California treats drugs and alcohol the same for the purposes of DUI.
Most people think of DUI as being alcohol-related, but often it’s not. About 16% of DUIs nationwide involve drugs instead of alcohol—that’s roughly 1 in 6 arrests. And the consequences for a drug DUI can be every bit as serious.
In California, the law treats driving under the influence the same whether the “influence” is drugs, alcohol or both. The jail time, fines, court fees, and license suspension are the same for both. In fact, a previous alcohol DUI conviction will count as a “prior” for a drug DUI, getting you treated as a repeat offender. The state views any form of intoxication as just as bad as any other.
This carries a number of complications for drug DUI arrests:
- You can be charged with DUI even if the drug in your system does not impair driving. Any drug that affects the muscles or nervous system can result in a DUI.
- You can be charged for driving under the influence of a legal drug, like Tylenol or a prescription medicine.
- You can get a DUI for driving while using medicinal marijuana, even though it is legal under state law.
The most serious drug DUI cases are those involving illegal drugs, such as cocaine, crack or meth. This is because you will often be charged with possession of an illegal substance on top of the DUI charge. You can learn more about specific substances in a DUI case here: Which drugs/substances can cause me to get a “Drug DUI” in California? A good lawyer may be able to help you beat a drug DUI charge.
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