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California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) makes it unlawful to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence "of any drug." CONTACT our office today if you have been charged with driving under the influence of illegal drugs ("DUID").  DUID cases are difficult to prosecute.  Having a good DUI lawyer by your side may make the difference in getting a DUI or not.  


Unlike California DUI alcohol laws, which presume that your ability to drive is impaired if you have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater, there is no "per se" drug amount that automatically presumes that you are DUI.  However, if a police officer believes that your mental abilities are impaired and that you cannot drive with the same caution of a sober person using ordinary care under similar circumstances, you will be arrested for DUI.  

You Can Get a DUI with No Alcohol in your System

It does not matter that you have not consumed alcohol.  You can get arrested for DUI if the officer suspects that your ability to drive is impaired by any substance.  Illegal drugs that commonly lead to DUI arrests include cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin.  It can also include legal drugs which a person does not have a valid prescription for.  Any drug that causes drowsiness, impaired coordination, impaired judgment, or sleep driving can lead a police officer to believe that your ability to drive is impaired and to place you under arrest for DUI.  The penalties for a DUI involving drugs are the same as they are for a DUI involving alcohol.  

Drug Recognition Expert

If a driver is detained on suspicion of DUI involving prescription drugs, and the arresting officer has ruled out alcohol as the sole cause of impairment, for example if the driver submits to a Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test which results in a reading of 0.00%, the officer will call for the assistance of a Drug Recognition Examiner, also called a Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE).  The DRE begins his investigation by interviewing the arresting officer about what signs and symptoms he observed that led the officer to believe the person is under the influence of drugs.  The DRE will then interview the driver, asking he or she if they have taken any drugs and recording specific observations of the person.  A DRE exam can include looking at your pupils of your eyes.  The DRE officer does this by putting you in a dark room and having you look at lights to see whether or not your pupils change in size.  They also take your blood pressure to observe your muscle tone, among other things.  

DRE Evidence in DUI Drugs Prosecution

Following the field sobriety tests, the DRE will conduct a vital signs examination, checking the person's blood pressure and body temperature, as well as a dark room examination, using a pupilometer and pen light, to estimate the person's pupil size in specific lighting situations.  This is followed up by a muscle tone examination and a check for injection sites caused by hypodermic needles.  The DRE analyzes all of the signs and symptoms observed and recorded to form an opinion as to whether the person is under the influence of drugs.  The final step is for the DRE to request the person to submit to a blood test to obtain evidence of drug use.  All of the DRE's observations, as well as the results of the blood test, will be used by the prosecution in court against the driver to prove that they were DUI.  


The officers may search your car looking for evidence of drug use.  In addition to potential penalties for DUI, a person may also face additional criminal charges, including Health & Safety Code Section 11550(a), being under the influence of a controlled substance, and, if you were in possession of any illegal drugs or legal drugs without a valid prescription, Health & Safety Code Sections 11377(a) or 11350(a), possession of a controlled substance.  If the quantity of drugs was large enough you could even face a possession for sales charge, which is a felony.  


Law enforcement officers across California are becoming better trained to recognize objective symptoms of drug impairment.  Multiple studies have been conducted to support the position that drug impaired drivers are dangerous.  For example, one Australian study found that drivers positive for psychotropic drugs (such as Xanax, Zoloft, and Zelexa) were significantly more likely to be culpable than drug free drivers.  The same study also found that drivers with blood THC concentrations of 5 ng/ml or higher caused more motor vehicle accidents than sober drivers.  It also found and that drivers with combined blood THC concentrations of 5 ng/ml or higher and a blood alcohol content of .05 or greater caused more accidents that those with only a BAC of .05 or greater.  

Impairment Study.pdf
The involvement of drugs in drivers of motor vehicles killed in Australian road traffic crashes

Nevertheless, drug DUI cases are difficult for the prosecution to prove.  Although a blood test can show whether or not a person has used a particular illegal drug, it cannot confirm when the drug was used.  The effect may have worn off well before the person drove a vehicle.  Do not assume you are guilty because you have been arrested for DUI drugs.  The presence of illegal drugs in the body alone is not enough to prove a person is guilty of DUI beyond a reasonable doubt.  If you have been arrested for DUI speak to a lawyer today and call Berglund Law Office, P.C. today at (877) 667-1205 or fill out the form on our  CONTACT US page for a free and confidential consultation.  DUI Lawyer Robert D. Berglund will personally return your phone call.  Do not go to Court alone not understanding your legal rights and without an experienced DUI attorney in your corner.


Our office specializes in representing individuals facing traffic violations. We represent our clients in both court and at DMV hearings. Your case will be handled with the personalized attention and expertise that it deserves.

Free Consultation

There is no charge for the phone consultation. Our office specializes in representing individuals facing traffic violations. Attorney Robert D. Berglund will personally speak with you about your case and provide you with an honest analysis. Contact us today.