California Drug DUI Attorneys
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Most people in Southern California are familiar with the offense of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. It is less well known that the same crime is committed by driving under the influence of a drug. Arrests are typically made when the police view signs of intoxication that are coupled with erratic driving but cannot detect alcohol on the driver’s breath. If the driver passes a preliminary breath test, the police often make an arrest for drug DUI so they can demand a blood test.
If the test result is positive for a drug that can impair the ability to drive, the driver is likely to face a criminal charge. Fortunately, there are many defenses to these charges. With offices in Newport Beach, Santa Ana, Fullerton Orange County, and Riverside, the Law Offices of Randy Collins is able to represent drivers charged with drug DUI in all Southern California courts.
If you are facing drug charges, contact our firm to discuss your case with an experienced drug DUI defense lawyer in California.
The prosecution needs to prove two things to obtain a conviction:
- The accused was driving a vehicle. Driving a vehicle means controlling its movement.
- While driving, the accused was under the influence of a drug.
A driver is “under the influence” if the drug-impaired his or her physical or mental abilities to the extent that he or she was incapable of driving with the caution of a sober person.
A “drug” is any substance that could affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles in a way that appreciably impairs the ability to drive. Prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, cocaine, marijuana, and other illegal drugs all fall within that definition. So do substances like glue and other household chemicals if inhaling or ingesting them affects the ability to drive safely.
Differences Between Alcohol DUI & Drug DUI
Prosecutors try to prove most alcohol DUI crimes with breath or blood tests showing that the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at or above the legal limit of 0.08%. They can also try to prove an alcohol DUI with evidence that the driver was “under the influence,” but it is easier to rely on BAC results.
There are no “legal limits” with regard to drug DUI. Prosecutors may be able to rely on blood tests to prove that a driver had consumed a drug, but whether a particular level of a particular drug in a driver’s bloodstream is likely to impair the driver is often unclear. For that reason, prosecutors usually rely on additional evidence to prove that a driver’s ability to drive safely was impaired.
That evidence, usually provided in the testimony of the arresting officer, might consist of:
- Observations of erratic driving (weaving, straying over a centerline, running red lights, etc.)
- Observations about the driver’s condition (bloodshot eyes, confusion, poor coordination or balance, etc.)
- The results of field sobriety tests
- Observations made by a specially trained officer known as a “drug recognition expert”
- Admissions made by the driver in response to the officer’s questions (e.g., “I’m really stoned”)
Fortunately, most of that evidence is subjective. Skilled cross-examination often undercuts the credibility of the officers who testify and exposes reasonable doubt.
Initial defenses often challenge the decision to arrest the driver. If the police did not have a legitimate reason to make a traffic stop, to order the driver out of the car, to request field sobriety tests, or to make an arrest, incriminating evidence can be suppressed (or thrown out), including blood test results.
Other defenses focus on alternative explanations for the evidence that the prosecutor regards as incriminating. Bloodshot eyes might be explained by fatigue. Poor balance could result from a knee injury or some other infirmity. Bad driving might have been caused by obstacles in the road that the officer did not see.
Still other defenses challenge the procedures followed by the officers. If field sobriety tests are valid at all, they are only valid if they are performed exactly as the training manual specifies. Most officers cannot remember all the details contained in the training manual. Cross-examination typically exposes flaws in the way they administered the tests. Drug recognition experts are also expected to follow strict procedures that they can rarely remember.
Finally, defenses can focus on the drug test results. Expert witnesses can be used to challenge the assumption that a drug test result proves that a driver was under the influence. Since there is rarely a consensus in the scientific community that a specific concentration of any drug other than alcohol impairs the ability to drive safely, expert witness testimony often creates reasonable doubt that leads to a “not guilty” verdict.
Southern California Legal Representation
Too many lawyers collect a fee and plead a client guilty without putting up a fight. The Law Offices of Randy Collins provides an aggressive defense tailored to the unique facts of each case. A multi-pronged defense strategy might include filing motions to have evidence suppressed, negotiating for a noncriminal disposition, and if necessary, seeking an acquittal in a jury trial.
Recognized as one of the Top Defense Attorneys in Orange County, Randy Collins represents individuals charged with drug DUI in all Southern California courts. If you are facing a charge in Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside County, or elsewhere in Southern California, you owe it to yourself to get advice from an experienced defense attorney.
Call (844) 241-1221 to learn how our California drug DUI attorneys can help you fight for your rights.
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