A DUID charge is stressful and scary, having the potential to bring devastating consequences to your life. At the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, APC, we are dedicated to DUID cases and can help navigate the legal proceedings and process with you. With twenty years of experience in DUI and DUID defense, we have unique and in-depth knowledge of how to best handle these cases. First, it is important to educate yourself on the basics of a DUID charge, typical penalties, and information on how your case may be classified.
Driving under the influence of drugs (DUIDs) occurs when an individual cannot operate a vehicle like a sober person due to drugs in their system and is prohibited under California Vehicle Code section 23152(e) and California Vehicle Code section 23152(f). Illicit drugs, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medication, or a combination of alcohol and drugs may all potentially lead to a DUID if the driver is impaired. Unlike driving under the influence of alcohol, there are no set limits for drug concentration levels in a person’s system. This is largely because of the inconsistency and variety of reactions among people.
It is important to note that when you apply for a driver’s license in California, you are considered to have provided implied consent to giving a blood or urine sample for testing. So, if you are pulled over and suspected of driving under the influence of drugs, you have already agreed to submit to a urine or blood test if you have a driver’s license. Because blood draws are considered a “search” under the U.S. Constitution, you can refuse it; however, refusing to submit to the test may result in a warrant being issued to take a “forced blood draw” and additional, harsher consequences in court and with DMV will result.
DUIDs can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Typically, for a misdemeanor, an individual face penalties of 3 years of probation, a hefty fine of approximately $2,000 for the first offense, DUI school, license suspension, and possible jail time.
Much like DUIs, DUIDs are charged as felonies if an individual caused serious harm to a third party in an accident while under the influence of drugs, or if the individual has had 3 other DUI offenses or a previous felony DUI offense. The typical penalties for a felony DUID include up to 3 or more years in state prison and a fine between $390 and $1,000, depending on the circumstances. Penalties become more severe when the injuries to a third party are considered “great bodily injury.”
The penalties for driving under the influence of drugs are roughly the same as the penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol at the misdemeanor level. However, the main differences in punishments for DUID and DUI appear when illicit drugs are involved. For example, driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal, but alcohol is legal to purchase for adults over 21.
Methamphetamine is not legal to purchase or possess. When an individual is arrested for DUID and the arresting officers have reason to suspect the individual has taken illicit drugs, a search of the vehicle may uncover illicit substances. The individual will likely face possession charges and/or possession with intent to sell depending on the type, quantity, and condition of the drugs seized from their vehicle. A DUI attorney can help an individual in this position navigate the criminal justice system and prepare a defense.
To conduct an arrest for DUID or DUI, the arresting officer must establish reasonable suspicion to stop a suspected impaired driver. This could include swerving, weaving, driving erratically, driving suspiciously slowly and impeding the flow of traffic, or committing a moving violation. Once officers establish reasonable suspicion, they may conduct a stop. If they determine there is probable cause to believe the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the officer will arrest the driver.
A Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) is a law enforcement officer who has completed special training to recognize the various signs of drug impairment. After an arresting officer has taken custody of an impaired driver, a DRE may conduct a 12-step examination of the driver to establish proof of intoxication. Some illicit drugs are more difficult to detect than others, but a DRE may know how to spot the physical and mental signs of impairment.
California state law does not impose any penalties for refusing a chemical test for drugs or alcohol up to the moment of arrest. A suspected impaired driver has no legal obligation to perform field sobriety tests or submit to a preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) unless the driver is currently on probation for a prior DUI offense or is under the age of 21. However, once an arrest occurs, the driver must submit to an evidentiary DUI chemical test. This will typically take place at the police station, or at a hospital or other medical clinic. Because a blood draw, as opposed to a breath test, is a search under the law, a person can refuse it; however, officers will likely seek and obtain a warrant to take a suspect’s blood by force if necessary. This is an unpleasant and dangerous experience that will result in a longer suspension of one’s driving privilege and is not recommended.
Once the DUID trial begins, the arresting officer will testify. They will explain to the court why they stopped the defendant and what evidence they uncovered during the course of the arrest. Ultimately, the arresting officer will offer all of the evidence they gathered to prove the defendant was not driving in a cautious manner consistent with how a sober person would drive.
If a DRE verified that the driver was under the influence, the DRE will also testify at the trial. The DRE will explain the 12-step verification process used to determine the defendant was under the influence of drugs at the time of arrest, divulge the results of the evidentiary chemical test to the court, and make a case for impairment by identifying the drug in the driver’s system.
Every arrest is unique. An experienced DUID attorney can investigate the unique circumstances of your case and devise a strategic defense. Other common defenses that could come into play will depend on the nature of the arrest and the type of drug involved. For example, for some California drivers who use marijuana, a chemical test could show a positive result for marijuana in the driver’s blood from previous use, though the driver was not impaired at all when they were driving. Discrepancies like this are some of the most commonly used defenses against DUID charges. Other potential defenses could include the arresting officer’s lack of reasonable suspicion to stop the driver, the failure of the arresting officer to properly advise a suspect of their rights, the failure to properly obtain and/or store a chemical test sample, the inability to connect the level of a substance in one’s system to impaired driving, or the failure to arrange for a DRE evaluation of the suspect. A DUI lawyer will advise a client of their best available defenses in a DUID case.
The criteria to prove that an individual was driving under the influence of drugs includes proving that while an individual was driving, their ability to drive was impaired by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. As there are no breathalyzers for drugs like there are for alcohol, urine and blood samples must be taken to test for drugs. It is important that law officers and hospitals comply with all California legal protocol during this process, as potential contamination, time sensitivity between arrest and testing, or degradation of samples may all affect the admissibility of evidence.
If you have been charged with DUID in California, it is crucial that you obtain the representation of an experienced DUID defense attorney right away. The success of the prosecution’s case depends heavily on the evidence against you. At CJM, our skilled and knowledgeable team will closely examine all of the evidence in your case and petition the court to exclude any evidence that was seized in violation of your rights or that has been compromised in any way. Our job is to weaken the case against you as much as possible, so the prosecution will not be able to prove their burden in court. Remember that you do not need to face these charges alone. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation.