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Los Angeles DUI Prescription Drugs Lawyer

California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) makes it unlawful to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence "of any drug."  Call Berglund Law Office, P.C. today at (877) 667-1205 or submit our online CONTACT form to speak with an experienced Los Angeles DUI Lawyer if you were arrested because you were allegedly driving under the influence of prescription drugs.  


Unlike DUI cases involving alcohol, 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" prescription 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. CONTACT Berglund Law Office, P.C. today if you have been arrested for allegedly Driving Under the Influence of drugs.

You Can Be Arrested for DUI Even if the Drugs are Legal

Prescription drugs that commonly lead to DUI arrests include Vicodin, Oxycontin, Codeine, Lortab, Hydrocone, Percocet, Ambien, Xanax, Ambien, and Lunesta.  This is not an exhaustive list.  Any prescription 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 prescription drugs are the same as they are for a DUI involving alcohol.  DUI drug cases are taken very seriously by police officers and prosecutors.  CONTACT an experienced Los Angeles DUI Lawyer today if you have been arrested on suspicion of Driving Under the Influence of prescription drugs.

Drug Recognition Examiner

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 Used in DUI 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.  


It can be very difficult for the prosecutor to prove driving impairment based on prescription drugs.  It is tough to determine the levels of the drugs in the bloodstream at or near the time of driving.  A good DUI Lawyer may want to obtain a court order for a blood split to have the blood sample retested by an independent laboratory, as opposed to only being tested at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department or other law enforcement agency crime lab.  By doing this, you can see what levels of drugs were in your system and whether the levels were high enough to possibly cause impairment at the time of driving.  The levels would need to be above the therapeutic range (and even then the drug's effect is predicated on a number of factors, including the individual's tolerance, eating and sleep habits, etc.).  

Independent Lab Analysis

In addition to re-testing the blood sample, a good DUI defense investigation will include a request for the independent laboratory to run a drug screen which will assist in determining whether any other drugs or their metabolites, in addition to those admitted to by the client or suspected by law enforcement, are present in the blood sample.  The drug screen will prevent any later surprises from the government lab results.  


If you are arrested for DUI involving prescription drugs, you could also face additional criminal charges.  The officers may search your car looking for evidence of drug use.   If they find prescription drugs that are not prescribed in your name, or illegal drugs of any kind, you could face additional criminal charges, such as possession of a controlled substance and being under the influence 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.  Because of these studies, along with heightened awareness of drug impaired driving, more officers are receiving specialized training to identify the objective signs and symptoms of a driver who is "high" and whose driving ability is impaired by drugs.  


Nevertheless, prescription 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 prescription 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 prescription drugs DUI.  The presence of prescription 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. 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 without knowing your rights.


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.