Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Defense Lawyer

San Diego DUI Lawyer
Driving Under the Influence ("DUI") is commonly referred to as "Drunk Driving" and is typically associated with the consumption of alcohol.  More and more, however, Californians are facing DUI charges for being under the influence of substances other than alcohol.  In fact, as of 2014, Driving Under the Influence of drugs has its own subsection of the vehicle code.  VC 23152(e) makes it a misdemeanor to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs, including marijuana and prescription drugs. 

A doctor's prescription for Xanax or a medical marijuana recommendation do not preclude an arrest or conviction for DUI.  Prescription drugs, even used as recommended by a physician, make up a sizable number of DUI arrests in San Diego.  Drivers who take prescription medications frequently reveal too much information to officers conducting a DUI investigation.  Just as you would not want to admit to drinking alcohol, it is almost always unwise to answer an officer's question when suspected of DUI.  In addition to medical marijuana and Xanax, painkillers, Ambien and other medications can affect driving and lead to criminal charges.  Again, it is important to note that a doctor's prescription is not a defense to DUI.  Ambien situations are unique in that the pill has caused many people to drive while asleep and unaware of their actions.  Asserting this defense requires having a knowledgeable attorney and using the testimony of a medical expert who can explain the episode.

It is well-known that the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for driving is .08.  Alcohol is the only substance where intoxication can be legally proven simply by showing that the defendant's BAC is above the legal limit.  Other drugs do not have such a "limit" in place.  Simply having any quantity of a drug in one's system is insufficient to sustain a conviction for DUI.  Instead, the government must prove actual impairment.  Defending drug-related DUI charges requires an understanding of how different drugs affect the central nervous system and a driver's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.  There are no relied-upon studies correlating levels of drugs and metabolites of drugs in a person's blood or urine to a person's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.  While many officers are certified as Drug Recognition "Experts" these officers' observations and conclusions can be challenged through effective cross-examination and expert witness testimony.

Marijuana use is widespread in San Diego, and arrests for Driving Under the Influence of marijuana are still common.  Despite the legality of medical marijuana, and the decriminalization of possession for personal use, driving under the influence of marijuana is still a crime.  Like driving under the influence of any other drug, the best defense to marijuana DUI charges is that the driver was not actually impaired.  Field sobriety tests and officer observations of a person under the influence of substance other than alcohol are not reliable measures of the ability to drive safely.  Often, the arresting officer will note the odor of marijuana and red, watery eyes as the only indicators of marijuana impairment.  Absent a bad driving pattern or very poor performance on field sobriety tests, it can be difficult for the government to meet their high burden at trial.

Heroin and other opiates can make users "nod out" at any time.  Driving a motor vehicle under the influence of heroin or pain medication can be extremely dangerous.  While an officer is not likely to smell or even see that someone has been using opiates, DUI charges are more likely to arise in such cases if there is a traffic collision.  If an officer responds to an accident, but does not smell alcohol, they will often request the driver to provide a blood sample. 


Cocaine, meth and other central nervous system stimulants have a different effect on drivers than other drugs.  CNS stimulants can make people drive faster and more aggressively, sometimes leading to accidents or pullovers.  Proving that someone was under the influence of a CNS stimulant can be a difficult task for prosecutors, and effective cross-examination and expert witness testimony can go a long way in avoiding a conviction.

Driving Under the Influence of alcohol typically triggers two separate convictions.  There is a six-month court suspension upon a first conviction for DUI, and there is also a 4 month administrative suspension which automatically begins 30 days after arrest unless the driver requests a hearing.  In drug DUI cases, there is no administrative suspension.  Therefore, avoiding a conviction in a drug DUI case
will likely mean no loss of license.  If your attorney can get your DUI charges dismissed or reduced to "wet reckless" or exhibition of speed, or win your jury trial, you will not face any license suspension for DUI.  A restricted license is possible

If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with driving under the influence of drugs
, it is important to have an experienced DUI lawyer, who also understands how different drugs can affect the body and a driver's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.  San Diego DUI Lawyer and Criminal Defense Attorney Nicholas Loncar has experience handling a wide range of DUI charges, including driving under the influence of drugs, vehicular homicide under the influence of drugs, felony DUI, misdemeanor DUI, DUI with a prior and more.  Contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Loncar now for a Free Consultation.  619-930-9515.

Nicholas M. Loncar, Esq.
San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney
San Diego DUI Lawyer
T: 619-930-9515
By Nicholas Loncar 


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