Understanding California DUI Drugs (DUID) Charges

originally written December 2005; updated June 2011

Note of Advisement
DUI Drugs (DUID) charges can have severe and life-changing consequences. While this California DUI Drugs article is sponsored and reviewed by the Northern California law firm of Kapsack and Bair, it is not legal advice. The CA drugged driving laws may have changed since this article was written. More importantly, the specific facts of each case should be reviewed by a DUI lawyer with experience in the county of arrest.

If you have have been arrested for DUI Ambien, DUI Marijuana, or another type of DUI Drug in Northern California, contact the DUI lawyers at Kapsack and Bair.

California DUI Drugs Overview
If you have been arrested and charged with DUI Drugs – also known as DUID, or informally as “drugged driving” – in California, then you are probably eager to find out what to expect and how to defend yourself. Educating yourself about the process by which DUI drugs cases  are prosecuted in California can help you deal with the situation proactively. In addition, hiring an experienced and skilled DUID or DUI drugs attorney can help mitigate the potential consequences, helping you avoid the most serious penalties and fines.

What Drugs Can Make You Legally Impaired?
In California, the “drug” portion of the DUID equation can be any substance that can impair a person’s ability to operate a vehicle in a safe and cautious way. The term “drug” does not explicitly refer to illegal substances; legal, over-the-counter medications can qualify as drugs under the terms of a DUID in the state of California. Prescribed medications, controlled substances and illegal drugs similarly all fall under the umbrella of being a “drug” when it comes to California DUI drugs charge.

DUI Drugs Versus An Alcohol DUI: Differences And Similarities
Although the two charges sound quite similar, there are several key differences between an alcohol DUI and a DUID. Consider these facts:

  • Unlike with an alcohol DUI, there is no blood alcohol content, or BAC, with which to gauge a driver’s level of intoxication.
  • When being investigated for a DUID, a driver is not given a breath test. Instead, s/he is typically given a blood test in the state of California. In rare cases, a urine test may be used instead.
  • An officer cannot rely on the same observations with a DUID charge as they can with an alcohol DUI charge. In California, a Drug Recognition Expert, or DRE, is often brought in to observe a suspect and later testifies in court.
  • The California DMV cannot suspend a suspect’s license for a DUID. The only exception to that rule is when a driver refuses to submit to chemical testing, or has a BAC of 0.8% in addition to being under the influence of a drug.

There are also some similarities between an alcohol DUI charge and a DUID charge. These similarities include:

  • Both charges are made under California Vehicle Code section 23152a, whose language includes the terms “drugs” and “alcohol.”
  • As with an alcohol DUI, a DUI drugs is usually proved through circumstantial evidence. The officer’s observations of your driving patterns and your appearance, as well as your performance on any field sobriety tests and chemical tests can all come into play when prosecuting either charge.
  • With a DUID, no BAC comes into play; there is no concrete level at which a driver can officially be charged with a DUID.

DUI Drugs Combined With DUI Alcohol
Often DUI Drug charges are combined with DUI Alcohol ones. The combination of the two lead to additional complexities.

First, when a suspect is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and or drugs and drugs are the suspected cause of the “influence” or impairment the person suspected of the drug use is allowed a choice of their blood or urine, not breath.  In the event that a person is arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, the best choice is to
provide a sample of their urine.  Urine is a less invasive test and is frequently provided by the law enforcement agency, thereby being an easier test to provide.

Second, and most importantly, being charged with driving under the influence of drugs is usually charged with “being” under the influence of drugs which is a Health and Safety Code violation.  When both a DUI and a Health and Safety Code violation are charged, the defendant is not eligible for drug rehab or diversion (sometimes called Prop. 36) and is therefore exposed to a 90 day statutory minimum sentence.  An experienced lawyer can often defend the dual charges and get one or the other dropped in exchange for a lesser
sentence.  The defenses rest in 4th Amendment issues which usually arise during the course of the DUI investigation and the manner with which the investigation is handled from the initial contact (usually a traffic stop) through the chemical testing phase.

What Are The Typical Penalties And Fines For DUID In The State Of California?
The penalties that you may incur from being convicted of a DUID in the state of California are dependent on many factors. Things like the specific circumstances of your case, whether or not you have any previous DUIs and your prior criminal history can all play a role in determining your ultimate penalties and fines. For first-time offenders, though, the state of California usually recommends the following guidelines when it comes to sentencing:

  • A minimum fine of $390 – with fines and fees, it will actually be closer to $1,000
  • Three to five years of informal probation
  • A driver’s license suspension of at least six months
  • A maximum of one year in county jail
  • At least three months’ worth of drug education classes

Will I Lose My California Drivers License?
As mentioned previously, the California DMV does not immediately suspend or revoke a DUID suspect’s driver’s license. Upon conviction, however, your license may be suspended for at least six months. If charged with a DUI drugs, you should request a DMV hearing within 10 days in order to mitigate the chances of an eventual suspension upon conviction.

Do I Need A DUI Lawyer?
In many ways, being convicted of a DUID in the state of California is much better than being convicted of one in other states. In California, the prosecution has the burden of proving that you were, indeed, impaired by drugs when you were driving. Blood and urine tests can be inaccurate, and an officer’s observations may not even be admissible in court. A skilled DUI drugs attorney will know how to assist you and can look at the specific circumstances of your case to help you receive the lightest penalty possible.

5 Responses to Understanding California DUI Drugs (DUID) Charges

  1. Dena Lux says:

    I got a Dui for being under the influence of over the counter cold medicine and Zoloft.
    I went to jail and they suspened my liscence? I need help to fight this or at least get it down to something not so severe?
    Can you help me?
    Time is of the essence.
    Very Truly Yours,
    Dena Lux

  2. Diane says:

    I was convicted of a duid(no alcohol), which the dmv sees as first dui, but court used previous wet reckless to charge a second dui and “suspended” my license with dmv restrictions and ordered me to 18 mo dui class. The class is not helping me and dmv told me at first they would give me full license in 6mos, but now they say I have to wait until I complete 18mos class. I have already completed outpatient drug program and wondered if I could submit that to dmv since it was drug related incident or go bac to court and see if they would recommend drug treatment instead of dui program.

  3. Stephen J. Lucas says:

    Can I secure a lawyer, if I have already started fighting this case with a public defender? I have a Pitchess report hearing on July 2nd. But my reason for asking for this was due to what my PD said, that I was pulled over for – unsafe pullout from parking space. Then when I was in court requesting the report (w/PD), the prosecuting attorney said right at the end of the deliberations – I don’t know why we are doing this, a citizen said they saw him puffing a pipe and there was no 911 call. I do not feel comfortable with PD, but I will write my case up if I have to and give it to her for presentation. I just feel that I am being railroaded by the court system, uncluding the PD. I was dropping my friend off at the movies, she was the one who had a ‘hit’ on the pipe, which may have caused one to ‘smell’ the pot. There are other circumstances too.

  4. Ross Luther says:

    Hello,
    Is it Legal in California to refuse any and all DRE tests?
    Thank you

  5. Greg Eastom says:

    2 days ago I was arrested for 23152(A) VC DUI Alcohol/Drugs
    11550 (A) HS use/ Under influence of controlled substance
    There was no alcohol in my system and no injuries were involved however I am told I hit a several cars causing minor damage. They took blood during the arrest however I do not know the results.
    The only thing I know for sure that I took was ambein. I have no other memories of this incident.
    I want to know if you recommend anyone in Tuolumne County?
    Thank you
    Greg Eastom

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