In California, anyone who drives after ingesting drugs, either legal or illegal, can be arrested for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID). In California, driving under the influence of drugs is prosecuted in practically the same way as cases involving driving under the influence of alcohol. DUID is a serious charge that carries harsh repercussions, and requires qualified legal counsel. A California attorney experienced in defending DUID cases can fight the case from beginning to end and can achieve a favorable result for a driver accused of driving under the influence of drugs.
In DUID cases, it does not matter if the driver is under the influence of a drug that is legal or illegal. Taking over-the-counter cold medicine can result in a DUID case. There is no requirement that the drug be a prescription drug. The only issue is whether the driver was under the influence of drugs such that they could not operate the vehicle with the same care as a sober person.
In a DUID case, a person is “under the influence” when they are unable to operate a vehicle with the same caution characteristic of a sober person, of ordinary prudence, under the same or similar circumstances. A prosecutor must prove that the driver meets the legal standard for driving “under the influence.”
There is no legal limit or special number that indicates that a person is too impaired to drive. Therefore, results that indicate a certain amount of narcotics or other drugs in the driver’s system do not automatically mean that the driver was impaired. The prosecutor must prove impairment by way of other circumstantial evidence too. The prosecutor will introduce evidence of the motorist’s driving pattern, appearance, performance on field sobriety tests, and chemical test results.
Once an arrest has been made in a case involving driving under the influence of drugs, California’s implied consent law requires that the driver submit to a chemical test. One may submit to a blood test, breath test, or urine test. The urine test is rarely used in drunk driving cases because it is a highly unreliable to test for alcohol, but it is more common in cases where drug use is suspected. If a driver fails to submit to a chemical test, he or she will face an automatic license suspension for one year.
An experienced California criminal defense attorney understands that urine tests are inherently unreliable. A drug like marijuana can stay in a person’s system for up to a month. Therefore, if a person smoked marijuana on a Monday and was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs on the next Friday, even if they hadn’t smoked since Monday, the urine test would come up positive for marijuana. This is true despite the fact that the driver was not actually under the influence of marijuana at the time of driving.
Typically, an investigation for driving under the influence of drugs will begin once a police officer who observes driver impairment concludes following a breathalyzer that the driver is not under the influence of alcohol. Some police agencies will automatically look into the results of blood and urine tests for traces of drugs when an impaired driver does not appear to be under the influence of alcohol.
When police suspect drug use, an officer who has received training as Drug Recognition Evaluator, or DRE will be called on to investigate. A California DUI lawyer will be able to challenge whether the officer is actually a qualified DRE because training and experience vary among officers. The DRE will investigate the driver for drug impairment by checking pupil size, blood pressure, pulse rate, and other measurements. The DRE may conduct further field sobriety tests in a well lit and controlled environment. The DRE will also ask the driver questions in order to elicit incriminating statements.
Drug use is not always easy to spot. Often times, what may appear to be drug use could be a result of drowsiness, depression, or other mental or physical ailments. A qualified attorney experienced in DUID cases, will be able to investigate a case and come up with a plan to minimize any potential punishments.