The crime of DUI or drunk driving is not limited or only relate to a driver who is intoxicated as a result of consuming alcohol. In California, it is entirely possible to be convicted of a DUI when the driver has used and is found to be “under the influence” of a drug. DUI cases involving drugs are commonly referred to as “DUI drugs,” “drug DUIs,” or “drugged driving.”
Drug DUIs are prosecuted under the same code section as alcohol-related DUIs. California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) states: “It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle.”
There are a large variety of substances that can be considered a “drug” for purposes of drug DUI cases. The drug can be legal or illegal, prescribed or over-the-counter. It can be any substance that can affect a person’s mental stability and physical capabilities to the extent that their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle is affected. This could include cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, pain killers, muscle relaxers and, even, cold medicines and cough syrup.
The definition of “under the influence” for drug DUI cases is identical to that used in driving under the influence of alcohol cases, which is defined as: “Affecting the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person as to impair, to an appreciable degree, his ability to drive a vehicle in the manner that any ordinarily prudent and cautious man, in full possession of his faculties, using reasonable care, would drive a similar vehicle under like conditions.”
It is important to note that the real issue in a drug DUI case is not the drug that was used, but rather the effect or “impairment” its use may cause on the driver. This is where DUI drug cases really differ from DUI alcohol cases as the issue of drug “impairment” can have a substantial effect on any of the following:
- the administration of the chemical test
- the symptoms of intoxication
- proving the crime
- the defenses to drug DUI cases
- the consequences involved with drug DUI cases
Drug DUI cases are highly technical matters that require an experienced drug DUI criminal defense lawyer with a real understanding of all the issues involved. Nonetheless, drug DUIs are very defensible cases. It is critical that you contact and consult with a qualified drug DUI defense lawyer to as a first step to avoiding a conviction.