A DUI charge is not limited to someone driving under the influence of alcohol. California Vehicle Code 23152(a) also applies to a driver who operates the vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance. It is also possible for the prosecution to allege that the defendant was under the influence of some mixture of drugs and alcohol. Vehicle Code 23152(a) explicitly prohibits the use of drugs while driving…
23152. (a) It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence
of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined
influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle.
The definition of “drug” as described by California Vehicle Code section 312 as any substance which stimulates the human nervous system, cerebral functions, or muscular control causing an “appreciable degree” of impairment. This impairment must affect the person’s capacity to operate the vehicle as a normal, sober, safe driver would under the circumstances.
Many defendants charged under this section think that they can defend their case by asserting that they had a valid prescription for the controlled substance. However, legal precedent exists which holds that this defense is not always valid. (See People v Keith 184 Cal.App. 2D 884). The reason is because even someone driving while using a prescription drug can meet the elements of the statute since it is possible to be physically impaired by the substance. However, if the drug is incapable of impairment, it may be possible for the Sacramento DUI Lawyer to be successful in arguing that the prosecution cannot prove the person acted “under the influence.”
There is a specific statute addressing driving while being addicted to a controlled substance. California Vehicle Code section 23152(c) covers this conduct. The language of the vehicle code reads as follows:
(c) It is unlawful for any person who is addicted to the use of
any drug to drive a vehicle. This subdivision shall not apply
to a person who is participating in a narcotic treatment
program approved pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with
Section 11875) of Chapter 1 ofPart 3 of Division 10.5 of the
Health and Safety Code.
Since the word “addicted” is not clearly defined, prosecution under the statute was challenged in a few precedent California cases. Most importantly, the Supreme Court of California, in People v O’Neil, 62 Cal. 2D 748, created a list of required elements that the prosecution must prove to designate someone as an addict under the purview of the statute. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the prosecutor is required to demonstrate that the defendant was: operating a vehicle while being emotionally dependent on a substance which causes impairment, that the defendant had built up a tolerance level to the substance’s effects requiring increased dosage, and that the defendant could potentially suffer physical withdrawals if no longer able to use the drug. People v O’Neil, 62 Cal. 2D 748, 754.
The current trend in law enforcement and in the courthouses throughout the Sacramento region are “Marijuana DUI” cases. The obvious problem with Marijuana is that it can stay in an individuals system for up to 30 days. This leads to two problems. First, an individual could have smoked marijuana in Colorado or Washington, where marijuana is legal, and two weeks later they are arrested for driving under the influence. Second, and really the scariest aspect of the law, is that it will be up to you to show this fact. One of the principal qualities of American Justice System is the presumption of innocence. Unfortunately, too often in these cases, there will be a blood test that shows the presence of marijuana, and it will be up to your attorney and more than likely the expert witness, to explain what the blood test actually means. But, you do have a right to a jury trial, and the jury many times will be much more reasonable than the prosecutor when it comes driving under the influence of marijuana cases. It is a sad state of affairs when completely sober people are arrested and charged with crimes, but unfortunately, that is what has been occurring. That will more than likely change someday, but for now, if you are charged with driving under the influence of Marijuana you need a DUI Lawyer experienced in that particular aspect of DUI cases.Sacramento Marijuana DUI Lawyer Michael Rehm is available for free, confidential consultations at (916) 233-7346.