Most people associate driving under the influence (DUI) charges with alcohol, but in recent years we have seen a steady increase in arrests for DUI involving drugs – specifically prescription drugs.
In California, it’s unlawful for a driver to operate a vehicle with any amount of drugs (legal or illegal) in their system, or while their driving abilities are impaired by drugs. This offense is outlined in California Vehicle Code Section 23152(e).
Under this section, a driver may face DUI charges involving any type of drug – including illegal narcotics like heroin or cocaine, prescription drugs like oxycodone or codeine, and even over-the-counter medications that impair driving abilities.
A driver may face DUI or drug charges in Orange County if he or she is suspected of having any amount of a drug in his or her system, or is accused of having impaired abilities to the extent that he or she cannot safely operate a motor vehicle as a sober driver would in similar circumstances.
Why Prescription Drug Charges are Harder to Prove
Why are prescription drug DUI charges more difficult to prove than standard alcohol-related DUI charges? There are a few issues that can affect the strength of the prosecution's case in these matters. The first issue involves testing for the drug in the driver's system.
There is a standard testing system in place to measure the level of alcohol in a driver's system based on a blood test or a breath test. Though many arguments have risen regarding the validity of these tests, there are regulations regarding the administration of these tests, the handling of test samples, and the maintenance of testing devices.
A blood test can reveal the presence of a drug in a driver's system, but it cannot necessarily show what level or amount of drug has been introduced. This can lead to questions regarding whether enough of a drug was in a driver's system to impair his or her abilities.
In the absence of a standardized test to measure the level of a drug in a driver's system, an officer's observations and specialized field sobriety tests must be relied upon to determine whether the driver's abilities are impaired by drugs.
This may include testimony from the arresting officer regarding a driver's behavior, appearance, and statements when he or she was pulled over for a suspected DUI. An officer may note that a driver had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, dilated pupils, or an unsteady gait as indicators that the driver was under the influence of a drug.
If drug-related field sobriety tests are administered, the arresting officer may testify regarding the driver's performance on the tests. Even standardized field sobriety tests, which are administered for DUI or alcohol cases, are not accurate 100% of the time and can be flawed by an officer's error in administering the test.
Challenging DUI or Drug Charges
Remember, all is not lost if the arresting officer said you were driving recklessly, failed field sobriety tests, or had drugs in your system as the result of a blood test. There are many different ways drug-related DUI charges can be challenged; it is up to your attorney to determine the best approach.
Legal and illegal prescription drug use in the United States has continually risen through the past decades, and with this increase, we have seen changes in legislation applying to general drug charges as well as related issues, such as driving under the influence.
At the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc., we take pride in keeping up to date with all DUI legislation and case law in California. We provide experienced and aggressive defense counsel to help our clients avoid license suspension, jail time, fines, and other serious penalties.
Contact our firm today to talk about your case and how we can help you.