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Driving Under the Influence of Ketamine in California

Ketamine is an anesthetic drug with hallucinogenic effects. There are limited clinically approved uses for ketamine, including for treatment of depression. However, most ketamine use in the U.S. is as an illegal narcotic, sometimes as a party drug or as a sexual assault drug. Street names for ketamine include: 

  • Special K
  • Vitamin K
  • Kit Kat
  • K
  • Cat tranquilizer
  • Super K
  • Cat Valium

Even if someone feels like they are able to drive after taking Ketamine, it can impair the driver's ability to safely operate the vehicle. Ketamine can reduce inhibition and increase risk-taking. The hallucinogenic effects can also make driving more dangerous. However, even after the drug has worn off, it could still be detected in the body. A positive test for Ketamine or other drugs can result in DUI drug charges. 

An experienced California DUI defense lawyer understands the laws and the science behind drugged driving charges. When faced with a drug DUI offense, make sure you understand your rights before pleading guilty. Contact East Bay criminal defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

How Does Ketamine Impair Driving?

Ketamine and other drugs affect different people in different ways. It may not be helpful to see someone else who appears totally in control after ketamine when you don't know how you may react. In many cases, street drugs can be combined with other substances without the user knowing about it until after. Ketamine can have physical and mental effects. Physical effects can include: 

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Impaired physical sensitivity
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Nausea

For many people, the mental effects can be more significant and could also impair driving ability. Generally, the hallucinatory effects are short-lived, and may only last 30 minutes to an hour after consumption. Mental effects include: 

  • Hallucinations
  • Out-of-body experience
  • Audible distortion
  • Distorted sight perception
  • Disassociation with reality
  • Lack of control

Especially when ketamine is combined with other drugs or alcohol, the effects can increase the risk of an accident or give the police a reason to make a traffic stop. Driving dangers or signs of impairment may include: 

  • Driving too fast
  • Driving too slow
  • Failure to stop at signals
  • Stopping at a green light
  • Weaving
  • Impaired depth perception 
  • Slowed reaction times

Drug DUI Laws in California

California driving under the influence laws are very broad. They cover everything from alcohol and prescription drugs, to inhalants and street narcotics. 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 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.”

Ketamine Use in California

Ketamine is often known as a party drug. It has been around since the 1970s, and remains popular as a hallucinogen. Under California state law and federal law, Ketamine is a controlled substance and against the law to possess or sell, with a few exceptions. According to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), schedule III drugs “have a potential for abuse less than substances in Schedules I or II and abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.” 

There are limited medical uses for ketamine. Legal use and possession are generally limited to approved use under a doctor's supervision. This includes esketamine as a nasal spray, under the prescription name of Spravato. This can be prescribed for treatment-resistant depression. However, ketamine may have some promising benefits for other mental health problems. 

Drug DUI Penalties

Most 1st-time drug DUIs are charged as misdemeanors. The penalties for a misdemeanor DUI can involve: 

A second DUI within 10 years of a prior conviction has more serious penalties. A prior offense could include an alcohol DUI, drug DUI, or even a wet reckless charge.

How Police Test for Ketamine?

Ketamine can be detected in the blood or the urine. Under California's implied consent laws, drivers have given their implied consent to submit to chemical tests if they are arrested on suspicion of a DUI. A blood test will look for a number of chemicals in the body, including: 

  • Dissociative drugs (PCP and Ketamine)
  • Cannabis 
  • Stimulants  
  • Depressants 
  • Hallucinogens  
  • Narcotic analgesic 
  • Inhalants 

The police may also evaluate whether they suspect the driver to be impaired using a so-called Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). These evaluations may involve the standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs), including: 

Drug DUI Defenses for East Bay Drivers 

Before giving up, make sure you understand all the ways to defend yourself against drug DUI charges. Police officers make mistakes and you should not have to go to jail because an officer confused your anxiety with a drug reaction. There are lots of legal defenses available to drug DUI charges. Talk to your DUI defense attorney about your case.

East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 37 years of 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.

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