Driving while drugged or drunk is extremely dangerous. But which is worse? That answer seems to change each year. In fact, a recent Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report asserts that drugged driving surpassed drunk driving in driver deaths. Still, researchers say that more research is needed in this field.
In the legal world, drugged and drunk driving both fall under “driving under the influence.” Although they are related, they are not the same. Knowing the differences can be useful in fighting DUI charges, so let’s explore them.
California Vehicle Code
Driving under the influence falls under California Vehicle Code 23152 in general; however, offenses involving alcohol and drugs are separated by sections. Section (b) states that it is unlawful for someone to drive with 0.08% or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood. This can be detected by blood test or breath test. (The amount is 0.04% for commercial vehicle drivers.)
In Section (c), “It is unlawful for a person who is addicted to the use of any drug to drive a vehicle.” This law does not apply to those participating in a narcotic treatment program, under special circumstances. Section (f) goes further and states: “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.”
Section (g) specifies that being under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs is also not allowed while driving in California.
As you can see, the law against drugged driving is a bit vague. What qualifies as “under the influence” when it comes to drugs? And what about a person who just tries a tiny portion of the drug, and tests positive? That’s up to the courts to decide, but a good defense lawyer can help.
How Do Cops Test for Drugs and Alcohol?
According to the GHSA, driving under the influence is categorized by:
- Signs of impairment in behavior observed by law enforcement
- A substance linked to that impairment
Officers look for certain symptoms when they pull a suspect over:
- Alcohol: Slurred speech, poor balance, and alcohol odor
- Depressants: slurred speech, drowsy, and disoriented manner
- Cocaine: hyperactive and alert, talkative, irritable, nervous, anxious
Officers can use a breathalyzer to test for alcohol, but they cannot do the same for drugs. Instead, they might enact a blood or saliva test to determine drug use. In court, drunk driving charges are approached differently than drugged driving. As a defense, prescription drug use may play a role for drugs, but not alcohol.
Fighting a driving under the influence charge requires an experienced lawyer. At the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, we have extensive experience in criminal defense. If you need legal help, call us toll-free at (888) 478-8999.