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DUI doesn't just mean Alcohol

When most Californians think of driving under the influence, or DUI, they automatically think the charge involves driving after drinking alcohol. Recently there has been a steady increase in the number of another type of DUI case—the one involving drugs. More specifically, there has been an increase in prescription drug-related DUIs.


In California, it is against the law for a driver to operate a vehicle with an illegal amount of drugs in his or her system. It is also illegal for a driver to have drugs in his or her system that may not be above the legal limit, but impairs his or her ability to safely operate an vehicle. The DUI offense is defined under California Vehicle Code 23152.

According to this code, a driver may be arrested and charged with a drug-related DUI involving any type of drug. This includes illegal controlled substances like cocaine and prescription drugs such as oxycodone. Yes, even specific over-the-counter medications can impair driving abilities and result in a DUI charge. The state can charge a driver with DUI if he or she is suspected of having an illegal amount of drugs in his or her system or, the driver's normal faculties are impaired to the point that the driver cannot safely operate a vehicle just like a sober driver would. The drugs can include over-the-counter, illegal or prescription drugs.

Even though drug-related DUI falls in the same category as alcohol-related DUI, it is not easy for prosecutors to prove. Why? There are some issues that affect the strength of the prosecutor’s case. For instance, the first issue involves drug testing. There are standard testing procedures in place to detect the amount of alcohol in a driver’s body. These tests include breath and blood tests. Whether the tests are reliable or administered properly is debatable. However, there are specific procedures on handling the test samples and maintaining the test devices.

There is a problem in using these same tests for drug-related DUIs. For instance, a blood test can show a driver had consumed drugs. However, it may not necessarily be able to determine the amount or level of drugs in his or her system. If this is the case, it is impossible to know whether the drugs impaired the driver’s abilities.

Without a standardized test to determine the level of drugs in a driver’s system, prosecutors must rely on two things:
Specialized field sobriety tests.

Officer’s observations.

An officer’s observations may include testimony from the arresting officer about the driver’s:

  • Behavior.
  • Statements made.
  • Appearance such as bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, unsteady gait and slurred speech

These are all indicators of drug impairment.

If specialized drug-related field sobriety tests are administered, the arresting officer may testify to the driver’s ability to perform the tests. Even alcohol-related DUI standardized field sobriety tests can be inaccurate because of flawed testing procedures.

All of the issues unique to drug-related DUIs give defense lawyers an effective way to challenge the charge. It is important to hire a DUI lawyer immediately after a DUI arrest. This will ensure your legal rights are fully protected and your attorney can start working on your defense.

Remember, it is not an automatic win for prosecutors if the arresting officer said any of the following:

  • You failed the field sobriety tests.
  • You drove recklessly.
  • You had drugs in your system at the time of your arrest.

There are a variety of ways drug-related DUI charges can be challenged by a strong defense. However, it is up to your lawyer to determine the best approach. At the Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin, we take pride in providing our clients with a strong defense. Contact us today for an free consultation.

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Contact Information

Jonathan Franklin DUI Attorney
6777 Hollywood Blvd Ste 508
Los Angeles, CA 90028