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California Vehicle Code 23152f Drug DUI

California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) VC is known as a drug DUI. Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs can lead to serious consequences, including loss of your license, fines, fees, and possible jail time. A drug DUI can include over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, and marijuana. If you were arrested on charges of 23152(f) VC, contact a local East Bay DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible. 

Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC Text 

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f):  

It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23152(g):  

It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle. 

Under California Vehicle Code Section 312:  

The term “drug” means any substance or combination of substances, other than alcohol, which could so affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person as to impair, to an appreciable degree, his ability to drive a vehicle in the manner that an ordinarily prudent and cautious man, in full possession of his faculties, using reasonable care, would drive a similar vehicle under like conditions.

Elements of the Offense

In order for the prosecutor to get a conviction for a drug DUI, the prosecutor needs to prove every element of the case, “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If there is any doubt that even one element is not met, you should be found not guilty. 

Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC

Under the Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions, to prove the defendant is guilty of the  23152(f), the state has to prove: 

  1. The defendant drove a vehicle; AND
  2. When he or she drove, the defendant was under the influence of a drug or a combination of alcoholic beverage and drugs. 

“Under the influence” means that as a result of taking a drug, the driver's mental or physical abilities are so impaired that he or she is no longer able to drive a vehicle with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances.

There are a couple of ways that the prosecutor can attempt to show the driver was impaired by drugs. This generally involves a chemical test or other evidence to show the driver had drugs in their system. Additionally, police officer testimony, the arrest report, and dashcam footage may be used to show the driver showed signs of impairment. 

Example of Evidence to Show Impairment by Drugs

For example, the police officer pulls over a driver for drifting over the center divider line. When the police officer approaches the driver, the officer reports smelling marijuana coming from the vehicle. When the police officer talks to the driver, the officer reports blood-shot eyes and slurred speech. The officer sees a ceramic pipe sticking out of the ashtray in the car, which later tests positive for marijuana. The driver agrees to field sobriety tests, and fails all the tests, as recorded by the officer. After an arrest, the driver submits to a blood test which shows the presence of THC, opiates, and alcohol in the driver's body. 

In this example, the evidence may be used to support the prosecutor's case that the driver was impaired by drugs and/or alcohol at the time of the arrest. 

Defense Strategies for a Drug DUI in California 

In California, a driver is guilty of a per se DUI with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. However, there is no similar bright line rule for impairment by drugs. The problem for drivers is that something the police officer reports to be caused by drugs could have a totally innocent explanation. 

For example, a driver who has not gotten enough sleep or a driver who is distracted by their phone may appear to drive like someone who is drunk or on drugs. Even if a vehicle smells of marijuana, the driver may have legally smoked pot the day before and the effects wore off long ago. Fortunately, to be criminally convicted you don't have to convince the police officer that you were not impaired. The findings of the judge and jury will determine if you are convicted.  

Legal Possession and Use is Not a Defense 

It is not a defense that the defendant was legally entitled to use the drug. Recreational marijuana is legal in California. However, driving under the influence of marijuana remains against the law. Similarly, if your doctor prescribes a drug and that drug impairs your ability to drive, you can face a drug DUI even if you had a valid prescription. 

Challenging Chemical and Field Sobriety Test Results

Your attorney may be able to challenge the results of a chemical blood test. There are many problems with relying on chemical DUI test evidence, including contamination, operator error, and machine error caused by lack of proper maintenance, lack of cleaning, or lack of calibration.  

Similarly, Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) are supposed to test for impairment but these tests are not always accurate. A medical condition, bad lighting, improper instructions, or even uncomfortable shoes can all make a driver “fail” the tests, even if they are totally sober. 

Defense Lawyer for 23152(f) VC Charges in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties

Drug DUIs are becoming more common in California. Unfortunately, many drivers end up under arrest even if they are not impaired. East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 35 years of DUI experience, and understands the consequences of a DUI for California drivers. Representing drivers in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local DUI laws, local officers, and the prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

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