In Laguna Junction, you can be arrested, charged, and be convicted if you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. Due to the strict nature of California drunk and drugged driving laws, it’s not easy to handle the charges against you alone, once you are arrested. You need legal counsel to understand the rules and regulations surrounding DUI and, most notably, help on how to proceed with your case.

At San Diego DUI Attorney law firm, we have helped several clients in Laguna Junction facing DUI charges through their trials. We guarantee the best probable outcome for our clients, which may include dismissal of charges or a charge reduction where a dismissal is not possible. Contact us as soon as you get arrested on DUI allegations so we can start working on your case right away. In this article, we will explain the legal aspects surrounding DUI of drugs.

Defining DUI of Drugs

There are two laws applied in Laguna Junction that make DUI of drugs an offense. These laws include VC 23152(f) DUI of drugs and VC 23152(g), operating a vehicle under the influence of both alcohol and drugs. A drug, as per the DUI law, means a substance, apart from alcohol, which could affect the muscles, nervous system, or brain of an individual that it could considerably impair their ability to operate an automobile as a usually cautious person would do under the same conditions.

Therefore, a drug includes:

  • Legal drugs like marijuana

  • Illegal drugs like methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and heroin

  • Over-the-counter medicines like cold medications and antihistamines

  • Prescription drugs regardless of whether they make you high or not

Common drugs that may result in a DUID charge in Laguna Junction include marijuana, methamphetamine, prescription opiates like OxyContin or Vicodin, and Ambien. However, any medicine that affects your brain, muscles, or nervous system could warrant a DUID charge even if it’s necessary for your health. Consult your Laguna Junction DUI attorney to find out what medication if immediately taken before driving, could lead to a DUID charge.

Unlike the DUI of alcohol, which has a stipulated legal limit of 0.08% BAC level, there is no specified lawful limit for the drug amount that a person is allowed to have in his/her blood system while driving. The reason for this is that experts cannot reach a consensus about what drug concentration in the blood system makes a person impaired to the extent of being unable to drive.

DUID Arrests and Investigations

Generally, an investigation of driving while intoxicated with drugs starts with the police pulling you over. If you appear impaired, the police will initiate a DUID investigation. During this investigation, the police may:

  • Ask you questions about your drinking or use of drugs

  • Ask you to submit to a PAS test using a breathalyzer

  • Ask you to do one or several field sobriety tests

  • Observe any physical signs of intoxication like constricted or dilated pupils

  • Inspect to find out if any drug paraphernalia or drug is visible in your vehicle

If your BAC level is lower than the stipulated lawful limit, but you still appear intoxicated, the arresting officer might suspect you of using drugs. The officer may then contact a drug recognition expert to come and evaluate you. You may also be requested to undergo mouth swab testing, which reveals the presence of drugs in your system if any.

A drug recognition expert, abbreviated as DRE, refers to a police officer with specialized training that assists him/her in identifying when a person is intoxicated with drugs. After the drug recognition expert assumes control of the DUID investigation, he/she conducts a twelve-step assessment that involves:

  • Confirming that your BAC does not indicate that you are impaired by alcohol

  • Interviewing the officer that arrested you

  • Checking your physical symptoms that include pupil size, pulse rate, drug traces in your nostrils or mouth, muscle tone, since certain drugs cause the muscles to be rigid, and track marks on potential injection sites.

  • Performing eye tracking examination to check if there’s horizontal gaze nystagmus, an involuntary eye jerking that may show you have been consuming drugs

  • Re-conducting FSTs like the walk and turn, Romberg balance, standing on one leg, and finger to nose tests

  • Asking you about your using of drugs and observing your behavior

  • Asking you to do a urine or blood test

The evaluation by the DRE (Drug Recognition Experts) generally happens in a controlled, well-lit area, for instance, a police station, to allow for an ideal assessment than on the road where a usual investigation occurs. After the evaluation, the DRE forms a conclusion of whether it’s the drug use that’s causing your impairment and what kind of drug it could be.

Your Rights During a DRE Investigation

You don’t have to respond to all the questions the DRE asks you or perform any FSTs (Field Sobriety Tests) you are asked. You can always invoke your 5 Amendment right, so you don’t provide self-incriminating answers. Note that only if and until you are arrested, you won’t face any consequences for refusing to submit to chemical testing unless you are presently on probation for DUI or you are under twenty-one years.

