In California, if you are arrested for driving while intoxicated with drugs, you are charged with DUID. If arrested for DUID, you could compromise your career and be confused about what step to take next. However, facing charges doesn’t mean you are guilty. You may be innocent because the police misinterpreted the whole situation.

Therefore, instead of feeling ashamed, you need to seek an attorney’s help to protect your rights and prove your innocence. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we know how critical it is to preserve your freedom, reputation, and privilege to drive. We will build a solid defense and fight to have your charges reduced or dismissed.

Overview of California Crime of DUID

California VC 23152 prohibits motorists who are under the influence of drugs to drive cars. It makes it unlawful to operate an automobile while:

  • You are under the influence of drugs per VC 23152(f).

  • You are under the influence of both alcohol and drugs per VC 23152(g).

  • You are addicted to a drug and haven’t enrolled in a certified treatment program per VC 23152(c).

A drug means any substance that can affect your muscles, nerves, or brain. On the other hand, being under the influence means the drug has impaired your capability to drive in that you can no longer exercise similar caution as a sober person would under similar circumstances. Given the drug’s definition, you can be charged with DUID if you’re intoxicated with:

  • Legal drugs, for example, marijuana.

  • An illegal substance, for instance, heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.

  • Medicines sold over the counter, like flu medication or antihistamines.

  • Prescription medications, regardless of whether they made you ‘high.’

Examples of drugs that can lead to you facing DUID charges include prescription opiates such as Oxycontin, Valium, and Vicodin, methamphetamine, Ambien, and marijuana. However, any substance that affects the brain, nervous system, or muscles may make you face charges, even if you use it for medical purposes.

There’s no lawful limit for the drug quantity you should have in your bloodstream for you to be found guilty of DUID. You could face arrest because of any drug amount that’s detected during blood testing.

Implied Consent and Blood Testing

When you’re suspected of DUID, the law enforcement officer will generally request to draw a sample of your blood. He/she will then test the blood to establish whether or not you have controlled substances in your bloodstream. When you obtain the privilege to drive in California, you’re considered to have automatically agreed to undergo a blood or breath test under the implied consent law. This means after you have been legally arrested for operating while intoxicated, you must submit to a blood or breath test.

You may decline to take the tests, but you could face penalties for that, including license suspension and penalty enhancements. Thus, if you’re charged with DUID but are unconscious after an accident, the law enforcers may obtain a warrant to draw your blood sample forcefully. You might be restrained at a health facility so that certified personnel can take the blood sample.

How a Blood Test is Used in Drug-Driving Cases

After a sample of your blood is drawn, it undergoes toxicology screening. This screening will reveal the drugs present in your blood system if any. It generally does not show the concentration of the detected drugs. It only indicates whether or not there are drugs in your bloodstream. If there are, the laboratory will then perform quantitative analysis to identify their level.

Although blood tests results are disputable, the DA, with the expert witnesses’ and the DRE’s help, could still utilize them to substantiate:

  • You tested positive for a drug or drugs.

  • The amount of the substance present

  • In certain cases, the period range within which you consumed the drug.

However, since all these aren’t considered conclusive as far as impairment is concerned, the DA will usually depend on:

  • The police and DRE’s observations, and

  • The expert witness’s testimony

What Happens During a DUID Trial?

At the DUID trial, the following takes place:

  1. The Arresting Officer Will Testify

DUID trials start with the officer’s testimony. They will testify about why they suspected you were DUID. Facts the prosecuting attorney may obtain from the arresting officer’s testimony are your reckless driving behavior, physical intoxication symptoms, and performance on the field sobriety and PAS breath tests. In other words, every error you committed is pointed out for the jury or judge.

Arresting officers almost always testify that the accused wasn’t driving cautiously as any sober motorist would do. They will usually also state that the driver showed objective intoxication signs & symptoms such as slurred speech, red & watery eyes, an unstable gait, and reddened face. And if the accused took FSTs, arresting officers usually testify that the defendant didn’t do them as demonstrated or explained.

Unlike in standard DUI cases, failed breath tests don’t prove a lot in DUID cases. If you submitted to a breathalyzer test by the roadside, it could have indicated no or little blood alcohol content. However, the officer is likely to attest that since alcohol couldn’t account for the impairment symptoms, they suspected there had to be drug use. This kind of testimony is valuable to the prosecuting attorney when you argue an absence of probable cause for arrest as a legal defense.

