​DUI Involving Drugs in Orange County

​DUI Involving Drugs in Orange County

​DUI Involving Drugs in Orange County

California, like many other states, has strict laws when it comes to driving under the influence (DUI). Although many people associate DUIs with alcohol, a person may also be guilty of DUI if they are under the illegal influence of a drug or other controlled substance. Essentially, an individual commits a DUI if alcohol or drugs affect their ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. The drug that impairs a driver can be either a prescription or non-prescription drug.

Individuals who incur convictions for driving under the influence of drugs, or DUID, may face extremely serious penalties. Those potential penalties may include jail time, high monetary fines, probation, and other legal and collateral consequences. However, you might avoid a conviction by retaining skilled legal counsel to represent you in your case. If the state prosecutor fails to obtain a conviction against you, you will not incur any criminal penalties.

If you’re currently pending a DUI criminal charge, you must retain experienced legal representation in your case as quickly as possible. A DUI defense attorney can represent you during every stage of your criminal case, including initial police questioning and plea deal negotiations with a state prosecutor. An attorney can also represent you at all courtroom proceedings, including a jury trial, and advocate one or more legal defenses on your behalf.

Your attorney will also do everything possible to help you avoid a criminal conviction in your case. If that is impossible, your lawyer can help you obtain a reduced charge or a lighter criminal penalty upon conviction.

Defining a Drug in California

In California, a drug is a single substance or some combination of substances that are not alcohol which affects a driver’s nervous system, brain, or muscles. In the context of DUID, the drug must also affect someone’s ability to drive properly.

Certain drugs may serve as the basis for a DUI arrest.

Those drugs include:

  • Marijuana
  • OxyContin
  • Ambien
  • Methamphetamines

A drug does not have to be illegal to be the basis of a DUID. In some instances, drivers are under the influence of various prescription medications (with valid prescriptions) to treat a particular medical condition.

However, if those prescription medications affect a driver’s ability to drive carefully and safely, a police officer can still initiate an arrest for DUI. A driver must avoid getting behind the wheel if they take medication that makes them overly drowsy or has similar side effects.

Some valid prescription drugs that might lead to a DUID charge include:

  • Benzodiazepines for sleeping or anxiety
  • Opioid pain relievers
  • Antihistamines
  • Antipsychotics
  • Anti-seizure medications

When a police officer arrests a driver for DUID, the driver may be eligible to challenge the arrest in some circumstances. A knowledgeable lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible to challenge your arrest. If so, your attorney can raise the appropriate legal defense on your behalf in court. 

Lawyer for DUI Defennse in Orange County

When it comes to the legal standard for alcohol intoxication, the criminal statutes are very clear. For alcohol-related DUI arrests, a driver is per se (or legally) intoxicated if Breathalyzer or chemical testing shows their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to meet or exceed 0.08 percent.

The legal standard is much stricter for commercial vehicle operators, including tractor-trailer and big rig drivers. A commercial driver is legally intoxicated with a BAC of at least 0.04 percent. Finally, California considers drivers under 21 “minors,” and a zero-tolerance policy applies to those individuals. Therefore, a minor driver with any alcohol in their system can be subject to a DUI arrest.

The legal limits of intoxication for drugs are different than those for alcohol. In terms of both prescription and non-prescription drugs, California does not have a set legal limit. This lack of clarity exists because many experts cannot agree on what amount of drugs it takes to sufficiently affect a driver’s abilities and concentration while behind the wheel.

Pulling a Suspected Driver Over for DUID

For a police officer to place a driver under arrest for DUI, the officer must first have the necessary reasonable suspicion to pull their vehicle over in the first place. This typically means that the police officer believes the driver committed a moving violation, such as speeding or failing to use a turn signal at the appropriate time.

Moreover, to arrest a driver for DUID, the officer must have probable cause that the driver operated their vehicle while under the illegal influence of drugs. If an officer places the driver under arrest for DUI, it is not necessary that they read Miranda rights to the driver immediately. In fact, a police officer only needs to read a driver their Miranda warnings if the driver is in official police custody, and if officers plan to ask the driver various substantive questions to which the driver might potentially say something incriminating.

If a police officer reads you Miranda warnings following your DUI arrest, you should quickly assert your legal right to the presence of counsel during questioning. Under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, individuals have a legal right against self-incrimination.

Therefore, if you assert your Miranda right to the presence of legal counsel during police questioning, a police officer may not ask you any additional questions. If the officer continues questioning you and you make an incriminating response, that response may be subject to suppression if your case ultimately goes to a jury trial.

In addition, if a police officer arrests someone for DUID, they may ask the driver to take a Breathalyzer or blood test. In California, an individual under arrest for DUI may not refuse chemical testing. In fact, if you make such a refusal, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will immediately suspend your license to drive a vehicle.

