Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

While people traditionally think of a DUI as involving alcohol, more and more often people are being arrested for driving under the influence of drugs. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drunk driving is on the decline while drugged driving is on the rise. This shift comes as the number of states decriminalizing recreational marijuana as well as medical marijuana continues to grow.

California DUI Drug Laws

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(e), “it is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.” It is also unlawful for a person to drive under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs. For the purposes of a DUI, drugs include illegal drugs, such as heroin or methamphetamines; however it also includes any substance that could impair a person. This includes over-the-counter medicine, cough medicine, prescription medication, medical marijuana, or even herbal supplements.

Marijuana is Still Considered a Drug

While the demonization of marijuana has greatly decreased over the years, it is still considered a drug for the purposes of a DUI. California was the first state to decriminalize medical marijuana by passage of Proposition 215 in 1996. California may even follow the lead of states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. While people dispute the effects of marijuana on a person’s ability to drive, it remains illegal to drive while under the influence of marijuana.

DUI on Prescription Medication

Just like with medical marijuana, it does not matter if you have a valid prescription for the medications you are taking. If the drug has an impairing effect on your ability to drive, you can still face a DUI. Common medications including Valium, Ativan, Xanax or Percocet may lead to impaired driving and a prescription drug DUI. If a driver is found to be in possession of prescription medications without a valid prescription, he/she could face additional criminal charges.

Chemical Blood or Urine Test

If a police officer pulls over a driver for an infraction or a traffic violation, he/she will interact with the driver to check for signs of impairment. If the officer notices slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or the smell of marijuana, he/she may ask the driver to submit to field sobriety tests and end up arresting the driver on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. After being taken to the police station, the officer may have the driver submit to a blood or urine test.

Drug testing in DUI cases can be complicated, and therefore require the understanding of an experienced California DUI lawyer who knows the technology and biology behind blood and urine drug testing. Various testing methods can give a wide range of results, like showing an impaired driver to be clear of any drugs and showing a sober driver to have drugs in his/her system. There is no set limit of drugs in the system to establish per se intoxication as there is with alcohol.

Drug DUI Defense Lawyer

Even if you are sober and have only used prescription medication, an overzealous police officer may still arrest a driver with driving under the influence of drugs. With so much at stake, including loss of your license, a criminal record, and thousands of dollars in fines and fees, you need to fight your DUI drug charges. However, you have to act fast and contact your DUI lawyer in less than 10 days after your arrest to keep your driver’s license from being automatically suspended.