If you or a loved one have been recently arrested on charges of driving under the influence of a drug (DUID), you are facing many of the same consequences that apply to a more "typical" DUI where alcohol is involved. Your driver's license is in jeopardy, and fines and jail time are also potential sentencing elements.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorneys, we understand not only how to successfully defend DUI cases involving alcohol but are also familiar with the peculiar laws and courtroom dynamics that apply to DUID cases.
WHAT IS “DRUGGED DRIVING” IN CALIFORNIA?
DUIDs, or "drugged driving," are covered under California Vehicle Code Sections 23152 (e) and 23152 (f). The former criminalizes the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of any drug. The latter specifies that driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol simultaneously is illegal.
It is important to understand that a "drug" is defined as any substance besides alcohol that can negatively impact your brain, muscles, or nervous system. It is inclusive of both legal and illegal as well as prescription and over the counter drugs, provided those drugs "impair your driving," rendering you unable to drive "like a sober person could in the same situation." Generally, it is your level of caution and your control over the vehicle that are at issue.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE PROSECUTION
DUID cases must be prosecuted quite differently than "ordinary" DUI cases. First, there is no .08% or other specified BAC level that is relevant in DUID cases. Any drugs in your system that are capable of impairing your driving can be used as evidence that you were under the influence.
The testimony of the arresting officer and/or witnesses who saw the manner in which you drove are also very crucial. If you were pulled over for DUI and passed the Breathalyzer test but failed the FSTs, the officer may suspect you are under the influence of drugs instead of alcohol. He will then administer a blood or urine test to confirm this suspicion. Therefore, both the test results and police testimony form the backbone of the prosecution's evidence.
Additionally, when DUID is suspected, the arresting officer will call in a "drug recognition expert" who will take you through a twelve-step evaluation. Eye exams, pulse checks, muscle tone tests, looking for injection points, and more will be part of this rigorous evaluation.
When the arresting officer testifies against you in court, he/she will focus on such things as your appearance, manner of driving, and your performance on the field sobriety tests. He will testify that you did not "exercise the level of caution that a sober person would in the same situation." He will also likely note such things as red/watery eyes, unsteadiness of gait, and slurring of speech as examples of how your personal appearance conformed to that of a person intoxicated with drugs.
A DUID is a wobbler, which means that it can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the specific circumstances of your case and your criminal history. Typically, you will be charged with a felony if you have suffered three prior convictions for driving under the influence. You will also be charged with a felony if the DUID resulted in injury or death, even if you have no priors for driving under the influence.
Typically, you will not be subjected to jail time for a first time misdemeanor DUID, but you will face the following penalties:
- A fine of at least $390, but when other fees are added in, most defendants will owe around $1,800;
- A 3 to 5 year term of informal probation;
- A 6-month or longer suspension of your driver's license;
- A minimum 3-month-long DUI and drug abuse education class.
Repeat offenses will increase the length of your license suspension and require jail time. Each new conviction will get a longer jail term.
Also note that those who submit to the breath test but refuse a blood/urine test must serve at least 48 hours in jail if convicted, and will loose their license for at least 13 months.
If the drug in question in your DUID was illegal, you can also be charged with violating California Health and Safety Code Section 11550 and could face a year in jail. This charge is eligible for drug diversion programs that are in lieu of incarceration, but diversion will only be possible if your DUID charge is dropped.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorneys, we are versed in numerous, time-tested strategies to use in defending against your DUID charge. What strategy and defense we will use depends on the details of your particular case. Below are some common DUI defenses:
- The traffic stop was conducted without probable cause. If this was the case, then the ensuing investigation was unlawful as a violation of your constitutional rights.
- Police did not collect, store, and analyze BAC samples in accordance with Title 17.
Below are some defenses specific to a DUID case:
The presence of drugs in your system does not necessarily mean you were under the influence
The tests used to detect drugs in your system—e.g., the toxicology screen—only reveal a drug’s presence and not its quantity. In fact, no scientific correlation exists between the amount of drugs in one’s system and one’s impairment, as tolerance (when the body builds up immunity to drug or alcohol) is relative and specific to body weight, body type, and how often one consumes the drug.
It is also important to note that how long you will remain under the influence of a particular drug depends on that drug’s life span as well as your height, weight, metabolism, and tolerance. For example, Jack is pulled over for a speeding ticket. After speaking with and observing Jack, the officer suspects that Jack is under the influence of marijuana. A drug recognition expert then administers a blood test on Jack and verifies that Jack had marijuana in his blood. Jack had smoked a joint five days prior to his arrest. Because he is a regular user of marijuana, the substance usually remains in Jack’s system 5-7 days. Jack’s defense attorney can argue that whatever effect the marijuana had on Jack had dissipated by the time of his arrest, and that the presence of marijuana in Jack’s blood has no correlation with whether or not his ability to drive was impaired.
Otherwise innocuous symptoms can look like drug impairment
Excessive tiredness, allergy, nervousness, and various diseases, and medical conditions can mimic drug intoxication.
Chemical test results aren't always accurate
The blood or urine BAC tests may have rendered faulty results due to contaminated medical equipment, improperly drawn blood, and improper storage or handling of samples.
HOW CAN WE HELP
Actual Case: In People v. M.E. (case number not disclosed per client’s request), Mr. E was charged with driving under the influence of a drug. The drug in question was marijuana. Mr. E. had smoked a joint approximately 5 days prior to his arrest. While it was an undisputed fact that Mr. E. had marijuana in his system, Negin was able to convince the prosecutor that there was ultimately no correlation between said marijuana and the manner of Mr. E’s driving at the time of his arrest. The prosecution ultimately dismissed the case against Mr. E. Negin’s relentless advocacy and intricate understanding of driving under the influence of marijuana led to this outcome.
Negin challenges every aspect of the so-called “expert” investigation on which the prosecution’s case against you is based. She explores the qualifications and credibility of the drug recognition expert, conditions in which the DRE exam was performed, accuracy of the chemical test, and seeks to divulge any faulty or hasty assumptions by the DRE or investigating officer. It is precisely because of this thoroughness that Negin was able to earn a dismissal on behalf of Mr. E. above.
Contact Us Today for Help
To learn more or for a free DUID consultation, call us anytime 24/7 at 424-333-0943.