Drug DUI in California is becoming more and more common as the use of medicinal marijuana increases along with police awareness and enforcement. Drug DUI crimes occur when a person is caught driving under the influence of a drug, other than alcohol, that renders them impaired for the purposes of driving. Drug DUI in California presents unique challenges in enforcement and recognition by law enforcement. Additionally, Drug DUI in California has its own set of defenses that a DUI attorney can use to beat the case in court and at the DMV. Under Vehicle Code 23152, driving under the influence of Drugs is illegal in the State of California.
Enforcement for Drug DUI in California cases:
What does the DMV do in drug DUI in California cases?
Currently, there is no administrative “per-se” proceeding for drug DUI cases. This means the DMV will not suspend a driver’s license simply because the person is arrested for suspicion of drug DUI. In alcohol DUI cases, the DMV can suspend a driver’s license and require the installation of an ignition interlock device. This is an important difference between drug DUI and alcohol DUI cases.
Enforcement for Drug DUI cases often starts in a similar fashion to alcohol DUI cases. Police, highway patrol or sheriff deputies will often find evidence of impaired driving such as Lane Straddling, Illegal turning, issues turning at intersections or other vehicle code violations. Police can also get the necessary probable cause for stopping the driver if the car they’re driving has mechanical irregularities such as burnt-out tail lights, license plate lights or headlights.
Once law enforcement officers initiate the stop of a driver, they will begin their Drug DUI enforcement investigation. Approaching the driver, officers are trained to look for signs of impairment by drugs, such as issues with pupil dilation, speaking issues such as slurred, too rapid or too slow speaking, and the smell of illicit drugs.
If the police have adequate evidence of impairment during their initial investigation, they will initiate Field Sobriety Tests to determine impairment from drugs. These tests are not quite the same as the ones used in suspected alcohol impairment cases. For example, a test looking for “convergence” of the pupils is used in drug DUI FST cases while a test looking for “horizontal nystagmus” is used in alcohol DUI cases. The “one legged stand” and “heel-toe walk the line” test are used in drug DUI investigations.
Defenses used by DUI attorneys in Drug DUI in California cases:
Defenses available to DUI attorneys defending Drug DUI cases differ from alcohol DUI cases. An important difference is the fact that drug DUI crimes are relatively new, so the science and the experience of the officers enforcing drug DUI in California cases is not as developed. This lack of development and experience gives a knowledgeable DUI attorney an advantage in defending a Drug DUI case.
In addition to the advantage gained by the lack of experience and relative novelty of drug DUI cases, the science of measuring impairment in drug DUI cases isn’t nearly as developed as it is in alcohol enforcement cases. In alcohol enforcement cases, there is a per se level of blood alcohol content that renders a person “impaired” for the purposes of driving as a matter of law. In drug DUI cases, there is no level of drugs in a person’s system that conclusively points to impairment. This is a very important difference for Drug DUI cases versus alcohol DUI cases.
Selecting a jury
When selecting a jury for a drug DUI in California case, a DUI attorney will look for jurors who don’t have preconceived notions about drug use. The attorney will also look for jurors who show bias against drug users, even legitimate medical marijuana users. These jurors are not suitable for DUI trial, and an experienced DUI attorney will know how to get them removed from the jury.