California Vehicle Code §23152(a) explicitly states that it is unlawful for a person for a person to be under the influence of any alcohol or drug, or the combined influence, to drive a vehicle.
Many clients mistakenly believe that because they have had nothing to drink, they cannot be arrested on suspicion of DUI. However, that is definitely not the case. Any substance that causes a person to be impaired and not in complete control of their senses, will be harmful to their driving skills and could possibly be determined to be a DUI.
When a person is pulled over for suspicion of DUI, whether it is due to alcohol or other substances, the officers must have probable cause. It could be anything from the subjective weaving in and out of lanes, to the objective missing license plate or expired registration. The probable cause element is standard for any DUI case regardless of whether it is alcohol or drug related.
Determining reasonable suspicion for drug use is a lot more difficult than alcohol. When a person has consumed alcohol and is driving, the officer will often observe visible signs that indicate intoxication and can administer a preliminary blood alcohol screening test to determine if there is an actual percentage of alcohol in the bloodstream. If the person opts to decline the on-scene screening test, they will be required to take either a blood or breath test at the station. Either way, the officer will be able to build a case against the driver for driving under the influence of alcohol.
When a person has had no alcohol, and is under the influence of solely drugs, it can often be difficult to ascertain by observation. The officer will look for red blood shot eyes, often jittery behavior and other signs of drug use. Officers may also require that a person submit themselves for a blood test so that the samples can determine the presence of substances in their blood stream. The breath test would not be an option for those that are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs.
It is important to note that many of our clients believe that because they have a Medical Marijuana Prescription, they are exempt from driving while under the influence of marijuana. While the Medical Marijuana prescription makes it lawful for a person to smoke marijuana it does not permit them to drive while under the influence of its effects. It is comparable to alcohol. Both are legal and may be enjoyed by those permitted to do so, but it still remains unlawful for anyone to drive while impaired.
If you have been arrested for a DUI and had no alcoholic beverage, you may still be convicted for a DUI. Consult a Los Angeles DUI expert to determine what your options are and how you can go about preparing a defense that will ensure the best possible chances of having your case reduced or dismissed entirely.