Vista Criminal Attorney is a criminal defense law firm made up of experienced and skilled attorneys serving the Vista, California community and surrounding areas. The firm provides attorneys who are specially trained and experienced in handling criminal offense cases including but not limited to assault and battery, driving under the influence (DUI), domestic violence, fraud crimes, drug crimes, among others. When it comes to DUI of Drugs charges, the kind of defense put up in the law courts depends on certain factors including whether or not it is a first-time offense, legal or illegal drug and severity of the offense or level of impairment.
What Do the Laws of California Say About DUI of Drugs?
Foremost, we need to define what DUI is. According to the Laws of California, DUI is simply driving under the influence of any illicit drug, prescribed clinical medication or alcohol. As simple as that sounds it can be elaborated further as when you drink alcohol more than the legal limit or take drugs, legal or illegal, to the point where it impairs your ability to drive safely on the road due to a physical or mental impairment from their use.
According to the California Vehicle Code 23152(f) and (g), DUI of Drugs can, therefore, be defined as an offense when a person drives under the influence of drugs and is not driving as a sober person under similar circumstances would due to a physical or mental impairment from the use of the drugs. This can be when a person takes either an illegal drug or a prescribed clinical medication, a combination of both or a combination of drugs and alcohol to the extent their sobriety is impaired.
The laws of California for DUI of Drugs do not take into much consideration whether the drugs were legal or illegal or whether they were prescribed by a physician or not. Even over-the-counter medications can fall into the category of DUI of Drugs offenses if they impair your ability to drive as a sober person in a similar situation would. The issue of concern usually is the impairment and most attorneys argue the "impairment" factor and can get you a "not guilty" verdict if done right. Sobriety can be impaired at various levels of intake of drugs and alcohol for different people and this is what makes the defense different for everybody. Toxicology reports can show the level of drugs and alcohol in the blood but might not necessarily prove that a person's sobriety was impaired.
What are the Drugs Commonly Implicated in DUI of Drugs Offenses?
For the purposes of the California DUI of Drugs Law, a drug can be defined as any substance that can be ingested or taken into the body that can impair to a considerable degree, the central nervous system, the brain, and the muscles. This leads to the impairment of their ability to drive as any normally cautious person, in full awareness of his or her being and using sensibly considerable care, would drive under similar situations.
This definition means all legal, illegal, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, whether or not they make one "high", can fall into the category of DUI of Drugs if it fits. However, the most implicated drugs in DUI of Drug offenses are drugs known to create a feeling of ecstasy or euphoria such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and prescription drugs like opioid or narcotic analgesics. However, using prescription drugs just as instructed by your physician, can also lead to a DUI of Drugs charge when they alter your ability to drive.
How is DUI of Drugs Determined?
DUI of Drugs usually start as a regular traffic stop and is carried on when the officer uses reasonable judgment to decide that the driver's driving might be impaired by a substance. This leads to multiple questioning on includes the history of alcohol use and history of drug use, field sobriety tests and inspection of the vehicle for drugs. The officer also looks out for physical and psychological signs of impairment. A Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) may also be called to the scene to evaluate the driver. If any of these point to intoxication or possible use of drugs to the state of impairment, an arrest is made and charges are brought against the driver.
Unlike alcohol which has a defined legal limit according to the laws of California, there is no defined limit for the use of any kind of drug. This is because the is no agreed conclusion by experts as to what limit actually makes an individual's driving become impaired. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in a report to Congress stated that currently, specific levels of drug concentration in the blood cannot be said to reliably have an effect on a driver's performance. What most prosecutors mostly rely on are toxicology reports and DUID Tests and these are usually not accurate enough to be used to determine impairment.
Using toxicology reports in implicating DUI of Drugs offenses is not a very reliable means of doing so because unlike alcohol, drugs stay in the blood for a long time. This means that although the drugs may be found in your body when the test is done, it does not necessarily mean you took it immediately before or during driving. And it also definitely does not mean it had impaired your ability to drive especially you were pulled over for an offense a sober person can also get pulled over for. The answer, therefore, lies in the prosecution's ability to definite what "impairment" means in every situation and the defense's ability to counter that.
The driver, however, has every right to refuse to take any sobriety tests and/or answer any questions from the officer or Drug Recognition Expert. Like in every legal situation, you can exercise your Fifth Amendment right to prevent self-incrimination. Unless the driver is placed under arrest for an offense, there will be no consequences for exercising this right unless the driver is under 21 years or on DUI Probation.
Types of DUI of Drugs Offences and Penalties
There are two types of DUI of Drug offenses, and they are Misdemeanor DUID and Felony DUID.
- Misdemeanor DUID: Most DUI of Drugs are prosecuted as Misdemeanor DUID. Misdemeanor DUIDs are when a DUID charge is brought against an individual on the first to third offense or when there was no injury involved. Penalties for this type of DUI depends on the number of prior convictions. On the first conviction you can get a jail time of up to 6 months with up to 6 months license suspension, second, a jail time of up to 1 year and up to 2 years of license suspension, third, a jail time of up to 1 year and up to 3 years of license suspension. All these offenses might or might not come with a fine.
- Felony DUID: A felony DUID is brought against an individual who has four or more prior DUI of Drugs conviction or when someone is injured. This can attract up to 16 years jail time and up to 5 years license suspension, with or without a fine. A felony DUID may be just a fourth or more offense DUID, an injury DUID or a Felony Injury DUID which is a combination of a fourth or more DUID and an injury DUID.
Apart from the court penalties that can come out of a DUI, there can be other consequences from a DUI of Drugs charge which can affect the way you live. This can include qualifying for being made to attend California DUI School, financial aid in the university or any kind of financial aid, immigration issues, registration or renewal or professional licenses, auto insurance hikes and job applications. All these become difficult to take care of with a prior DUID charge which makes it important to get a great California DUID Lawyer to help clear you of all charges or reduce the severity of conviction.
