DUI involving drugs or medication is serious... but it can also be very difficult to prove.
California Vehicle Code section 23152(a) makes driving under the influence of drugs or medication a criminal offense with conviction penalties similar to alcoholic DUI.
As with alcohol-based DUI, California DUI of drugs or medication requires law enforcement to have "reasonable suspicion" that someone's driving breaks the law before initiating a traffic stop. Similarly, both forms of DUI require officers to identify "objective signs of intoxication" in a driver that create "probable cause" to believe she is "under the influence" prior to an arrest.
Our Los Angeles DUI Lawyers explain that alcohol and drug-based DUI become significantly different at this point. Taking drugs does not cause some of the so-called objective signs of intoxication that law enforcement relies upon most in cases concerning alcohol. For example, there is no "breathalyzer" for medication and drugs don't commonly affect breath odor.
To deal with this difficulty, California law enforcement's standard practice is to call in a "drug recognition expert" or a "DRE." DREs are officers who have been specially trained to detect the influence of narcotics, such as how they affect the human eye, muscle system, pulse, and more.
DRE experts are also empowered to submit suspects to chemical DUI blood tests. However, even when they do so, simply detecting the presence of drugs or medication in someone's system still does not prove he or she is "under the influence." There is no "magic number" for a specific level of drugs or medication that establishes the "fact" of intoxication like the "legal limit" in alcohol-based DUI cases of .08% or higher blood alcohol content.
Ultimately, officers and even DRE experts can only make an argument that someone is "under the influence" of drugs or medication, which the law defines as impairment rendering a person incapable of driving with the caution of a reasonable sober person. They're also aware that this vague standard can make a California DUI of drugs or medication case difficult to win once they hand it off to a prosecutor.
Our Los Angeles DUI Lawyers are familiar with the ways law enforcement tends to exaggerate evidence of drug intoxication in order to make cases seem more solid than they are. And we know how to counter them. On this page, we can only scratch the surface of this particularly rich topic. Suffice it to say, almost every aspect of almost every California DUI of drugs or medication case is open to challenge, even the chemical DUI blood test! Whether a case involves illegal, legal, over-the-counter drugs, or all of them does not matter. People should consult with a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer before deciding their case is any different.