Everybody knows that DUI means “driving under the influence.” Not everyone knows that DUI is not limited to driving under the influence of alcohol. In California, driving under the influence of cocaine is also a crime.
Randy Collins is a top rated criminal defense attorney who has years of experiences defending cocaine charges and DUI accusations. To learn how The Law Offices of Randy Collins can help you cope with a cocaine DUI charge, call (888) 250-2865. From the law firm’s convenient offices in Newport Beach and Riverside, The Law Offices of Randy Collins defends individuals accused of cocaine DUI in all Southern California counties.
California DUI law creates a “per se” offense for alcohol. Any person who drives with a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08 percent violates that law, even if he or she is not “under the influence” in the sense of being visibly impaired.
Unlike states that make it illegal to drive with any detectable amount of cocaine in a driver’s blood, California has no “per se” offense for cocaine. A blood test might establish that the accused used cocaine, but California’s DUI law requires the prosecution to prove that the accused driver was under the influence of cocaine while driving.
California juries are instructed that a driver is under the influence if “his or her 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.” There is no credible evidence that links a particular concentration of cocaine in a driver’s blood to an impairment of the driver’s ability to drive safely.
Unlike alcohol, cocaine does not diminish a driver’s alertness or make a driver sleepy. While a drunk driver’s impaired ability to drive safely is often obvious, it is much more difficult for a prosecutor to prove that a driver who used cocaine meets the legal definition of “under the influence.” Prosecutors usually attempt to use observations of bad driving as proof of impairment, but when a driver swerves or crosses a centerline, an innocent explanation often provides a defense to the charge.
Three standard field sobriety tests (FSTs) are usually administered to drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol. One requires a driver to stand on one leg for a period of time while the second requires the driver to walk heel-to-toe. Both tests are meant to test balance and the ability to remember and follow instructions. Since those tests were validated as a means of testing alcohol impairment, their use as evidence of drug impairment is questionable.
The third FST is called a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. Like the other FSTs, the HGN test has not been validated as an indicator of cocaine use. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (which developed the standard FSTs) admits that cocaine does not cause HGN.
In the absence of a collision that might itself provide sufficient cause for an arrest, it is often difficult for a police officer to justify an arrest based on suspected cocaine DUI. There are no standardized FSTs that identify cocaine use but police tend to rely on them anyway. They make arrests based on poor FST performance even when a preliminary breath test shows no presence of alcohol. Those arrests can often be challenged successfully, resulting in the dismissal of the charge after evidence obtained from the arrest (such as a blood test result) is thrown out.
The police often rely on bad driving to justify a cocaine DUI arrest, but flawed driving can usually be explained by other causes. In many cases, the officer’s dashboard camera reveals that the claim of “bad driving” was exaggerated. Again, if the arrest was not justified, the case will usually end with a dismissal.
The Law Offices of Randy Collins understands that a cocaine DUI conviction has serious consequences. If you have prior DUI convictions, those consequences could include significant incarceration. At the very least, a conviction has a serious impact on driving privileges.