Under the Influence of Drugs as an Element in a California DUI / DWI Case

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Under the Influence of Drugs as an Element in a California DUI / DWI Case

The law in California says that a person is driving under the influence when, "physical or mental abilities are impaired to such a degree that he or she no longer has the ability to drive a vehicle with the caution characteristic of a sober person or ordinary prudence, under the same or similar circumstances." This standard applies to those people who are under the influence of drugs as well as alcohol.

When prosecuting a case for driving under the influence, the prosecutor cannot rely on a per se law such as the .08 percent blood alcohol content. Instead, the prosecutor must attempt to show through circumstantial evidence that a person was indeed too impaired to be operating a vehicle. The prosecutor will point to driving patterns such as swerving, field sobriety tests, any physical signs of impairment such as slurred speech or a lack of balance, chemical drug tests, and other available evidence as the situation presents.

The drugs that a person is taking do not need to be illegal for that person to be considered too impaired to drive a vehicle. There are many legal pharmaceuticals that can disorient a person to the point where driving a vehicle is not safe. California recognizes that a legal drug such as a pain medication can have an impairing effect on a driver just as illegal narcotics can. Therefore, one should be on notice that the standard for driving under the influence is about being impaired. It does not matter whether the substance that made a person too impaired to drive was legal or illegal.

One should also keep in mind that a drug does not need to be a prescription drug for it to impair driving ability. Over-the-counter drugs can impair your driving and can bring the full wrath of a DUI / DWI prosecution upon you in California. In California, the legislature has made it legal to use marijuana for medical purposes. This means that it is legal for a person in California to use marijuana if a doctor prescribes marijuana for them. However, nothing in California law allows a person to drive under the influence of marijuana, even if a doctor did prescribe it. The law regarding medical marijuana is still being formed, however, as the law currently stands, a person who uses marijuana for medical purposes can be arrested for driving under the influence of drugs. It will be another matter as to whether the person will be convicted. A prosecutor will have to prove impairment, not simple use of marijuana.

A skilled DUI/DWI defense lawyer can often demonstrate a jury or judge that the proper procedures were not followed during the investigation, or that the signs and symptoms of impairment were inconclusive, meaning they could just as easily mean that the driver was not impaired. The only way to guarantee yourself a chance at vindication under these charges is to hire the best possible legal counsel you can afford. Remember that paying for a good attorney to fight your DUI charges can save you time, money, reputation and frustration in the end. The talented DUI defense team at The Kavinoky Law Firm are ready to fight for you