DUID cases involve all drugs, whether legal, prescribed drugs, or illegal narcotics. Consequently, you can be charged with violating this law even when the circumstances slightly differ with the elements of California Vehicle Code 23152(f).
If facing DUID charges, it is essential to seek legal guidance from an attorney. Your case can be reduced to a minor offense with proper litigation and hence receive lesser penalties. Also, the attorney can prove your innocence and have the case dismissed.
Our attorneys at Orange County Criminal Lawyer law firm understand the importance of fighting DUID charges to ensure the lawsuit does not result in a criminal record. We will aggressively litigate for you through all stages of your case and ensure your best interests are upheld. All our clients are offered free consultations.
The California Vehicle Code 23152 section (f) prohibits drivers from driving while under the influence of drugs; it includes over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, and illegal drugs. There is no legal limitation to specify what amount of drug traces in your bloodstream would be unlawful for driving. If the substance you are under the influence of is impairing your driving ability, you can be charged.
A drug, per this law, is any substance, apart from alcohol, that, when taken or administered, affects a person’s brain, muscles, and nervous system. Furthermore, the drug substantially affects one's ability to practice safe driving habits and exercise reasonable care as a sober person would if faced with a similar situation.
The term "drug" is general for the following substances: an over-the-counter drug such as antihistamines, legal drugs like tobacco, prohibited drugs like heroin, and prescription drugs issued by a physician. The most common substances in DUID cases are marijuana, methamphetamine, and prescriptions like Vicodin.
It is critical to note that you can face DUID charges even if you were ailing, and the drugs you took were essential to your treatment. The California DUID law also makes it a crime to drive if you are addicted to any medication; unless you are undergoing an approved rehabilitation program.
Elements of the Crime
1. Driving a Motor Vehicle
The prosecutor needs to prove that the defendant caused a vehicle’s movement; that is "volitional movement." Even the slightest movement of the car by the defendant qualifies to the conditions of this element.
2. The Drug-Impaired Your Driving
Furthermore, “driving under the influence” should be proved for the defendant to be convicted for a DUID crime. As stipulated under California DUI laws, a person is driving under the influence of a drug (legal or illegal) or a combination of drugs and alcohol if the drug is in their body system. Thus, their body functioning is impaired. Consequently, they cannot practice prudent and responsible driving as a sober person can.
This element is proved by the reports of the investigating officer and a drug recognition officer if applicable. If your Blood Alcohol Count (BAC) level is unknown or below 0.08%, you could still be under the influence if your behavior or mental ability shows signs of impairment from drug usage.
An officer can carry out a DUID arrest if he holds probable cause to believe that you are under drug influence, impairing your driving capability. Typically, a DUID case begins after a traffic officer issues a stop to a driver showing impaired driving behavior. When the driver stops, if the traffic officer suspects that the driver is intoxicated, they immediately start the DUID investigation.
The officer's first step is to question the driver as they check for visible signs of intoxication, such as constricted or dilated pupils. The driver may then be required to undergo an alcohol test known as the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS). The test is done on a piece of handheld equipment (Breathalyzer) that analyzes one’s breath.
Furthermore, the officer may check for any evidence in the vehicle that may suggest the driver is under drug influence. The driver can be required to perform some Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) for the officer to check their coordination. The FSTs include standing on one leg test, walk and turn test, finger to nose test, and Romberg balance test. These tests can be carried out after the traffic stop on the road.
If the alcohol test results show that the alcohol concentration in the driver's blood is under the legal limit of 0.08%, and the driver is still exhibiting signs of intoxication. There is a reason to suspect drug intoxication. The officer may arrest you or seek further assistance from a drug recognition expert (DRE). A DRE is a law administrator skilled in recognizing narcotics’ intoxication. Once summoned, they will determine whether the driver is under drug influence. However, not all cases will be analyzed by a drug recognition officer; some California counties do not have access to one.
When issued with a DUID traffic stop, you can choose to decline or accept to undergo the drug tests. California's Fifth Amendment right protects a defendant from self-incriminating. Unless you are apprehended, there is no consequence in refusing to undergo the tests unless you are under 21 years or are currently on probation for a DUI offense. However, if you are already under police custody, you cannot legally decline to undertake the tests.
Supposing you decline to undergo the evidentiary chemical or blood test. In that case, your action is termed as "refusal," and you could be subject to sentence enhancements, including driving license suspension, if found guilty of the DUID. An officer can arrest you if they hold evidence or a probable cause to believe you were driving under the influence of drugs. However, such an arrest does not mean you are automatically guilty. Further investigations will be carried out and presented in the trial to determine your lawsuit’s outcome.
Say, the officer apprehends you or if they would like to question, and the answers required can lead to self-incrimination. In that case, the officer should read to you the California Miranda rights of a DUI case.
Evaluation of the Driver by the Drug Recognition Expert
If the drug and recognition expert takes over your case, you may be moved to a police station for further tests and evaluations. The DRE runs the assessment, after which he/she will decide whether you were driving under the influence of drugs and which drug it is. The evaluations carried out follow 12-steps.
