For most people, an arrest for driving under the influence leads to the assumption that alcohol or illegal drugs were involved. However, many California driving under the influence cases involve the use of otherwise-legal substances like prescription medication. A charge of DUI due to prescription drugs is treated the same as a DUI from alcohol or illegal narcotics. In fact, the same statute that bars drunken driving also applies to a DUI based on prescription drugs.
Like other DUIs, a DUI on prescription drugs will typically be charged as a misdemeanor. However, there are circumstances that can lead your DUI to be charged a felony. in other words, this charge is a wobbler. Regardless of the classification, the consequences for a DUI can be severe. If you have been charged with a DUI on prescription drugs in Beverly Hills or anywhere else in L.A. County, contact William S. Kroger Attorney at Law to discuss your options.
DUI on Prescription Drugs in Beverly Hills, California
California Vehicle Code § 23152 is the statute that governs DUI charges under California law. While it addresses typical DUIs stemming from high blood alcohol content tests, it also contains two subsections directly related to DUI on prescription drugs. The first is section 23152 (f) which provides:
It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.
The second is section 23152 (g) which provides:
It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle.
What Counts as a Drug Under California Vehicle Code § 23152?
The definition of a drug is broad when it comes to DUI law in Beverly Hills. A drug is:
a substance or combination of substances, other than alcohol, that could so affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person that it would appreciably impair his or her ability to drive as an ordinarily cautious person, in full possession of his or her faculties and using reasonable care, would drive under similar circumstances.
This includes illegal narcotics, prescription medication, and over-the-counter sleep aids. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs that commonly lead to DUI charges in California include:
- Prescription marijuana
- Over-the-counter sleeping pills
- Cough medicine that causes drowsiness
Ultimately, a substance can lead to a DUI conviction if it causes any of the following side effects:
- Diminished coordination
- Blurred vision
- Inability to pay attention
Different drugs affect each person differently, and the combination of otherwise-safe drugs and alcohol can have a large impact on your ability to drive. An experienced DUI defense attorney will have a good working knowledge of these drugs and how they interact in your system. This knowledge could be key in building your defense.
Penalties for a DUI on Prescription Drugs in Beverly Hills, CA
The majority of DUIs charged in Beverly Hills are treated as misdemeanors. However, your DUI will be charged as a felony if:
- This is your fourth or subsequent offense;
- You have a prior conviction for felony DUI; or
- Your DUI led to another person suffering serious injuries or death.
If one of these requirements isn't met, your DUI will be charged as a misdemeanor. A first offense DUI carries a jail sentence between 3 days and 6 months in jail. What's more, you will face a minimum fine of $390 as well as a six-month suspension of your driving privileges. Finally, a first offense will also require a minimum three-month drug education class. Typically, a first offense will result in most or the entire jail sentence being suspended.
A second-offense DUI carries a jail sentence between 4 days and 1 year in county jail. Additionally, you will face fines, a two-year suspension of your driver's license, and up to 30 months of mandatory drug education classes.
A third-offense DUI carries a jail sentence of 6 months to 1 year in county jail. It also mandates fines, a three-year driver's license suspension, and a mandatory 30-month drug education class.
A felony conviction for DUI on prescription drugs carries a state prison sentence of at least 16 months and at most 4 years. A conviction will also carry a maximum fine of $5,000 and a revocation of your driver's license for at least 1 year.
Drug DUI Defense Strategies
As with most DUI cases, your defense attorney will likely rely on one or both of the two common defenses in a DUI case: challenges to the traffic stop and challenges to the chemical test.
Challenges to the Traffic Stop
In a Beverly Hills DUI case, the majority of the evidence collected against you is done pursuant to a traffic stop. But law enforcement can't simply pull you over or search your vehicle on a whim. The 4th Amendment to the Constitution protects you from unlawful search or seizure. In other words, any evidence that is collected against you due to an illegal traffic stop cannot be used against you thanks do a doctrine known as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”
The gist of the doctrine is that the prosecutor cannot enjoy the fruits of an illegal search or seizure. If your traffic stop was illegal, your attorney might be able to have any evidence collected against you thrown out. This can include the results of a chemical test or even an admission to taking prescription drugs before driving.
Challenges to the Test
Another important defense during DUI cases involves challenging the accuracy of the results of chemical tests. This is especially important in DUI on prescription drugs cases, as there are limits on the accuracy of tests relating to prescription medication.
Many DUI on prescription drugs cases rely on the use of so-called Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) to make their case. However, DRE tests are subjective and can often lead to false positives. Your attorney may be able to show that the DRE tests were not administered correctly and should not be relied on at trial.
Hiring the Right Beverly Hills DUI Attorney
If you have been charged with a DUI on prescription drugs in Beverly Hills, you will need an experienced DUI defense attorney by your side. A Beverly Hills native, William S. Kroger Attorney at Law has spent his entire career defending the accused and is prepared to discuss the merits of your case with you. Contact William S. Kroger today for a free consultation.