California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) is known as a drug DUI. Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs can lead to serious consequences, including loss of your driver's license, fines, fees, and jail time. Driving after using prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, or marijuana can all lead to potential DUI charges. If you were arrested for violation of VC 23152(f), contact Santa Cruz DUI lawyer, Phillip Crawford, now. 

Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC:

Under California Vehicle Code 23152(f):  

It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(g):  

It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and a drug to drive a vehicle. 

What Counts as a Drug?

Under California Vehicle Code Section 312, The term “drug” means any substance or combination of substances, other than alcohol, which could so affect your nervous system, brain, or muscles as to impair, to an appreciable degree, your ability to drive a vehicle in the manner that an ordinarily prudent and cautious person, in full possession of his or her faculties, using reasonable care, would drive a similar vehicle under like conditions.

Elements of a Drug DUI Charge

To get a conviction for a drug DUI, the prosecutor must prove every element of the case, “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If there is any reasonable doubt that an element is not met, you should be found not guilty. 

Vehicle Code 23152(f)

Under the California Jury Instructions, to prove the defendant is guilty of the  23152(f), the prosecutor has to prove: 

  1. The defendant drove a vehicle; AND
  2. When he or she drove, the defendant was under the influence of a drug or a combination of an alcoholic beverage and drugs. 

“Under the influence” means that as a result of taking a drug, the driver's mental or physical abilities are so impaired that he or she is no longer able to drive a vehicle with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances.

The prosecutor can attempt to show the driver was significantly impaired by drugs in a few ways. Usually, a blood test is used to show that the driver had drugs in his or her system. Also, driving pattern, field sobriety tests, a drug-recognition evaluation, police officer testimony, and dash-camera footage may be used to show the driver was too impaired to drive safely. 

Example of Evidence Showing Drug Impairment

For example, the police officer pulls over a driver for weaving between lanes. The officer reports that he smells marijuana coming from inside the car. He also reports that the driver has blood-shot eyes and slow speech. The officer sees a half-smoked joint in the center console of the car. The officer administers field sobriety tests and reports that the driver performs poorly on all the tests. After an arrest, the driver submits to a blood test which shows the presence of alcohol, THC, and benzodiazepines. 

This evidence may be used to support the prosecutor's case that the driver was significantly impaired by drugs and/or alcohol at the time of driving. 

Defending a Drug DUI Charge in California 

In California, a driver is guilty of a "per se" DUI with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. However, there is no similar quantity-related rule for drug impairment.

A tired or distracted driver may appear to drive like someone who is drunk or on drugs. Even if a car smells like marijuana, the driver may have smoked days earlier and be driving while completely sober. Remember, to get a conviction, the prosecutor has to prove all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.  With no "per se" limit for drugs, a skilled DUI defense lawyer can often challenge the results of the field sobriety tests and drug recognition evaluation to obtain a "not guilty" verdict. 

Also, the fact that you have a drug in your system does NOT mean that you are "under the influence."  Remember, a person is "under the influence" of a drug when the drug has significantly impaired his or her ability to drive safely. Any drug will have different effects on different people.  The same drug, taken in the same quantity, could make one person unsafe to drive but have no impact on another person's driving ability.  In fact, according to the federal government's own research, no drug (other than alcohol) has been shown to consistently increase the risk of an automobile accident. See: Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk Study. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "A positive result for a drug does not necessarily mean the driver was impaired at the time of testing, only that the drug was present in the body."

To convict you of driving under the influence of a drug, the prosecutor must prove that you had a drug in your system and that the drug significantly impaired your ability to drive safely.

Legal Possession and Use is Not a Defense To a Drug DUI Charge

It is not a defense that the defendant was legally entitled to use the drug. Recreational marijuana is legal in California. However, driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal. Similarly, if your doctor prescribes a drug and that drug significantly impairs your ability to drive, you can face a drug DUI even with a valid prescription. 

Challenging Chemical and Field Sobriety Test Results

A seasoned DUI defense attorney may be able to challenge the results of a chemical blood test. There are many problems with DUI chemical test evidence including contamination, operator error, and machine error caused by lack of proper maintenance, lack of cleaning, or lack of calibration.  

Similarly, Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) are supposed to detect driver impairment, but these tests are not reliable. A medical condition, bad lighting, improper instructions, or even uncomfortable shoes can all make a sober driver “fail” the tests.

Santa Cruz Defense Lawyer for DUI Drug Charges

Drug DUIs are becoming more common in California. Unfortunately, many drivers are arrested even if they are not impaired. Santa Cruz DUI Attorney, Phillip Crawford has more than ten years of DUI experience, and understands the consequences of a DUI for California drivers. Representing drivers in Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties, Mr. Crawford is familiar with the local DUI laws, local officers, judges, and the prosecutors.

Contact Santa Cruz DUI attorney, Phillip Crawford, now at (831) 204-0773. Or, schedule a time here: Speak with Phillip Crawford