Prosecution Must Prove in a DUI of Drug Case

California VC 23152 (f) is violated when a person:

  • Drives a car

Circumstantial evidence is often used to show that a person was driving at the time of the arrest. Nobody should be arrested for DUI if they have not been spotted driving. Even if you were behind the wheel, it is still not enough to establish that you drove the car. The prosecution will prove this element by showing that the defendant willfully performed some action, an action that is required to operate a motor car.

  • Under the influence of drugs

The prosecutor has to show that the defendant ingested a drug, and as a result of ingesting the drug, his or her mental and physical abilities were marred to the extent he or she was unable to drive like a sober person could have operated in a similar scenario exercising caution and care. The outcome of the case will depend on the judge and jury who determines if the prosecutor has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you were under the influence of drugs.

Legal Defenses for DUI Drug Charges

In a DUI drug case, general DUI defenses can apply. However, there are specific legal defenses for DUI drug charges. An experienced Chappo DUI Attorney will explore all these defenses and build a strong case. Some of the general legal arguments they might study include:

  • Lack of probable cause for the arresting officer to initiate a traffic stop
  • The defendant was not aware of the fifth amendment rights, and the Miranda warning was not read to him or her before being asked questions
  • The investigation officers on the case didn’t follow the right procedure when collecting, storing and evaluating the samples taken from the defendant

Apart from these defenses, there are those specific ones that only focus on DUI drug charges. These defenses include:

  1. The detection window for drugs

It is the period within which a drug can be detected in your body after ingestion. For marijuana, the detection window is between twelve to twenty-four hours and one to seven days for single use. Those who are regular users have a detection window of two to seven days for blood and urine seven to a hundred days. So, if you are a regular cannabis user and you are stopped. Even if a test is conducted the results will come back positive if you were not under the influence at that time because it can last in your system for weeks. A Chappo DUI Attorney will call an expert witness who will prove there is no conclusive link between marijuana and driving impairment.

  1. Innocent explanations have no link to drug impairment 

Some signs and symptoms on a defendant can mimic the signs of drug impairment. Such signs include anxiety, nervousness, allergies, sickness, fatigue, and injury. A reasonable attorney will argue that the defendant had an injury or suffers from diabetes, hence the reason he or she showed signs that mimic drug impairment although it had nothing to do with drugs. Also, even those who show signs that can be conclusively linked to drug impairment can have other causes.

  1. Chemical tests aren’t always accurate

Remember, positive results are not conclusive of drug impairment. Your attorney can argue that the medical equipment was contaminated, the blood was not drawn the right way, the urine or blood samples were not stored correctly, and the samples were not handled correctly.

Also, having drugs in the system doesn’t necessarily mean that you were impaired. There is no conclusive relationship between having a certain quantity of drugs in your body and driving impairment. Regular users to drugs develop tolerance over time, making them less likely to be impaired when on drugs.

Penalties for DUI Drugs

DUI drug cases are filed as a misdemeanor in California. However, if the defendant has a previous conviction, has a 4th or subsequent DUI offense, or a third DUI with injuries or fatality, then he or she is charged with a felony.

For the first time DUI drug convicts, the penalties are:

  • Thirty-six months to sixty months informal DUI probation
  • A fine of three hundred and ninety dollars to one thousand eight hundred dollars
  • At least six months DMV license suspension
  • At least three months in a DUI school

For felony DUI conviction, the consequences are:

  • One and a half to four years in prison
  • A fine of one thousand to five thousand dollars
  • Twelve months license revocation

Find a DUI Drugs Attorney near Me

If you are charged with DUI drugs, contact our Chappo DUI attorney at 619-535-7150. The San Diego DUI Attorney law firm offers free consultation and educates our clients on driving under the influence of drugs, what the prosecution needs to prove before the court, and the defenses that can be used to fight the charges. That way, we can get you a plea bargain or have the charges against you dropped.