  1. The DRE Officer Testifies

The DRE’s testimony is the most powerful proof in your DUID case. Part of their training is how they’re to testify before the judge. The district or local city attorney’s office usually works with drug recognition experts to ensure their testimony is convincing. Consequently, DREs are generally very polished and professional.

They start by attesting comprehensively about their skills and training, after which, they’ll testify about their primary duties:

  • Confirming your impairment level wasn’t because of alcohol.

  • Substantiating you were drug-intoxicated and didn’t have any medical condition

  • Deducing you were under the intoxication of with one or several specific controlled substances

The DRE officer attests comprehensively about the evaluation process and tests they administered during the investigation phase. Particularly, they emphasize the proof supporting their conclusion on what drug category you were high on. For example, they may deduce that you were impaired:

  • A hallucinogen like magic mushrooms or LSD

  • A depressant e.g. Valium or Xanax

  • A stimulant, for instance, cocaine, methamphetamines, or amphetamines.

  • Marijuana

  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

  • An opioid, for instance, Vicodin, codeine, or heroin.

  • Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB)

  • Any drug that’s not classified in the above categories

If there isn’t a DRE involved in your case, your charges will become more challenging to substantiate. A few police officers have undergone training in matters to do with drug recognition. Even so, if the police officer in your specific case didn’t train in this field, and a DRE wasn’t involved, your attorney may successfully move to suppress the officer’s testimony (if any) about supposed drug impairment. Your charges are likely to be lowered via a plea bargain or be entirely dropped without this testimony.

  1. Blood Test Results

The DA will then introduce the DUI blood test results if any. Typically, these results are of two kinds:

  • Toxicology screening results that show the existence of drugs

  • A quantitative analysis, which discloses the level of the drug the screening detected

The expert witness then attests that the drug amount present in your bloodstream matches what studies say could mean impairment.

DUID Penalties

California DUID penalties are intricate. Under most circumstances, driving under the influence of drugs is a misdemeanor. It’s a felony if:

  • It’s your fourth/subsequent DUID offense.

  • You have a past conviction for at least one felony DUID.

  • Another person died or was severely injured because of your drug-driving, or it’s your third/subsequent DUI causing injury.

A skilled DUI attorney may be capable of convincing the court or prosecution to grant community service or probation instead of jail. However, if you have several DUI convictions, you may serve some time in jail/prison. A DUID conviction may also lead to a suspension or revocation of your driving privilege for a minimum of six months and a maximum of three years, based on the number of prior DUI crimes on your criminal record. Specifically, the penalties are as follows:

  • First Offense — If it is your first DUID crime, you may face a maximum jail time of six months, a fine of up to $390, license suspension for six months, and a drug education program for at least three months (DUI School). You may also be subject to probation for up to five years instead of jail time.

  • Second Offense in Ten Years — Here, you may be subject to ninety days to a year in jail, at least $390 in fines, and driving privilege suspension for two years. You may be sentenced to probation for DUID, but you’ll be required to serve jail time for some days as per VC 23542.

  • Third Crime in Ten Years — If it’s your third DUID offense, you may face a jail term ranging between 120 days and a year, at least $390 in fines, license suspension for up to three years, and a habitual traffic offender (HTO) title. You could also be sentenced to probation instead of jail.

  • Fourth and Subsequent Offenses in ten years— If you are found guilty of a fourth or subsequent DUID crime, you will face felony penalties. They include three or two years or sixteen months in prison and up to $5000 in fines under VC 23550. Additionally, you will subject to driving privilege suspension for four years and an HTO title for up to three years.

  • Prior Felony DUIDs — If you have a past felony DUID conviction within ten years, even if it is your only DUID, you could be subject to a maximum jail term for a year upon conviction of another DUID. You may also face license suspension for up to four years, a minimum fine of $390, and an HTO title for up to three years.

If your driving privilege is revoked or suspended, you are required to pay a fine and reinstatement fee and satisfy several other conditions to have the license back. The requirements you will need to meet are installing an IID in your auto, completing DUI School, and proving you have auto insurance.

Penalties for Driving When Addicted to a Drug

VC 23152(c) makes it unlawful to operate an auto when you’re addicted to any given drug. This obscure offense is a type of driving under the influence and has similar penalties as DUID. However, there is an exception. The exception is when you’re presently taking part in a certified drug treatment program (though it’s still unlawful to drive when intoxicated).

