Drug DUI Cases in California: How the law handles Drug DUI.
Drug DUI cases in California involve both legal and illegal drugs that can impair a persons ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Recognizing the increase in drug use and the increase in DUI cases involving drugs, the California legislature in 2014 enacted new laws that specifically target DUI caused by illegal drugs.
CVC 23152: California’s DUI Statute
In California, most DUI cases are prosecuted under CVC 23152. DUI cases involving an accident where there are injuries to people involved are covered by CVC 23153. “Wet Reckless” cases are covered under CVC 23103.
Before 2014: CVC 23152 a and b
Before 2014, CVC 23152 had two “main” sub-sections, CVC 23152(a) and CVC 23152(b). CVC 23152(b) exclusively covered DUI cases involving alcohol: and made it a criminal act to drive a motor vehicle in California with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. This law as known as the “per-se” law because it established a “per-se” limit for blood alcohol concentration: at the arbitrary level of 0.08%.
CVC 23152(a) was used to regulate “impaired” driving involving drug cases. Under CVC 23152(a), it was a crime to drive a car while “impaired.” This “impairment” could be caused by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. The language in CVC 23152(a) was vague, which allowed skilled DUI lawyers some room to attack.
After 2014: CVC 23152 amendments.
CVC 23152 was overhauled in 2014, with new sections added that specifically relate to drug DUI.
CVC 23152 (a): “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence
of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.”
CVC 23152 (b): “It is unlawful to drive a motor vehicle with a BAC above 0.08%…”
CVC 23152(c): “It is unlawful for a person who is addicted to drugs to drive a motor vehicle.”
CVC 23152(e) “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any
drug to drive a vehicle.”
CVC 23152(f) “It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined
influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle.”
The last two paragraphs; CVC 23152 e and f specifically deal with drug related DUI cases. One reason for the added law: it makes it easier for prosecutors to get convictions for drug related DUI. Why? The more charges that can be thrown at a defendant, the more likely one of them will stick. At trial, it is common for a jury to return a verdict for guilty in one charge, if there are multiple charges made against the driver.
CVC 23152 c is not as useful to prosecutors at it would first appear, because the criminal act that must be proven is “addiction.” For a prosecutor to show addiction, the prosecution has to establish the history of the driver using extrinsic evidence. This would involve gathering the driver’s medical records (which are legally confidential), interviewing friends/family (who may be sympathetic to the driver and not want to discuss the driver’s history). and generally involve a higher workload to actually prove the case. It is far easier to rely on a blood sample gathered during the arrest than it is to rely on a person’s history or testimony from others regarding a person.
Drug DUI cases in California: useful links:
Orange County Crime Lab: The OC Sheriff’s Department runs a “crime lab” that handles the blood testing used in Drug DUI cases.