After administering a test on a portable Breathalyzer device, a police officer can ask you to take a blood test. Police officers typically make this request if they think the blood test result will reveal evidence of intoxication by alcohol or drugs. Once the police officer obtains a blood sample from you, the sample will undergo a toxicology screening.

If the screening comes back positive for drugs or alcohol, a state prosecutor can try to introduce the test results as evidence at a criminal trial. They can then argue to a jury that you were legally intoxicated at the time you drove your vehicle, and they may call the arresting officer as a witness in court to authenticate the blood test result.

If you find yourself under arrest for DUI, you must seek out experienced legal help right away. Failing to do so may increase your chances of a conviction and harsh penalties in your case.

A lawyer can review all evidence in the case and determine if you can assert a valid legal defense to your DUID charge. If you’re eligible to argue a defense at trial, your attorney can assist you and help you secure the best possible result in your case.

What Happens During a DUI Traffic Stop?

For a traffic stop to be legal and valid in California, a police officer must ordinarily have at least some reasonable suspicion that the driver committed a crime or moving violation. If the police officer initiates an invalid traffic stop, any evidence that the officer later obtains, such as drug or alcohol test results, may be subject to suppression if the case goes to trial. This is because all drivers have Fourth Amendment constitutional protections from unreasonable searches and seizures.

However, if the police have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pull a vehicle over, they can:

  • Request that the driver complete one or more field sobriety tests, such as the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, heel-to-toe walking test, or one-leg balance test, to determine whether the driver is likely intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.
  • Observe the driver for various physical symptoms that might indicate that they are under the illegal influence of alcohol or drugs, such as dilated pupils, alcohol on the driver’s breath, or slurred speech.
  • Look inside the driver’s vehicle and see if any incriminating evidence is in plain view, such as drugs or open containers.
  • Ask the driver to submit to a Breathalyzer test, during which the driver blows into a portable device, and the device measures the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
  • Ask the driver if they recently had anything to drink or consumed drugs shortly before getting behind the wheel.

Remember that some California police officers are drug recognition experts or DREs. These individuals undergo extensive training that enables them to quickly recognize whether a driver is likely under the illegal influence of narcotics or other drugs.

In many situations, a police officer must perform a DRE evaluation on an individual while they are physically present at a police station or other well-lit and well-controlled area. By performing the test under these conditions, a police officer can clearly observe the driver’s mannerisms and determine whether they are likely under the influence of drugs.

Even though police officers must follow various protocols when initiating an arrest for DUID, some officers make mistakes. Conditions that are beyond the driver’s control, including weather conditions and lighting, may prevent a driver from performing a particular task (or test) correctly.

Therefore, a driver can assert this legal defense in their case under certain circumstances. If their defense is effective at trial, the DUID case may be subject to a complete dismissal. A lawyer for DUI defense can determine your eligibility to raise a particular defense at trial and can help you secure the best possible result in your case.

What are the Potential Penalties and Collateral Consequences for a DUI Conviction?

In a criminal DUI case, the state prosecutor has the sole legal burden of proof. The prosecutor’s legal burden is very high in a criminal case such as this. In fact, they must establish every legal element of their case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest legal standard to satisfy in a pending case.

The state prosecutor will also attempt to introduce evidence at trial in support of their version of events. For example, they may introduce evidence of Breathalyzer and field sobriety test results in an attempt to prove the legal elements of their case.

If the state prosecutor can satisfy their legal burden, you will likely attend a sentencing hearing in court before a judge. The judge may then set various penalties in your case within certain statutory limits.

In most situations, DUIDs are misdemeanors in California. If the prosecutor ultimately secures a conviction against you, you can incur monetary fines of $1,800 if you are a first-time offender. In addition, a judge can sentence you to between three and five years of probation or even a period of jail time. The California DMV will also suspend your driver’s license for a period of time. Finally, a sentencing judge may require you to attend drug or alcohol rehabilitation classes.

In some situations, a prosecutor may decide to bring felony charges for DUID. These types of charges typically arise when a drugged driver causes a motor vehicle accident that brings about injuries or death to another driver or passenger. In these situations, a judge may sentence an offender to monetary fines of up to $5,000, depending upon the circumstances. 

Contact a Trusted DUI Defense Lawyer Right Away

If you are currently facing criminal charges for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID), it is important to speak to a criminal defense law firm in Orange County as soon as possible. A qualified lawyer can help you understand your rights and options, and can represent you in court. Waiting too long to seek legal representation in your criminal case may prevent an attorney from entering a timely appearance on your behalf. Furthermore, if you show up to court without a lawyer present, a judge might make you stand trial without legal assistance.
A DUI defense attorney can help you handle every aspect of your case and secure the best possible result.

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