DUI arrests in California result from driving while intoxicated with alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both drugs and alcohol. When the intoxicant is a drug, the offense is distinctly known as DUI Drugs or DUID – driving under the influence of drugs. While it is easier for arresting officers to suspect that you are drunk, it is comparably harder for them to conclude that you are under intoxication of a drug at the time of arrest. Thus, facing DUID charges doesn’t mean you are guilty; but you need an experienced lawyer to raise your defense in court so that you may win the case. If you are in Van Nuys, CA, you can rely on The DUI Defense Attorney to represent you in any DUI related charges.
What Is a Drug?
A drug is generally defined as a substance that when taken into the body, affects the brain, nervous system, and muscles. In the legal context, a substance qualifies to be a drug if it can impair someone’s ability to drive in a similar way to a person who hasn’t taken any drugs. Drugs include illegal substances such as heroin or cocaine, legal ones like marijuana, and over-the-counter medications. Other drugs that could lead to cases of DUID are ambient, methamphetamine, and prescription opiates such as OxyContin and Vicodin. You could also be charged with DUI for taking other drugs that affect your brain or nervous system, whether they are good for your health or not.
DUID Statutes in California
The state of California has two sections that make driving under the influence of drugs a crime. Vehicle Code 23152(g) makes it illegal to drive under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol while Code Section 23152(f) makes it illegal to drive under the influence of drugs alone. There are no limits of drugs that can be said to cause driving impairment. Thus, you are likely to face the law any time you are found to be under the influence of drugs, or under the combination of drugs and alcohol. Additionally, it is illegal to drive if you are addicted to any drugs unless you are under an approved program receiving help for the addiction.
Tests to Show that You Are Intoxicated
Ideally, a DUID case starts with a traffic stop and the officer conducting a DUI investigation in case they suspect that you are intoxicated. During this time, the officer may ask you various questions concerning drugs and alcohol, as they take a preliminary alcohol screening test using a handheld breathalyzer. They may also perform more field sobriety tests and look for physical symptoms of intoxication such as constricted or dilated pupils. The officer will also check to confirm whether there are any drugs visible in your vehicle.
In case your blood alcohol concentration is below the legal limit (usually 0,08%) but you still look intoxicated, the officer will consult a drug recognition expert to perform more evaluations. A DRE is an officer with specialized training to help identify when someone is under the influence of drugs.
The DRE observes several steps including:
- Checking to confirm that the BAC does not show any use of alcohol
- Check several symptoms from you to verify whether you are under any influence. They could check for signs such as pupil size, pulse rate, muscle tone, traces of drugs on the nostrils or the mouth, or trace marks of injections on the possible areas
- Examine the eyes and check for any indication of drug consumption
- Re-administer field sobriety tests. In this case, you need to do tests such as one leg stand test, finger to nose test, walk and turn test, and Romberg balance test
- Observe your behaviors and ask you about the use of alcohol or drugs
- Conducting a DUI urine or blood test
If the tests have to be done by a DRE, the place should be well-lit and controlled such as a police station. Here, a better examination can be done as compared to what is done on the roadside when performing regular DUI tests by traffic officers. Furthermore, the expert must establish the drug leading to your impairment.
As the drug recognition expert conducts their research, you have several rights regardless of whether you are guilty or not. For instance, you do not have to answer all the questions that you are asked or perform all the sobriety tests if you feel that this could help you to avoid self-incrimination. Additionally, until you are under arrest, there is no charge for a chemical test refusal. This is, however, an exemption if you are under 21 years or currently on DUI probation.
Arrest After Violating Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Laws
After the DRE confirms that your system may possibly have drugs, the officer in charge takes you into custody. During this time, the officer will notify you of your Miranda rights including the right to remain silent. These rights are essential to protect you against giving self-incriminating answers; for instance, the police may ask questions such as the drugs that you took, the amount of drugs that you took, or whether you were “high” when you got to the vehicle.
You will also be required to take an evidentiary DUI test for drugs and alcohol. Remember that during this time, you are already arrested and cannot refuse to submit to the test. Refusal of submitting to the test when you are already arrested could lead to other severe charges such as suspension of your driver’s license. This test is conducted even if you had already taken a handheld breathalyzer or PAS test.
In some circumstances, you need to have a DUI blood test in addition to other tests that you already had. A blood test will be done in case the officer believes that you are under the influence of drugs combined with alcohol, or there is an indication that the blood test will provide sufficient evidence in the DUID case. The officer will then wait to see whether your alcohol level is over limit before you are charged with any of the following:
- Driving under the influence under vehicle code 23152(a)
- Driving with a BAC of above .08%, vehicle code 23152(b)
- Driving a commercial vehicle with a BAC above .04%, vehicle code 23152(d)
- Limo, taxi, or ridesharing driving with a BAC above .04%, which violates vehicle code 23152(e)
- Underage driving with a BAC above .05%, thus breaking vehicle code 23140(e)
In case the breath test result shows that your alcohol content is under the legal limit, but you still seem impaired, the officer will order that a blood test is done. Remember that it is unlawful for your blood to be drawn for the test by force unless the officer has a warrant.
If the test results are positive, the lab will go ahead and conduct quantitative analysis to determine the amount of each of the drugs in your bloodstream. However, under the California law, there is no legal amount of drug at each level to be considered harmful. The blood test results show the exact amount or concentration of the drug and if possible, the time when the drug was taken. However, the court may not rely a lot on these results. Instead, they will concentrate more on the observations of the officer who arrested you, the results of the drug recognition officer, and the testimonies of expert witnesses who could have been present.
The Court Proceedings of a DUID Case
After your arrest, the court proceedings of your DUID case follow. They involve testimonies from the arresting officer, DRE, and evidence from your blood test results.
