The legislature amended the California Vehicle Code §23152 pertaining to misdemeanor DUIs to specifically include language stating that it is unlawful for a person to be operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs.
A person who is driving can be charged with a DUI if they are under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both. However, if alcohol is involved, it will be an easier case for prosecution to prove. Some examples will help understand the difference and why it may be easier.
David is driving home from a party. He has had a few beers and feels fine. He is stopped by officers for running a red light. The officers approach his vehicle and smell beer on his breath. They also notice that he is slurring his words and is having a hard time focusing on what the officer is saying. Suspecting that he has consumed alcohol, officers ask him to submit to a breath test, which David agrees to. David takes the test and gets a reading of .12.
Don is driving home from hanging out with his friends. While with his friends, Don has taken some prescription drugs. The prescription drugs specifically state on the container that the person who takes them is not to operate a vehicle, as it may distort their ability to respond quickly. Don, not caring about the label has taken a few more than the recommended dosage because he likes the way it makes him feel. He has not had any alcohol to drink. Officers pull him over for running a red light. When they approach him, he is talking slowly, and his reflexes are slower. Officers suspect that he may be under the influence of alcohol so they ask him to submit to a breath test. Don agrees, and the test reads .00. Officers, not having grounds to take him into custody, do not take him into custody, but give him a citation for a DUI.
Both parties consult with an experienced Los Angeles DUI attorney. In Don’s case there is no real evidence officers have to prove that Don was under the influence of something, other than the officer’s observations. The test read .00, and he did not do anything or admit anything. In David’s case there is a reading indicating alcohol in his system and coupled with the officer’s observations, it will be a harder case to overcome.
Both cases, however, have defense available, and arguments to get the case reduced, if not dismissed. To learn about each of those options, it is highly recommended that you consult with a professional who has significant experience handling DUIs.