- Firstly, the DRE runs a BAC test to confirm that the impairment was not caused by alcohol influence.
- The field sobriety tests may be carried out once again to ascertain whether you are impaired from drug consumption.
- The officer who apprehended the defendant is questioned and provides their report to the DRE.
- Further physical tests are done on the driver. It includes mouth or nostril swab tests, checking for the driver’s pupil size, pulse rates, and traces of possible injection marks where the drug could have been administered.
- Some tests are performed on the eye to check for abnormal eye jerking, which indicates drug intoxication.
- The driver is then questioned whether they took any drugs, which drug it was, and how often they take it. They may also be required to submit to a urine or blood test.
What is "Blood Split” in a DUID Case?
California DUI law allows the defendant to carry out their blood test analysis to determine whether there were indeed traces of drugs in the defendant’s blood concentration. This action is referred to as the "blood split" motion. The test's costs are catered for by the defendant. When you file for this motion, the arresting agency provides blood samples, and you can retest them at your laboratory of choice.
If the retest results can help in your case, then your attorney will formulate a defense around them. However, if the results are not helpful in your case, your attorney dismisses them since you cannot provide implicating evidence to the prosecutor. The "blood split" motion is essential since, at times, the results of the blood test may be inaccurate. It gives the defendant a chance to build their defense.
Detection Window for Drugs
The detection window is when traces of a drug can still be found in the user's blood. Different factors affect the detection window span; these include the type of medicine, the user's health, weight, frequency of use, metabolism, and tolerance. This period is considered during a DUID case because the defendant can claim that they were not under the influence when they were arrested, but the test results prove otherwise. It is because drugs can remain in the body way past the day of use and after the user is no longer high.
If you are apprehended and charged with DUID, you can still win the case if the blood test proves a drug is in your system; by applying the detection window aspect. You can argue that you took the legal drug long before driving. Therefore, the drug's effects were worn off, and it could not possibly affect your driving. Your attorney must then prove that impaired driving was caused by other reasons such as anxiety or lack of sleep, not by drug influence.
The prosecutor relies on the officer's report and that of the DRE. Their reporting on your behavior and the tests they carried out is used to prove the presence of driving impairment, while the chemical and blood tests help prove that you were under the influence of a drug. The officer who apprehended the driver is the first to testify during a DUID hearing. They provide information on the driving irregularities that led them to believe that the driver was intoxicated. The data can include how the defendant was driving and physical signs of drug influence.
Furthermore, the prosecutor invites the DRE to testify and provide evidentiary information they obtained from the 12-step evaluation carried out. The drug recognition expert must prove that the defendant's impaired driving was caused by a combined influence of drugs or both drugs and alcohol. They should also establish the defendant held no prescription nor a medical condition requiring the drugs. The DRE can also provide evidence to show the driver was under the influence of more than one or a specific type of substance. The drug recognition expert’s testimony is usually designed to favor the prosecution and is well refined and professional.
In case no drug recognition expert was involved in your case, the arresting officer's report will be the sole source of information, and therefore it will be hard to prove the DUID. Consequently, with the litigation of a capable attorney, it will be easier to defend the DUID charges by employing the lack of credible evidence. Your attorney can then file a motion to suppress the officer's findings, especially if they are not trained in drug intoxication recognition. The prosecutor can reduce your case to a DUI plea bargain, or the case is dismissed.
Penalties of the DUID Crime
Without aggravating factors, a first DUID is charged as a misdemeanor. Under California law, the misdemeanor's possible penalties include a fine of around $1800, 3 to 5 years misdemeanor probation, or a jail term depending on your case's specific circumstances. When passing sentence, the judge considers the defendant's past criminal record of DUI convictions, injuries to a third party, whether the offender qualifies for drug treatment programs, and other circumstances of the crime.
The offense of DUID can be charged as a felony if the offender causes injury to another person, the defendant holds a past conviction of a DUID felony, and if the offense is a subsequent one or their fourth DUID. If charged as a felony, the penalties can include a 3-year prison term or a fine of $1,000. If someone is injured in the crime commission, the penalty can be a four-year prison sentence or fine of up to $5,000. It can also lead to the suspension of a driving license.
A person who violates Vehicle Code 23152(f) does not qualify for a California drug diversion program. However, you can still build a defense to help you are eligible for this program. With a skillful attorney by your side, you can appeal for charges of DUID to be dropped and instead be charged under the California Health and Safety Code 11550, being under the influence of a controlled substance or other applicable minor offenses that qualify for probation. If you are a first time offender and are granted the appeal, your attorney can negotiate for a diversion program.
If a defendant is granted the diversion program, they will not face the sentence. Once they complete the program, the defendant's charges are dismissed. However, if the defendant does not meet the program’s requirements, the case resumes, and if convicted, the penalties can include serving a one-year jail term.
