Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) in California
Driving under the influence of drugs (DUID), also referred to as DUI drugs or drugged driving, prosecuted in California much the same as driving while intoxicated arrests involving alcohol.
California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a), the law that discusses driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs states: "It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle."
Anyone who drives while using drugs, either legal or illegal, can be arrested for DUID. Driving under the influence of drugs is an extremely serious charge that can carry substantial consequences. A California criminal defense attorney who focuses on DUID defense will develop an aggressive defense strategy and can achieve a favorable result for a driver accused of driving under the influence of drugs..
The central issue in any DUID case is whether the driver meets the legal definition of "under the influence" is identical to driving under the influence of alcohol: "Being unable to operate a vehicle with the same caution characteristic of a sober person, of ordinary prudence, under the same or similar circumstances."
Many California drivers are unaware that ingesting legal over-the-counter or prescription drugs can trigger a DUID arrest. The only question is whether the legal definition of driving under the influence of drugs is satisfied.
There is no "legal limit" in Driving Under the Influence of Drugs prosecution - there is no magic number as in a drunk driving case. In this respect, California drivers have an advantage over motorists in other states. For example, in Michigan, anyone who drives with any measurable amount of any narcotic, including marijuana, is considered impaired.
Just as in a drunk driving case, DUID is prosecuted with circumstantial evidence. Prosecutors seek to introduce evidence of the motorist's performance on field sobriety tests, driving patterns, and appearance.
In driving under the influence of alcohol cases, California's implied consent law (California V.C. Section 23612) allows a choice between blood or breath tests. In DUID cases, the arrestee's choice is between a blood or urine test. Urine testing is so unreliable that it is not an option in a drunk driving investigation, but is an acceptable test for drugs.
The amount of time required for different drugs to be eliminated by the body makes urine testing inherently unfair in a DUID case. For example, marijuana can remain in the system for days, while many stimulants are eliminated by the body in a relatively short period of time. An individual who smoked marijuana on a Friday night could be arrested for DUID on a Wednesday, long after the drug's effects have worn off.
Driving under the influence of alcohol cases sometimes shift to DUID investigations when a breath test shows a blood alcohol content (BAC) of less than .08 percent. Some police departments will begin a drug evaluation any time a breath test reveals a BAC of .05 percent or less. Rather than concluding that they must have been mistaken about the motorist being impaired, many officers will automatically begin a DUID investigation.
Many police departments now employ Drug Recognition Evaluators, or DREs, to investigate DUID cases. DREs investigate drivers for drug impairment by checking pupil size, pulse rate, blood pressure, and other indicators. Police officer will examine a driver's arms and other common sites for injection. The DRE will seek damaging admissions or confessions of drug use. Field sobriety tests may be given again in a controlled and well-lit environment. The officer's observations likely will be used to provide probable cause for arrest as well as evidence for a criminal court.
However, illness, injury, fatigue, or nervousness can all give drivers the appearance of drug intoxication. The so-called symptoms of driving under the influence of drugs are open to interpretation, and urine tests are unreliable. DUID cases can be fought and won. The consequences of a driving under the influence of drugs conviction are so serious, it is critical to consult with a criminal defense lawyer experienced in defending California DUID cases.