The Arrest

After the officer believes that there’s probable cause to arrest you for DUID, he/she will take you into detention. As opposed to popular opinion, you don’t always immediately have to read your Miranda rights. You will be read your Miranda rights in a DUI of drugs case only when:

  • You are in detention and aren’t allowed to leave

  • The arresting officer wants to ask you questions meant to elicit self-incriminating answers

Usually, when a person is put under arrest for DUI in Laguna Junction, they are allowed the option of submitting either to a DUI blood or breath test. Your Laguna Junction DUI attorney may advise on which chemical testing you can undergo. You may not lawfully decline to submit to chemical testing if you have already been legally arrested. You must submit to the evidentiary chemical testing even if you have already undergone a PAS testing on a breathalyzer. Refusal to undergo chemical testing has consequences that include an automatic driver’s license suspension.

Under specific conditions, the authorities may need you to undergo blood testing even if you have already submitted to a breath test. The circumstances under which it can be mandatory for you to submit to a DUI blood test include:

  • The arresting officer has reason to believe you were driving while intoxicated with drugs or both alcohol and drugs

  • The arresting officer has clear indications that a DUI blood testing will disclose proof of you being intoxicated with drugs

Often, if you have chosen to do a DUI breath test, the officer will wait for the results to find out whether your BAC is beyond the stipulated legal limit or not. If it is, the officer will usually just charge you with any of the following offenses:

  • VC 23152(a), DUI

  • VC 23152(b), operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher

  • VC 23152(d, operating a commercial motor vehicle while having a blood alcohol content of 0.04% or more

  • VC 23152(e), ridesharing, limo, or taxi motorist with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04% or higher

  • Underage DUI under VC 23140 (blood alcohol concentration of 0.05% or more) 

However, if the DUI breath test results turn out to be lower than the applicable legal limit, and you seem impaired, the officer will order that you undergo blood testing. Note that the police cannot draw your blood forcibly without your consent unless they have obtained a warrant for that.

How Blood Tests are Used in DUID Cases

After you have been arrested for suspected DUD, your blood sample will be sent for a blood toxicology screening. The screening lists the drug types it detects in your system. Typically, the screening does not show the concentration level of the drug it detects. It merely indicates whether you tested negative or positive of the drug’s presence.

If you test positive for a single or several drugs, the laboratory can then conduct a quantitative examination, which can reveal the quantity of the substance in your blood system.

Even though the results of the blood test aren’t conclusive, the prosecution, with help from an expert eyewitness or DRE could still apply them to prove:

  • That you had drugs in your system

  • The quantity of the drug that was present in your system

  • In particular cases, the time range for when you might have used the drug

However, because none of these is seen to be conclusive concerning impairment, the prosecutor will often rely primarily upon:

  • The arresting officer’s observations

  • The DRE’s observations (if your case had a DRE)

  • The expert witnesses’ testimony

You should have an experienced Laguna Junction DUI attorney by your side who may be able to discredit the testimonies from these parties to help you face lenient penalties or have your case dismissed.

The Trial

During the trial for a DUID case, several parties will testify against you. They include:

The Officer Who Arrested You

The trial for driving under the influence of drugs starts with the arresting officer’s testimony. The officer will attest as to why they perceived you to be under the influence. Facts the prosecution might draw from the officer’s testimony include your unsafe driving pattern, performance on FSTs and PAS breath testing, and physical signs of intoxication. To be precise, everything you did wrong or failed to do will be brought to the attention of the jury and judge.

The officer almost always testifies that a defendant wasn’t operating the vehicle with caution as a sober driver would do. Generally, he/she will also attest that the accused showed physical symptoms of being under the influence like red, watery eyes, flushed face, unsteady gait, and a slurred speech. If the suspect underwent FSTs, the officer usually says that the motorist failed to carry out the tests, as demonstrated.

Unlike in an ordinary DUI case, failed results of the breath test won’t prove much when it comes to a DUID case. In case the arresting officer conducted a roadside breath test, it might have indicated a small amount or, sometimes, no blood alcohol. However, the arresting officer will attest that because alcohol couldn’t justify the impairment signs the defendant had, he or she suspected that there was drug use. A testimony like this is most helpful to the prosecution when the accused argues the absence of reasonable cause for detention as a defense.

