More and more people are being arrested for driving under the influence of illegal drugs or prescription medication. In November of 2011, the Orange County District Attorney's office received a grant from California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to fight driving under the influence of drugs cases. Special prosecutors have been assigned to handle these cases and more police officers are receiving training in drug recognition. District attorney offices throughout southern California are motivated to convict individuals who drive with drugs in their system.

If You Are Arrested for a Drug DUI, You Need an Experienced Attorney

John Barnett is highly experienced in handling drug DUI cases. He understands the science behind these cases and understands how to talk to juries. Drug DUI cases can be difficult to defend because everyone hates impaired drivers. The burden is, for all intents and purposes, shifted to the defense to prove that the accused was not impaired by a drug or combination of drugs in the individual's system for the purposes of driving.

A person charged with driving under the influence of drugs will be charged with one count of 23152(a). This is different from an alcohol DUI, which will also result in a charge of 23152(b), driving with an alcohol level of .08% or higher. There is no level of drug in a person's system that equates to impairment like there is for alcohol. There is insufficient science and there are insufficient studies to equate a level of a drug with driving impairment.

Scientific studies have been performed to determine that all people are under the influence of alcohol for the purposes of driving at .08%. In the studies, people were given alcohol, tested for blood alcohol content, then had their driving observed. Similar testing has not been done with drugs and driving. In fact, it is an essential tenet of pharmacology that different people react to different drugs in different ways. It is difficult to account for tolerance and individual body chemistry in relation to drugs.

Evidence Is Difficult to Obtain in Drug DUI Arrests

Because of a lack of correlative studies for driving under the influence of drugs, prosecutors are left to use circumstantial evidence to prove their cases. They will use the level of drug in the system, observations of the police officers (who may or may not be drug recognition officers), and the driving of the accused to prove their case. Field sobriety tests will play a role in this investigation despite the fact that they were designed and tested for alcohol impairment. Frequently, prosecutors will claim—and juries will believe—that if a person was in an accident or broke a traffic law and had a drug in her system, that she is impaired by the drug for the purposes of driving. This oversimplification of a DUI case by the prosecution misapplies the burden of proof but is often successful. It requires an experienced trial attorney who has handled dug DUI cases to counter this presentation of the case.

Drug DUI Penalties Are Harsh in California

A conviction for driving under the influence of drugs carries the same punishment as driving under the influence of alcohol. A first time offender will face three years of informal probation, $2000 in court fees and fines, a six-month license suspension, a driver's safety class of three, six, or nine months and a Mother's Against Drunk Driving victim impact panel.

The attorneys at Law Office of John D. Barnett understand the pharmacology behind these types of cases and can articulate the prosecution problems to a jury. They will listen to you and effectively tell your story to the jury. Let us protect you.