Understanding DUI Charges Related to Drugs vs. Alcohol

What is DUID?

If you’re taken into custody and charged with DUI (driving under the influence) in or near Los Angeles, a Los Angeles DUI attorney will examine the details of your case, offer legal advice and defense representation, and bring your DUI case to its best possible conclusion.

Alcohol is not the only intoxicant that can prompt a driving under the influence charge. If you use any drug or substance that intoxicates you, and you subsequently get behind the wheel and start driving, you can be arrested and charged with DUID – driving under the influence of drugs.

DUID charges are more complicated than alcohol-related DUI charges because there is no precise “legal limit” in California for substances other than alcohol. You may not legally drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or higher, but after someone consumes another drug, how high is too high to drive? There is no easy answer.

What is a Drug Recognition Evaluator?

In some states, drivers in fatal crashes are not even tested for drugs other than alcohol, and a positive test for marijuana is no proof of impairment. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), marijuana’s active ingredient, may remain in the system for weeks, long after intoxication has faded.

Thus, when a California police officer stops a driver in traffic, if that police officer suspects that the driver is under the influence of drugs, instead of administering a breathalyzer test, the officer may summon a Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE) to the location.

DREs are law enforcement officers who’ve been trained to recognize motorists impaired by drugs. If a Drug Recognition Evaluator believes a driver is impaired, that driver will be taken into police custody, and he or she will be charged with driving under the influence of drugs.

What if Your DUID Case Goes to Trial?

If a DUID case goes to trial in Southern California, the DRE will testify, and the suspect will need to be defended by a Los Angeles DUI lawyer. Do not try to act as your own attorney if you are charged with DUID. The law is too complicated, and too much will be at stake.

In a typical California DUID prosecution, the state’s case will rely on evidence that includes a field sobriety test, the testimony of the arresting officer and/or the Drug Recognition Evaluator, and the defendant’s blood test results. The most common defenses in DUID cases are:

  1.  The police may have stopped and arrested you without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, or the officers violated your rights in some other way.
  2.  You were not impaired by any drugs at the time of your arrest.
  3.  There was an innocent explanation for the signs of drug impairment. For example, you may suffer from a medical condition that causes you to seem impaired or intoxicated.
  4.  You consumed the drugs long before you were driving, and the drugs had no effect on your driving even though the blood test detected an intoxicant in your bloodstream.

How Are DUID Cases Resolved?

If there is no way to have a DUID charge against you dismissed, and if you believe you are innocent, insist on your right to a jury trial. Your Los Angeles DUI attorney will take your case to court, explain to the jurors what actually happened, and ask those jurors to find you not guilty.

However, in some DUID cases, the evidence against you will be overwhelming, and your conviction will be inevitable. In such cases, your Los Angeles DUI lawyer may negotiate for the best possible plea agreement and for reduced or alternative sentencing.

What Are the Penalties for DUID Convictions?

In California, the penalties for a first DUID conviction are the same as the penalties for a first DUI conviction. In addition to the considerable financial costs, a first DUID conviction may be penalized with a jail sentence, probation, and a driver’s license suspension.

If it’s your first criminal offense, a DUID conviction also creates a criminal record. Your auto insurance rates may increase significantly, and if you drive for a living, you may have to find another line of employment. In other words, you very much want to avoid a DUID conviction.

In every state, if you’re convicted of driving while under the influence of marijuana, the penalties will depend on the details and the circumstances of your case, the specific DWI or DUI laws in your state, your prior criminal convictions, if any, and possibly other factors as well.

What About Other Drugs?

Of course, marijuana is not the only drug raising concerns about public safety in this state. Drivers in California have been arrested while driving under the influence of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, PCP, and even LSD.

More obscure street drugs with names like “spice” and “bath salts” can have unpredictable and dangerous effects. Many legal prescription pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medicines can also impair someone’s driving ability.

Motorists who are high on cocaine or methamphetamines may be careless, antagonistic drivers. Sedatives may cause fatigue or dizziness. Drugged driving is increasing, and it’s a growing risk for everyone who uses California’s streets and highways.

If You Are Stopped by the Police, What’s Important to Remember?

If the police stop you while you’re driving, be cooperative and friendly, but be smart, too. If you’re asked questions after you’ve shown the officer your license, registration, and insurance card, you may politely say something like, “I prefer to exercise my legal right to remain silent.”

You should always obey a law enforcement officer’s orders, but never consent verbally to a search of your vehicle, and never physically resist the police. Cooperate, but politely insist on your rights.

If you are placed under arrest for DUID, you must contact a DUI defense lawyer immediately. However, with thousands of lawyers in Southern California, how can you identify a DUI defense attorney who will prioritize your case and fight effectively for the justice you need?

Take Your DUID Case to Hurwitz Law Group

Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Brian Hurwitz leads the experienced team of legal professionals at Hurwitz Law Group. He will examine the evidence in your case and develop an aggressive strategy for your defense. He will move to have your DUID or DUI charge dropped or dismissed, negotiate a reasonable plea agreement, or advocate at trial for your acquittal.

Hurwitz Law Group offers affordable payment plans, and we provide free and confidential telephone consultations to prospective clients. If you’re charged with DUI or DUID in or near the Los Angeles area, contact Hurwitz Law Group immediately by calling 323-747-7484.

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