What Happens in a California Court Trial for DUI of Drugs?
When you end up in court over a DUI of Drugs offense, there are multiple things that happen before a judgment is made in the favor of the defense or prosecution based on what was presented to the court. The following is what happens;
The Arresting Officer Gives His Testimony or Testifies
The trial usually starts with the arresting officer giving the court the reason for the arrest and why he/she thought the individual was driving under the influence. This usually includes the manner in which the driver was driving and how unsafe it was, symptoms of intoxication and result of field sobriety tests. The arresting officer must under oath testify of everything the individual did wrong to be arrested.
The arresting officer's reasons for the arrest must be in line with the laws of the state of California and must include facts that can help the prosecution proceed with the case. The facts must be objective and not just subjective. That is, they must include obviously visible signs and symptoms of intoxication and not just probable signs.
The Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Gives His Testimony Next
More potent than the testimony of the arresting officer is the testimony of the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). The Drug Recognition Expert is trained to also present evidence to the court and therefore know what to present and what not to present and most especially, how to present it to get a conviction. They work with local district attorney offices to be able to testify in court persuasively and convincing enough to get the prosecution their way. The Drug Recognition Expert's testimony might be the lengthiest and probably the most valuable testimony in DUI of Drugs charge.
They start off by testifying about their qualifications and the three major responsibilities as a Drug Recognition Expert; Establishing that the driver was impaired and his level of impairment was not caused by alcohol alone, affirming that the driver was driving under the influence of drugs and does not suffer from a medical condition and concluding that the driver was driving under the influence of one or more specific kinds of drugs.
The Drug Recognition Expert testifies of the comprehensive 12-step evaluation process that he took the individual through to arrive at the decision that the individual was indeed intoxicated. This testimony will include evidence that supports his or her claim and led to her conclusion of the type of drugs which led to the individual's intoxication. The DRE may conclude that the individual may have been impaired by Marijuana, a hallucinogen like an ecstasy or magic mushrooms, a nervous system depressant such as Valium, a central nervous system stimulant such as cocaine, a narcotic analgesic such as Vicodin and other categories of drugs as they can determine. This evidence is usually their focus to bring about a conviction.
If there is no Drug Recognition Expert involved a case, then it becomes quite hard to prove there was impairment caused by drug use. However, some arresting officers have also been trained as DREs and can act in the same capacity as them. If the arresting officer has no training as a DRE and there was no DRE involved, then an experienced California DUI of Drugs defense attorney can file for a suppression motion that prevents the arresting officer from giving any testimony about alleged drug impairment. Without this testimony, there is a greater chance of the charges being reduced or of the charges to be dismissed.
The Prosecution Presents Blood Test Results
The prosecution may then present blood tests as evidence which might be presented in two forms; toxicology screen for the presence of drugs in the blood and quantitative analysis which shows the level of drugs in the blood. An expert witness is then made to testify of the possibility of impairment with the amount of ingested drugs found in the blood. A positive drug test does not necessarily prove the person was actually driving under the influence unless there can be proven that there was an actual impairment on the person's ability to drive.
All these happen before the defense is allowed to argue the charges and evidence presented.
How to Fight DUI of Drug Charges
When you are charged with a DUI of Drug, the worst thing that you can possibly do is to proceed without a DUI attorney. This can lead to you being convicted and could even get you the maximum penalty when you go to court. When you get a DUI of Drugs attorney, they can help you fight the charges in a number of ways that can get you a "not guilty" verdict or help you get a reduced sentence.
Your attorney can use general DUI defenses or specific DUI of Drug defenses to fight California Vehicle Code 23152(f) or Vehicle Code 23152(g) charges. One of such general defense tactics is lack of probable cause for law enforcement or the arresting officer to initiate a traffic stop or arrest you for a DUI investigation to be initiated. Another is the defendant wasn't read or properly informed of his/her Miranda rights which include the right to remain silent before an interrogation was started. Last but not least is taking the position that the police did not follow the California Code of Regulations Title 17 procedures for the collection, storage, and analysis of blood, breath and/or urine samples.
Specific DUI of Drugs defense can be put up effectively by experienced lawyers to fight the charges. The most common and effective is the lack of a level of the specific quantity of drugs in the body to be defined as under the influence under the law. Scientifically, no specific amount can be said to be a level that causes impairment as every person's body acts differently to specific drug types. Some people may tolerate small amounts, and some may become intoxicated by the same amount. The detection window or the amount of time a drug can be found in the body after being ingested is different for every kind of drug and also depends on the features of the person including weight, height, history of drug use, etc. All these determine the amount of time a drug stays in the body of a person before being eliminated.
Also, quite simple and innocent explanations can be used to defend signs and symptoms that mimic impairment like use of topical drugs that have the smell of drugs like marijuana, genetic conditions, medical conditions like arthritis, injury, fatigue, allergies can all make it seem like a person is under the influence of drugs when it is no so.
Again, the defense can take the position that a chemical test could be an inaccurate way by pointing out all the flaws that can lead to a false positive due to contamination and improper handling during the testing process.
Where Can I Find a Vista DUI Attorney Near Me?
In order to be able to put up a great defense that can get you the best results, you need to find experienced DUI attorneys or a law firm specializing in such cases like Vista Criminal Attorney. At Vista Criminal Attorney, we have attorneys who can work with you every step of the way and argue your defense successfully to help you get the results you expect. You can call us on 760-691-1551 to speak to one of our legal experts today concerning your DUI case. For any other legal case, you can still call us now.