We all know drunk driving is against the law, but sometimes we may not realize that it is also a crime to drive while under the influence of drugs.
The California legislature has enacted legislation that specifically addresses drugged driving, and under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) VC it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs.
California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) reads:
Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC is the California statute that prohibits driving under the influence of drugs. Any drug, whether illicit or prescribed, can lead to DUI charges if it impairs the person’s driving ability. Most convictions under California law are misdemeanors. However, some can be felony DUI offenses.
The text of the statute reads that “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.”
Note that section 23152(f) formerly was the offense of driving under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs. However, that offense is now covered under California Vehicle Code 23152(g) VC.
To prove that the defendant drove under the influence of drugs, a prosecutor must be able to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant drove a vehicle AND
- When the defendant drove, he or she was under the influence of drugs.
A drug can be an illegal substance or a legally prescribed substance that causes impairment. It is not a defense that the defendant was legally entitled to use the drug.
Law enforcement agencies employ officers trained as drug recognition experts (“DREs”) to assist in vehicle stops where the driver is suspected of being under the influence of drugs. These officers are trained in recognizing the symptoms of drug intoxication and may conclude that the driver is under the influence of drugs and subsequently arrest the driver, who would then undergo blood testing. There is currently no reliable way to measure drug intoxication using a breath or saliva test.
PENALTIES FOR VIOLATING 23152(F) VC
Like convictions under the other subsections of California Vehicle Code Section 23152 VC, driving under the influence of drugs is typically a misdemeanor level offense. For a defendant’s fourth or subsequent DUI within a ten year period, the offense is a “wobbler” that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. A probationary sentence for convictions under this section would require that the defendant attend and complete a drug and alcohol awareness class and may also include community labor or service as well as jail sentences.
When a driver is found to only have drugs in his or her system at the time of being arrested, there would be no administrative license suspension through the Department of Motor Vehicles. If the defendant is issued a notice of impending suspension at the time of arrest, this will be set aside once the blood results come back and it is clear that there was no alcohol in the driver’s system. However, if the defendant is convicted under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) VC, the DMV would suspend driving privileges for a six month period based on the DUI conviction.
DEFENSES FOR VIOLATING OF 23152(F) VC
There may be instances where drugs remain in a person’s system despite the fact that they no longer have an intoxicating effect. Thus the driver in this type of situation would not have been driving while under the influence and would have a valid defense. A defendant in this situation may need an expert opinion from a toxicologist to testify as to the defendant’s actual impairment.
HELP YOU NEED
If you have been charged with a Los Angeles DUI offense it is very important to consult with an experienced Los Angeles DUI Attorney as soon as possible. There are tight deadlines in every DUI case, especially in regard to driver’s licenses, and retaining an attorney early on can make a significant difference.
With many years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles DUI Attorney Chris Nalchadjian is highly effective at fighting all aspects of DUI charges. Mr. Nalchadjian understands the consequences a DUI conviction can carry and works hard to ensure his clients receive the best representation possible.
For more information about driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles DUI Attorney Chris Nalchadian at KN Law Firm. We can be reached 24/7 at 888 950 0011 or through this contact form.