VC 2352(c) requires the prosecution to show that you are indeed addicted to a drug and are not merely a habitual or casual user. Most often, prosecutors charge this crime when their DUID case is weak, but the defendant’s urine or blood test results indicated drug presence.

Drug Diversion Programs Are Not Available for a DUID Charge

If you are charged with DUID, you don’t qualify for drug diversion. However, your lawyer may be capable of convincing the judge or prosecution to dismiss the charges. Instead, you would then plead guilty to HSC 11550 law against being intoxicated with a drug. If you are a first-time drug offender, this will permit you to take part in a drug diversion program like;

  • DRug court

  • PC 1000 diversion program for simple possession, or

  • Pop. 36 diversion program for non-violent offenders

These diversion programs permit you to take part in an education & counseling pretrial program. If you complete any of these programs, the court will dismiss your charges. The benefit of this approach is that there’s possibly no conviction whatsoever on your record. However, the disadvantage is that HSC 11550 carries up to a year of jail time. Therefore, if you don’t complete the diversion program, the court may impose this long sentence.

Legal Defenses to DUID Charges

For the judge to find you guilty of DUID, the prosecution has to show that:

  • You drove an auto

  • While intoxicated with a drug or when addicted to a drug

  • And your vehicle operation was impaired.

DUID charges can be more subjective compared to those of DUI of alcohol. Cases rely on a police officer’s observation that suggests impairment. However, at times, drug impairment signs may arise due to other factors like health conditions or fatigue.

Even if your blood test results come back positive for drugs, they don’t necessarily prove that you were intoxicated. Not two people can metabolize drugs in the same way. And whereas you might have been behind the wheel with a narcotic in your bloodstream, the prosecution still needs proof to show you were intoxicated.

Several general defenses apply to all DUI cases, including DUID. These defenses have always to be argued by a skilled DUID defense lawyer. Also, there are defenses specific only to DUID charges. This section will look at these two types of legal defenses that can help you win your case.

  1. General Defenses

General legal defenses to DUI include arguing that:

  • There wasn’t a reasonable cause for the officer to pull you over or initiate a DUI investigation.

  • The police did not properly read your Miranda warning before interrogating you.

  • The police didn’t correctly follow the procedures under Title 17, which dictate how gathering, storing, & analyzing blood, breath, or, if applicable, urine samples should be done. 

  1. Specific Defenses to DUID

There are various defenses specific only to DUID charges. Of them, the most potent is that the presence of drugs in your system doesn’t necessarily mean you are intoxicated. There’s no scientific connection between the drug quantity in a person’s system and their impairment. Certain people are highly affected when they use drugs compared to others. Additionally, over time, a person develops drug tolerance to the substances he/she uses regularly. This leads to the seemingly odd outcome that a person who does more drugs will less likely be drug-impaired than a casual user.

Other legal defenses to DUID charges include:

Innocent Conditions May Resemble Drug Impairment

Several physical and medical conditions may mimic the symptoms of drug intoxication and impairment. Prevalent similar signs are sickness, allergies, fatigue, nervousness or anxiety, diabetic ketoacidosis, and injuries. All these reasons are explanations that don’t have any connection with drug use or impairment.

Even the Recognized Drug Impairment Symptoms Can Result Due to Other Reasons

Even common drug impairment signs can, at times, occur because of something else that’s not drug consumption. For instance:

  • Apart from pupil size being affected by drug use, excitement, darkness, light, and nerves could also alter its size.

  • HGN, a sign of drug use and impairment, naturally happens in a given percentage of the population.

  • An unsteady balance could also be because of an ear disorder, old injury, or even uncomfortable footwear like high heels or steel boots.

Chemical DUID Test Results Are Not Always Accurate

Although DUI urine or blood test results may be positive for drug use, it doesn’t always imply that they are correct. Chemical tests for DUID could be invalid due to:

  • Contaminated medical instruments.

  • Improper sample storage.

  • Inappropriately drawn blood.

  • Incorrect handling of the samples.

Find a DUID Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Note that just because you’ve been charged with DUID, it doesn’t mean you’re guilty. An experienced DUID criminal defense lawyer could cast doubts on the prosecution’s evidence that shows you were driving under the influence of drugs. Only a few officers are adequately trained to detect drivers who are driving erratically and who may be under the influence.

At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we have knowledgeable DUID defense attorneys on standby to fight the allegations against you. We will put our extensive knowledge of California DUID law and the justice system into use to ensure you achieve a favorable outcome. Contact us today at 310-502-1314 to schedule a free consultation.