Some drivers do not consider cocaine to impair driving ability. However, in California, driving under the influence of any drug, including prescription drugs, may be a criminal offense. Unfortunately, the police may arrest a driver just based on suspicion of drug use, even if the driver is completely sober. Many innocent people end up charged with a criminal DUI even if they are not guilty of any crime.
Innocent drivers may even plead guilty to a drug DUI offense because the prosecutor makes it seem like that is the only option. Before pleading guilty to any crime, talk to your lawyer to understand your rights. Contact East Bay criminal defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.
Driving Under the Influence of Cocaine in California
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.”
Drugs include more than just street drugs and can even include prescription medicine. Under California Vehicle Code Section 312, a drug can include 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.”
Testing for Drugs After a DUI
After a drug DUI arrest, the police will generally take a blood sample for chemical testing. The blood test panel can look for signs of a number of common drug types, including:
- Dissociative drugs
Can you refuse a chemical test? If you refuse to submit to a chemical test you could face penalties similar to a DUI and you may still face a criminal conviction even without evidence of drugs in your system.
Under California's implied consent laws, a driver is considered to have given consent to submitting to chemical tests by driving on state roads and having been given a California driver's license. Penalties for refusing a chemical test include a one-year license suspension for your first refusal.
Refusing a drug test does not mean you can't be convicted. If your case goes to trial without a drug test, the judge can tell the jury that they can infer that the reason you refused a chemical test was because you were impaired. Under California jury instructions: “If the defendant refused to submit after a peace officer asked him or her to do so and explained the test's nature to the defendant, then the defendant's conduct may show that he or she was aware of his or her guilt.”
Cocaine and Impaired Driving
Drugs can have a different effect on different people. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), cocaine can make drivers more aggressive and reckless. Another problem with driving under the influence of drugs is that they can be more dangerous when combined with alcohol. The risk of an accident while using alcohol and cocaine can be higher than the risk of an accident with each drug by itself.
Crack is a cocaine derivative, where cocaine is processed with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate and water. Smoking crack can produce aggressive and paranoid behavior that can impair a person's ability to drive. In some cases, drugs which are sold as cocaine may actually be tainted with other impairing drugs like fentanyl.
A study of college students aged 19 to 22 found the most common drug used was marijuana, followed by cocaine and prescription pain relievers. One out of 6 of the students surveyed reported they had driven under the influence of a drug other than alcohol at least once in the prior year.
Penalties for Drug DUIs in California
Most 1st-time drug DUIs are charged as a misdemeanor. The penalties for a misdemeanor DUI usually involve:
The penalties for a drug DUI can increase if the driver caused a serious injury or fatal accident. A drug DUI can also have enhanced penalties if there was a child passenger in the vehicle, the driver had a previous DUI, or there were other criminal violations, like a hit-and-run accident.
Drug DUI Defenses for East Bay Drivers
Chemical tests after a drug DUI arrest are not always accurate. A drug test may show the presence of cocaine even if the effects of the drug wore off hours before the defendant got behind the wheel. In some cases, the blood sample can be contaminated, results are mixed up, or the testing machines are not properly calibrated.
East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 37 years of drug DUI defense experience and understands how to approach each case for the greatest chance for success. Representing individuals in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local criminal laws, local officers, and the prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay DUI defense attorney Lynn Gorelick today.