Under 21 DUID Cases
In California, the law stipulates a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21 years who are found driving under the influence. Zero tolerance means that no leniency is shown to minors found driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Additionally, it prohibits children from holding drug paraphernalia in their vehicle. Furthermore, the BAC for such drivers is below the threshold of 0.01%. The stringent DUI laws on drivers below 21 is a measure to curb motor vehicle accidents caused by minors; such accidents are on the rise in California.
Like adults facing DUID charges, if a minor is found guilty of the crime, their driving license could be revoked for a while. If a driver under 21 is found driving under the influence, the offense is an infraction. The defendant can be required to pay a fine of around $100. However, if the minor breaches California Vehicle Code 23152 (a) driving with a BAC of 0.08% or above, then they are charged with a misdemeanor as an adult offender would. Consequently, the minor will be subject to the penalties applicable to the misdemeanor offense.
The first and second DUID convictions of a minor are charged as infractions. However, as the number of convictions increases, the penalties are enhanced. It is always best to consult an attorney if a minor is apprehended for a DUID crime.
Common Defenses to a DUID Charge
Defenses are how the accused can challenge the prosecutor's evidence against them and prove their innocence. For DUID cases, it is vital to acquaint yourself with an attorney experienced in DUI law. It will better the chances of your case penalties being reduced to probation or the case being dismissed altogether. The possible defense you and your attorney can employ to fight DUID charges include:
Lack of a Probable Cause for Arrest
For an officer to arrest you for DUID, they must hold a substantial reason that made them believe that you were under drug influence, and it was the cause of your impaired driving. However, an officer can misread a situation and arrest you without a credible reason. In that case, you can file a motion of wrongful arrest, which, if successful, can lead to all the evidence obtained from the unlawful arrest to be suppressed.
The Officer Failed to Outline the Rights of the Defendant before Questioning
When facing an arrest or questioning from the police or traffic officers, it is your right to remain silent and not say anything that could be used to incriminate you. It is also your right to seek legal guidance from an attorney. You can also decide to decline to undergo the breath or blood test, and the officer should inform you that you are entitled to this choice. Suppose the officer failed to inform you of these rights or coerces you to confess or undergo the tests. In that case, you can file a motion for the information obtained to be dismissed because the officer acquired it illegally.
Medical or Physical Conditions Caused the Impairment
Some medical conditions exhibit symptoms that resemble those under the influence of drugs. Consequently, if the symptoms presented by the investigating officer were in no relation to drug use and were caused by a medical condition, your attorney can present medical records to help prove your innocence. Furthermore, the officer can also confirm that you were anxious or exhibiting symptoms of lack of sleep and not from a drug's influence.
Invalid Blood Test Results
The blood tests results can carry errors and offer an excellent defense to refute the element of being under the influence of a drug. If you suspect foul play in the chemical or blood test results, your attorney can challenge the evidence’s credibility. Furthermore, the results can be mixed up with someone else's due to the evidence's mishandling. A proficient criminal lawyer will ensure such irregularities are revealed and the evidence dismissed.
Once you are convicted of driving under the influence of drugs, the conviction can result in a criminal record or driving record, known as DMV. Unlike a DMV record, which falls off after 10years, a criminal record will remain for life unless expunged in court. Holding a criminal record will negatively affect your personal and career life; you will experience difficulty obtaining specific government jobs and accessing housing plans. Consequently, a defendant needs to consult their attorney on whether they qualify for sealing their criminal record.
To obtain a court relief for DUID, you need to file for a DUID expungement. You qualify for a criminal record sealing if:
- You pay off all fines and fees required of them by the court.
- You complete the DUID probationary term without the waiting period.
- You complete a DUID treatment and rehabilitation program.
- You follow through all probation requirements such as community service and the California Department of Transportation.
- The court allows the defendant to file for an expungement if you are eligible.
- You finish the DUID probation early and are therefore granted a motion in a court system.
Crimes Related to the DUID Crime
California Vehicle Code 23152 – other sections of this law that are related to section f include:
- Section a - prohibits a person under the influence of any alcoholic drink to drive a vehicle.
- Section c - makes it unlawful to drive a vehicle if you are addicted to any drug. A prosecutor cannot charge a person undergoing a narcotic rehabilitation or treatment program with this claim.
- Section g - makes it illegal for someone under the combined influence of any drug and any alcoholic drink to drive a motor vehicle.
Find Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Suppose you or your loved one is facing driving under the influence of drug charges. In that case, it is critical to defend yourself since if you get convicted, it is added to your criminal records. Criminal records impact your personal and career life. You want to ensure your case is litigated by a proficient and aggressive attorney who will defend your rights.
Our attorneys at Orange County Criminal Lawyer are equipped with many years of practice in criminal defense. We will diligently analyze all aspects of your case and formulate the best litigation to ensure successful results. We offer free consultations and case evaluations. Our law firm is located in Orange County, California. For more information, contact us at 714-262-4833.