- Testimony of The Arresting Officer
After your case is finally before the state prosecutor, the officer that arrested you is usually the first to testify. They give reasons why they perceived that you were driving under the influence and the tests that they performed. The prosecutor will then get information such as your unsafe driving manner, performance on the tests done, and physical symptoms of intoxication from the arresting officer. They will also give an account of every action that you may have done, including failing to submit to a test. The officer will also testify whether there were other signs of intoxication from you such as having watery and red eyes, flushed face, or a slurred speech.
In case the officer had performed a handheld breathalyzer test which showed no level of alcohol, the test may not be necessary. The arresting officer is also careful not to raise instances of lack of real reasons for making the arrest.
- Drug Recognition Expert Testifies
The drug recognition expert is the most reliable source of information in your prosecution. In fact, in the course of their training, the drug recognition officers are trained on how to testify in courts. Their testimony begins with the DRE explaining his/her training and qualifications before giving information concerning your case. For instance, they will confirm whether your level of intoxication was on drugs alone or alcohol was also involved. They will also state whether you had any medical condition and the category of drugs that had intoxicated you.
The drug recognition expert will also explain in details all the steps they took and their conclusion for the category of drugs that you were using. Additionally, they should state how the drugs affected your ability to drive reasonably.
In case a drug recognition expert was not involved, the violation of the vehicle codes 23152(g) and (f) gets trickier to prove. This will, however, be easier in case the arresting officer has training in drug recognition. In the event the officer lacks such training too, you may come up with a motion that will suppress the testimony with the help of a good lawyer. This will help to either dismiss the case or reduce the DUI with drugs charges.
- Blood Test Results
After the testimonies from the arresting officer and the drug recognition expert, the prosecutor will then consult your blood test results to have more information about your case. The results will help the prosecutor to show whether there was evidence of driving under the influence and the exact amount or level of the drug/ alcohol detected in the body. The testifying process ends with the testimony from an expert witness, who should confirm that the results presented are similar to the initial tests conducted.
Penalties for Vehicle Code 23152 (f) Violation
Usually, DUI with drugs is a misdemeanor in California. Felony penalties would apply if it is your fourth or subsequent offense, you have a previous felony conviction, a person (not you as the driver) was severely injured or died because of the DUID accident, or you have committed a DUI causing injury offense for at least two times.
Some of the factors that help the judge to determine the length of your sentence are:
- The circumstance of the offense
- Whether you could benefit from a drug treatment program
- Whether you had injured any third parties when driving under the influence or there was a case of vehicular manslaughter
- Your criminal history and whether you have been in a case of driving under the influence before
The possible misdemeanor penalties include:
- Informal DUI probation ranging from three to five years,
- Suspension of your driver's license for a minimum of six months,
- A minimum of three months in a drug education class, and
- A minimum fine of 390 dollars.
Typically, you may not face a jail sentence if it is your first DUID offense. But if the sentence is imposed, it will go for a maximum of six months in county jail.
If it is your second or subsequent DUID offense, the penalties include attending a DUI school, a probation sentence, and paying fines. Additionally, you must undergo a minimum sentence as imposed by the court. The sentence increases every time you are convicted of wet reckless or a DUI offense.
On the other hand, the felony penalties for DUID include:
- A fine ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 dollars,
- Revocation or suspension of your driving license for a minimum of one year, and
- Sixteen months to four years imprisonment or in jail as the judge deems necessary.
The judge may also reduce part or the entire prison or jail term by subjecting you to formal probation.
Reducing DUID Charges with a Rehab
When facing DUI charges, you can opt to join an alcohol and drug rehab program. These programs not only help you to deal with the substance abuse problem but also mitigate your charges, thus, positively affecting the outcome of your case. Here are three ways through which rehabs help you to get off DUI charges.
- Diversion of your Case
By joining and completing a rehabilitation program, it is possible to get your case out of your criminal record. Such programs are, however, offered only to first-time offenders who are charged with non-violent DUI crimes. In case the defendant commits another offense in the course of the program or fails to complete it, they are prosecuted and punished with the laid DUID penalties.
- Reduction of jail terms and fines
When deciding on the suitable fines and sentences for defendants, most judges favor defendants who voluntarily join a rehab program by reducing the severity of their punishments. Therefore, joining a rehab program soon after a DUI with drugs allegation can positively impact on your jail sentence and possible fines.
- Reinstatement of driver’s license
A DUID conviction often leads to a suspension or revocation of driving license. However, the Department of Motor Vehicles may reinstate your suspended or revoked license after you enroll in a rehab program. It is not mandatory, though, that you enroll in this program, which incorporates treatment and education classes.
The Common Defense for DUID Charges
The most common defense for DUID charges is arguing that the evidence of drugs in your system does not correlate with "under the influence" element. This is because there is no scientific proof linking someone's drug quantity and their impairment. Additionally, people become tolerant to drugs that they use regularly. As a result, these people are likely not to be impaired when they use drugs, leaving doubts that the alleged drug usage could result (or resulted) in one's impaired driving.
Additionally, a proof that the DRE or arresting officer violated any of your rights or followed incorrect procedures during the drug tests could amount to a perfect defense against DUID charges. This would happen in cases where the officer failed to notify you of your Miranda rights or the extracted blood sample for the test wasn’t sufficient to offer reliable results.
Finding a DUID Attorney Near Me
A DUI Drugs (DUID) case involves many procedures, from your arrest, testing for the presence of drugs, to prosecution. You want an attorney to help you through these stages so that you can get a favorable case outcome. The DUI Defense Attorney is well-versed in handling all DUI cases. You can contact our Van Nuys, CA, office at 818-253-1913 to schedule a quick evaluation of your case and get advice concerning your case.