The Drug Recognition Expert

Usually, a DRE’s testimony is the most powerful piece of evidence in DUID cases in Laguna Junction. Part of a DRE’s training involves sessions on how they can testify in a court of law. The prosecution works with the experts to make sure they testify convincingly. Consequently, the DRE generally comes out as very polished and professional.

They will start by testifying in detail about their training and qualifications. Then, they will testify about their three primary responsibilities that include:

  • Confirming that your extent of impairment wasn’t solely due to alcohol impairment

  • Ratifying that you were intoxicated with drugs and did not have a health condition

  • Concluding that you were intoxicated with one or multiple specific drug categories

The DRE testifies in length about the twelve-step assessment process they conducted during the DUID investigation phase. Mainly, they will center on the proof that supports their conclusion about the type of drug by which you were impaired. For example, the DRE may conclude that you impaired by:

  • A depressant like soma or valium

  • Marijuana

  • A stimulant like amphetamines, methamphetamine, or cocaine

  • A hallucinogen like an ecstasy, magic mushrooms, or LSD

  • Narcotic analgesics like codeine, Vicodin, or heroin

  • GHB

  • PCP

  • Any drug not included in any of these classes

When there’s no drug recognition expert involved in a DUID case, the case becomes quite challenging to prove. A few officers have been trained on matters of drug recognition. However, if the officer who arrested you didn’t receive training of the kind and there wasn’t a DRE available, an experienced Laguna Junction DUI attorney can successfully file a motion to quash any testimony from the officer concerning your supposed drug impairment. Without this testimony, your charges will most likely be lowered through DUI plea bargaining, or they will be entirely dismissed.

DUID Blood Test Results

After the drug recognition expert and the arresting officer have testified, the prosecutor will present the results of the blood tests you took, if at all, there are any. Generally, the results of the DUID blood tests come in two forms:

  • Toxicology screen which indicates drug presence in your bloodstream

  • A quantitative examination which shows the amount of any drug detected by toxicology screening

After these results are presented, an expert eyewitness then testifies that the quantity of the drug in your system corresponds with studies that show impairment at the given level.

Best DUID Legal Defenses

We have several general defenses that can be used to argue any DUI case, including DUID. It is only a skilled Laguna Junction DUI attorney that would know how to explore these kinds of defenses when fighting DUID charges. Apart from these, we also have defenses that are only specific to arguing DUID charges.

The general defenses include:

  • There wasn’t a reasonable cause for the police to pull you over or carry out a DUI investigation

  • You weren’t appropriately advised of your Miranda rights before the police interrogated you

  • The police didn’t follow properly Title 17 of the Code of Regulations procedures for gathering, keeping, and analyzing blood, urine, or breath samples

Defenses Specific to a DUID Charge

Certain defenses can only be used to argue a DUID case and not DUI of alcohol. The most reliable one of these is that the presence of drugs in your system doesn’t necessarily imply that you are intoxicated. There isn’t any scientific connection between the amount of the drug in a person’s system and their impairment.

Drugs affect certain people more compared to others. Additionally, over time, individuals begin to have a tolerance for the kind of drug they use regularly. This leads to the seemingly odd results that individuals who use more drugs are, in reality, less likely to be impaired by the drugs already in their bloodstream compared to casual users.

DUID Penalties

DUID is mostly charged as a misdemeanor in Laguna Junction. It’s generally only a felony in case:

  • It’s the accused’s fourth or otherwise subsequent DUI crime

  • The suspect has a previous conviction of one or several felony DUI’s

  • Another person was killed or severely injured due to the defendant’s DUID, or it’s the accused’s third or subsequent DUI causing injury.

Contact a Competent Laguna Junction DUI Attorney Near Me

So many legal aspects surround the DUI of drugs crime that it may be challenging for an ordinary arrestee to understand. For this reason, as soon as you get arrested on DUID allegations, you should get in touch with an attorney so he/she can start investigating your case without further delay. Early investigations enable a lawyer to have ample time to gather the necessary proof to solve your case. If you are in Laguna Junction and have a DUID case, contact San Diego DUI Attorney at 619-535-7150. We will do everything we can to deliver the best probable results for your case.