In San Diego, it is against the law to drive under the influence (DUI) of any drug, regardless of whether the drug is legal, illegal, lawfully prescribed or available over the counter. The main consideration in a San Diego DUI drugs case is not whether the drug is legal, but whether it can impair your driving. Consider this: Tylenol PM makes you drowsy. If you take Tylenol PM and the medicine impairs your driving, you could be arrested for and charged with DUI drugs, even though the medicine is legal and readily available over the counter. If you or a loved one is facing DUI drugs charges in San Diego or the surrounding areas, your first course of action should be to contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer to represent your case. At Sevens Legal, APC, our defense attorneys have experience in all areas of DUI defense, including DUI drugs, DUI with injury, felony DUI and misdemeanor DUI, and we can help you get the best possible outcome in your San Diego DUI case. Contact our law firm today to schedule a free initial DUI drugs consultation.
Hiring a Reputable DUI Drugs Lawyer
DUI drugs is a complicated crime, mostly because a driver can be legally considered “under the influence” of drugs without even realizing it. Additionally, since there is no specified legal limit for the concentration of drugs in a person’s bloodstream, drivers can be wrongfully charged with DUI drugs just because they have drugs in their system, even if they are not legally “under the influence” of the drugs. At Sevens Legal, our DUI defense attorneys are intimately familiar with California DUI law
and how it applies to your case, and we will work tirelessly to protect your legal rights and represent your best interests, whether your case goes to trial or not. We offer potential clients a free initial consultation, which means you can have a knowledgeable San Diego DUI defense attorney evaluate the facts of your case with no obligation to hire our firm.
San Diego DUI Drugs Offenses
DUI is most often associated with driving under the influence of alcohol, but drivers in San Diego can also be charged with the crime of DUI drugs, a surprisingly broad charge that can include any illegal, legal, prescription or over-the-counter drug. DUI drugs is similar in many ways to driving under the influence of alcohol, with a couple of important differences. While there is a legal limit for alcohol in San Diego – when a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher – there is no set legal limit for drugs that directly corresponds to the BAC limit for alcohol. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this is because “at the current time, specific drug concentration levels cannot be reliably equated with effects on driver performance.” Additionally, any time a driver stopped by police is suspected of drug use, the officer may call in an expert to evaluate the driver for signs and symptoms of drug impairment.
California Vehicle Code § 23152 VC
California Vehicle Code § 23152 VC is the law that makes it a crime to drive under the influence of drugs, under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol, or while addicted to any drug, unless the driver is participating in an approved narcotic treatment program. For the purposes of VC § 23152, a “drug” is defined as:
“a substance or combination of substances, other than alcohol, that could so affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person that it would appreciably impair his or her ability to drive as an ordinarily cautious person, in full possession of his or her faculties and using reasonable care, would drive under similar circumstances.”
This law covers any drug, whether illegal, prescription or over-the-counter (VC § 23152 (f)), or a combination of any drug and alcohol (VC § 23152 (g)), that can impair a person’s ability to drive, even if the drug is necessary for the driver’s health. Drugs commonly implicated in DUI drugs cases in San Diego include the following:
- Illegal drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine,
- Legal drugs, such as marijuana,
- Prescription drugs, such as Ambien, Vicodin (hydrocodone) and Oxycontin (oxycodone), and
- Over-the-counter medications, such as cold medications and antihistamines.
It is also a crime for a person who is “addicted to the use of any drug to drive a vehicle,” pursuant to VC § 23152 (c).
What Happens During a DUI Drugs Investigation?
Most San Diego DUI drugs arrests begin with a traffic stop or DUI checkpoint. If you are pulled over or stopped by the police and the officer has reason to believe you may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he or she will begin a DUI investigation. During the investigation, the officer may:
- Ask you questions about your drinking or drug use,
- Look for physical symptoms of intoxication or impairment,
- Ask you to take a breathalyzer test,
- Ask you to perform a series of field sobriety tests,
- Ask you to submit to a mouth swab test to determine whether there are drugs in your system, and/or
- Look to see if there are any visible drugs or drug paraphernalia in your car.
