Driving under the influence of drugs in California is considered DUI. In most cases respects it’s treated just like an alcohol DUI. However, there are key differences that can make facing a drug DUI charge even more serious.
For the sake of clarity, in this article we’ll refer to a DUI of drugs as DUID.
Defining a DUID
Virtually any drug in your system can be grounds for a DUID. Many drivers are surprised by just how broad this charge is. Any of the following types of drugs can lead to an arrest:
- Marijuana, even if it’s being used for valid medical reasons
- Any illegal drug/controlled substance
- Prescription medication, even if you have a prescription
- Over the counter medicine
Notice that many of these substances are legal to possess and use. The main factor in whether a DUID has been committed is not whether the drug is legal, but whether it impairs your driving. Tylenol PM, for example, makes you drowsy. That’s impairment.
How a DUID Case is Prosecuted
DUID cases proceed a little differently from alcohol DUI cases. It can start as early as the initial traffic stop. Officers may look for certain signs that you’re under the influence of drugs, such as your behavior, dilated eyes, or other cues. These cues are somewhat subjective, but police make up their minds very early in a conversation whether they think you’re impaired.
If you’re arrested, you are required to submit to a blood or urine test. If you try to insist on a breath test instead, you may be charged with refusing the test, which is a crime in itself. This is because drugs do not register in breath tests.
The most important difference in the cases, however, is blood content. For alcohol DUI, the law gives a .08% blood alcohol limit. Anyone at or above that limit is considered to be under the influence. For drugs, there is no exact limit.
This can work both for and against you. On the one hand, any amount of drug in your system could potentially lead to conviction, even if it’s a very small amount. On the other hand, since there’s no strict limit, there’s room for argument as to whether you were actually “under the influence” and impaired.
Defenses against DUID
A good DUI defense lawyer will use several tactics against a DUID charge:
- They will check to see whether the blood or urine samples were drawn, stored and tested in accordance with all procedures set by the state of California. Often, they aren’t. This can get your blood or urine test excluded from the evidence.
- They’ll explore alternate explanations for behavior the officers observed, such as normal tiredness, stress or anxiety.
- They can make a case that the amount of drug in your system was not enough to cause impairment.
This is in addition to all the usual DUI defense tactics.
Penalties for Drug DUI
If you are convicted of a drug DUI, the charges are generally the same as they are for an alcohol DUI. This includes license suspension, jail time, mandatory DUI education, probation, and thousands of dollars in fines and fees. Just like an alcohol DUI, DUID penalties get worse for repeat offenders. Both kinds of DUI count as previous offenses.
However, DUID penalties can become even worse, in two situations:
- If your DUID involves any of the hard drugs listed in California Health and Safety Code 11550, you will be charged with illegal drug use in addition to the DUI charge. This includes drugs like cocaine, meth, and many others.
- If illegal drugs were found on your person or in your vehicle, you could also be charged with possession.
When drug penalties and DUI penalties are all stacked together, the sentence can be severe and enormously expensive. It can have an effect on your life for years to come.
Getting a Drug DUI Lawyer
Because of the severity of drug DUI charges, it’s important that you find a qualified lawyer to help you. Not all attorneys, even DUI defense attorneys, have experience with drug DUI cases. An attorney who has worked on similar cases to yours and secured favorable results will give you the best fighting chance.
We’re happy to connect you with a California DUI lawyer with drug DUI experience. All you have to do is provide some basic information and we’ll match you with an attorney who offers a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to your right and get your free consultation today.