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Can legal drug use lead to a DUI or DWI in California?

arrested for dui

Driving under the influence (DUI), or driving while intoxicated (DWI), is the offense or crime in which the individual is guilty of operating a vehicle while being under the influence of alcohol or other drugs to a degree which impairs the capacity of the driver to operate the vehicle. Although majority of the people charged with a DUI are subject to alcohol dependence or alcoholism, other drugs, e.g. illegal and recreational drugs or legal drugs i.e. those prescribed by doctors, can also render an individual incapable of driving.

In California, the definition of the word “drug” is very broad. Whatever affects the nervous system, brain, or muscles and thus causes impairment is labeled as a drug. Certain drugs that are legally purchased that may be prescribed by a doctor or bought over-the-counter (OTC), can be just as hazardous for drivers as alcohol and can lead to a DUI offense. Users of such drugs are advised to look for warning labels or ask their pharmacist about a drug’s capacity for impairment.

Marijuana weakens judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time which impairs the capacity of an individual to drive to a significant degree. California was the first state to legalize marijuana in the US. Since marijuana has been legalized, many Californians have a prescription of this drug. Medical marijuana is no different from other prescription drugs that have the capacity to cause impairment. If there is evidence of marijuana impairment, physician’s medical recommendation cannot be used as an excuse. The medical use of this drug can still lead to being charged with a DUI offense.

Some other prescription drugs that cause driving impairment are antidepressants, valium, antihistamines, decongestants, sleeping pills and hydrocodone.

Some sedating antidepressants can cause impairment that is similar to drunk driving. Valium can be habit-forming. Abuse of drugs that are habit-forming, like valium, can lead to addiction, overdose or death. 10 mg of valium can cause impairment quite similar to having a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent. Antihistamines are pharmaceutical drugs that oppose the activity of histamine receptors. They have slow reaction time and they impair coordination. Decongestants that are used to relieve nasal congestions in the upper respiratory tracts can cause drowsiness, anxiety and dizziness. The residual effects of sleeping pills can also impair drivers. The common pain reliever Hydrocodone, causes impairment similar to that of morphine and codeine.

According to California law, it is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle. This is mentioned in Vehicle Code Section 23152. Unfortunately, the standard amount of drug present in someone’s blood that does not lead to impairment has not been set yet. When it comes to sentencing first-time offenders, following are some of the penalties and fines:

  • A minimum fine of $390 and a maximum fine of $1,000
  • Three to five years of informal probation
  • Suspension of the driver’s license for at least six months
  • A maximum of one year in county jail
  • Drug education classes for at least six months

Author Bio:

Competent attorneys at Powers Law, P.C provide strong representation for family law, commercial litigation and real estate cases.

In California, defendants who are facing their third charge for driving under the influence will encounter few chances and harsh penalties. A third offense DUI defendant is seen as especially dangerous by the courts and the resulting penalties are severe and have serious long-term consequences. If you have been charged with your third DUI offense in California, a qualified DUI criminal defense attorney can help defend your rights in court.

Excessive Blood Alcohol Concentration

DUI offenses in California are always misdemeanors unless one of the following is true, making it a felony.

  • If the defendant caused an accident during which someone other than themselves was injured;
  • If the defendant is charged with a fourth DUI in the next 10 years (known as the “lookback period”); or
  • If any of the defendant’s prior DUI charges are a felony, the third DUI will automatically be charged as a felony as well.
Penalties for a 3rd DUI

Third offense DUI defendants in California will face both administrative and criminal penalties. Your driver’s license will be suspended for up to three years; however, if applicable, after one year you may be eligible for a restricted license to use in limited circumstances, such as driving to work.

The criminal penalties for a third DUI offense are severe. A defendant will face a minimum of 120 days in jail, with a possible maximum sentence of one year. Jail alternatives may be available: a DUI criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate for a shorter time in jail in exchange for a portion of your sentence served as community service, drug and alcohol rehab or house arrest. You will also incur a minimum fine of $390; the fine may be increased to as much as $1000. You will also serve a minimum probationary period of three years with a possible maximum of five years. The judge will also order you to complete an 18-month DUI course.

The standard criminal penalties can also be increased if there are certain factors present in your DUI case. These factors are known as “enhancements” and include:

  • The DUI caused an accident
  • Hit-and-run
  • There was a minor in the car at the time
  • The defendant was driving on a suspended license
  • The defendant refused to a chemical test
  • Alcohol content was 0.15 or higher
  • The defendant was also speeding

Any one of these factors can result in an additional charge and even harsher penalties.

What to do if you have been charged with your 3rd DUI offense in California

If you have been charged with your 3rd DUI offense in California, the severe administrative and criminal penalties associated with your crime make hiring an attorney extremely important. Contact a qualified DUI criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that you receive the best legal defense.

Free Case Evaluation

Those in Southern California can call the Law Offices of Randy Collins to obtain a free case evaluation. Call (888) 250-2865 today to speak with an experienced DUI attorney and get the answers you’re looking for.

Client Reviews

I had never gotten in trouble before, so I was pretty concerned when I called the Law Offices of Randy Collins. After a 30 minute consultation about my DUI with injury I felt like I was in the right hands. I went with them and was very happy with the result.

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