12-Part DUI Evaluation
If your BAC is below the legal limit of 0.08%, but you still appear intoxicated or impaired, the officer may suspect that you are under the influence of drugs and call in a drug recognition expert (DRE) to evaluate you. DREs are law enforcement officers who specialize in identifying when someone is under the influence of drugs, and once the DRE arrives on the scene, he or she will take over the DUI investigation. This includes a 12-part evaluation that involves the following components:
- Confirming that your BAC does not indicate alcohol impairment
- Interviewing the arresting officer
- Checking for physical symptoms of drug use, including:
- Pupil size
- Pulse rate
- Track marks
- Muscle tone
- Traces of drugs in the mouth or nostrils
- Conducting an eye tracking exam
- Re-administering field sobriety tests
- Asking you about any drug use
- Asking you to submit to a blood test and/or urine test
The goal of the DRE’s DUI investigation is to form an opinion as to whether drug use is causing your alleged impairment, and if so, what type of drug(s) may be involved. If the DUI investigation indicates that there is probable cause for a DUI drugs arrest and you are taken into police custody, you will be asked to submit to a DUI blood or urine test to determine your level of impairment, if any. This is the case even if you have already taken a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) breathalyzer test. Under California’s “implied consent” law, if the DUI drugs arrest is lawful, you are required to submit to a chemical test or face additional penalties for refusing the test, including an automatic suspension of your driving privileges. If the chemical testing indicates that you are under the influence of drugs, the prosecution can use the test results as evidence against you in your criminal case.
San Diego DUI Drugs Penalties
In most cases, the criminal penalties associated with a DUI drugs conviction are similar to those for driving under the influence of alcohol, which in San Diego is typically charged as a misdemeanor. However, there are certain specific situations in which the prosecution can pursue felony charges for a DUI drugs offense, including if the offense is the defendant’s fourth or subsequent DUI, if the defendant has one prior felony DUI conviction on his or her record, or if the DUI caused injury to another person
. The criminal punishment for a DUI drugs conviction depends on a number of factors, including the specific facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history, as well as the existence of any so-called “aggravating” factors, including whether anyone else was injured as a result of the DUI drugs (DUI with injury). The following are the potential penalties associated with a misdemeanor or felony DUI drugs conviction in San Diego.
Misdemeanor DUI Drugs
A misdemeanor DUI drugs conviction in San Diego is punishable by the following potential penalties:
- A possible county jail sentence,
- Fines, court fees and other costs,
- Informal probation,
- Driver’s license suspension, and/or
- DUI school.
Like San Diego DUIs, driving under the influence of drugs is a “priorable” offense, which means the penalties automatically increase with each subsequent DUI or wet reckless conviction.
Felony DUI Drugs
As a felony offense, a DUI drugs conviction is punishable by the following potential penalties:
- A county jail or state prison sentence,
- Formal probation,
- Thousands of dollars in fines,
- Driver’s license suspension or revocation, and/or
- DUI school.
San Diego DUI Drugs Defense
Driving under the influence of drugs is a serious offense under California law, and law enforcement officers and prosecutors have taken a tough stance against DUI and DUI drugs crimes. That being said, just because you have been arrested for DUI drugs does not mean you will be convicted of the crime and sentenced to jail. As in any criminal case, you are legally presumed innocent unless proven guilty and the prosecution bears the burden of proving the DUI drugs crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In order to get a DUI drugs conviction in San Diego, the prosecutor must prove the following elements of the crime:
- You drove a vehicle, and
- While driving, you were under the influence of drugs, under the influence of any combination of drugs or alcohol, or addicted to drugs.
Best Defense Strategies for DUI Drugs Charges
Just like in any San Diego DUI case, there are a number of defense strategies your attorney may be able to use to challenge the prosecution’s evidence against you and improve your chances of getting an acquittal in your DUI drugs case, including the following:
- No probable cause
- Miranda violation
- Title 17 violation
- Police misconduct
- Illegal arrest
- Illegal DUI checkpoint
- Illegal search and seizure
- Not under the influence
- Medical condition mimicking drug impairment
- Inaccurate chemical test
How Our Experienced DUI Drugs Lawyers Can Help
The consequences of a DUI drugs conviction can be devastating for your personal and professional life, and having a competent and aggressive DUI defense attorney on your side when facing DUI drugs charges in San Diego is the first step towards defending yourself against a damaging DUI drugs conviction. At Sevens Legal, we believe in being proactive in the defense of our clients, and we may be able to get your DUI drugs charges dismissed altogether or reduced to a lesser offense carrying a lighter sentence. For instance, we may be able to negotiate with the prosecution to get your DUI drugs charges reduced to a violation of California Health and Safety Code § 11550, being under the influence of a controlled substance, as part of a plea agreement. As a first-time drug offender, this would allow you to participate in a drug diversion program in lieu of serving any time in jail, and if you successfully complete the program, your charges would be dismissed.
Contacting a San Diego DUI Drugs Lawyer Near Me
Because there is no specific legal limit for drugs under VC § 23152, having any amount of drugs in your system could potentially lead to DUI drugs charges in San Diego, even if it is a very small amount. That being said, the lack of a legal limit means your attorney has more leeway to argue that you were not actually under the influence or impaired by drugs when driving. If you have been arrested for or charged with DUI drugs in San Diego or the surrounding areas, do not hesitate to protect your legal rights. Contact our knowledgeable and compassionate DUI defense lawyers at Sevens Legal as soon as possible to begin building a strong defense in your DUI drugs case.