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Charged With Being Under the Influence of Drugs in OC?


Under the Influence of Drugs: California Health and Safety Code (HSC) 11550

If you have been charged with being under the influence of drugs and are now looking for a way to beat the charges, it is vital you have a skilled Orange County drug crime defense attorney on your side. At Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, our legal team can help you through the process and work to get your charges reduced or dismissed. We understand there could be a variety of reasons why you were under the influence of drugs—including the use of prescription medication.

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Understanding the Charge

California Health and Safety Code (HSC) 11550, which is sometimes known as using and/or being under the influence, regulates drug use, so you're likely being prosecuted under this section for willfully using or being under the influence of a controlled substance or an illegally-obtained drug.

  • “Willfully” can be legally defined as doing something on purpose or willingly, meaning that you cannot be convicted if you unknowingly ingested a drug.
  • “Use” of a controlled substance must have occurred immediately before you were arrested, however, this is still subject to debate. While some courts exclude cases of withdrawal, others state that “use” can include days prior to the arrest.
  • “Under the influence” means a person’s mental condition, physical condition, or nervous system has been affected by a controlled substance.

A controlled substance can be a prescription drug or any illegal drug; however, marijuana is excluded from this law. If you were legally using a prescription drug prescribed to you, you cannot be charged under HSC 11550. However, if you were driving while under the influence of the prescription medication, you could possibly be charged with DUID.

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Requirements for a Conviction

To convict you, the DA must prove one of the following things:

  • You used a controlled substance or narcotic drug
  • You were under the influence of a controlled substance or narcotic drug

Unlike DUI charges, where police need to show some kind of misconduct and impairment from being under the influence to charge you, HSC 11550 simply requires you to be under the influence of a controlled substance to be arrested and charged. For Orange County prosecutors to convict you of using a drug, your use of the drug must be immediately prior to arrest, per Bosco v. Justice Court of Exeter-Farmersville Judicial District. The problem with this is that it is unclear what defines or meets the criteria of current use or immediate use prior to arrest, and, consequently, most pending charges are determined on a case-by-case basis.

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Defenses Against Under the Influence of Drugs Charges

There have been cases where suspects have been charged with using within three to four days of their arrest, which is why it's important to contact an Orange County drug defense lawyer right away, so your attorney can speak directly with the DA's office and examine the evidence against you. In addition to reviewing the evidence, your defense attorney may outline the following defenses:

  • Withdrawal: According to People v. Jones, current use means you haven't entered withdrawal. If you're undergoing withdrawals at the time of your arrest, you're entitled to an acquittal of this charge.
  • Similar symptoms: If you were never under the influence of drugs, there could be a variety of reasons why police may have thought you were. There are various physical symptoms that mimic signs of being under the influence of drugs, such as being ill or suffering from a physiological condition.
  • Lack of evidence: If the police officers don't find any drugs or drug paraphernalia on you, and they didn't bother to take a blood test to confirm their suspicions, it's going to be difficult for the District Attorney's office to press charges against you. Many times, police will take a suspect in because he or she looked a certain way, and when they ran a check, prior arrests or charges came up. In that scenario, the police may assume, without performing any test, that you must be under the influence again.
  • Prescription use: Under HSC 11550, if you possess a legal prescription and used the drug as prescribed, you may be exempt from prosecution. However, if you have a variety of prescriptions for the same drug, you may be prosecuted under California's doctor shopping law.
  • Accidental or involuntary use: In regard to involuntary intoxication, for an HSC 11550 conviction, you must have willingly volunteered to use the drug. If you were drugged by another individual, or mistakenly given the wrong medication, you cannot be guilty of this offense.

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Under the Influence Penalties in Orange County

If you are charged with being under the influence as a misdemeanor, you may be facing penalties that may include jail time of up to one year. In the state of California, you may be eligible for a drug diversion program, which would allow you to serve your sentence in treatment, rather than in jail. Your penalties may also include probation and community service. If it is your third conviction within seven years of your first conviction and you have refused court-appointed drug treatment, you can be sentenced to a minimum of 180 days in county jail, per HSC 11550.

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Get Help Now!

You may think you can talk to the judge and explain yourself and the situation, and the judge will have a sympathetic ear. The reality is that most judges will see you as just another criminal who broke the law. This is why you need an Orange County criminal defense lawyer to speak on your behalf. At the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, our top-rated lawyer can explain the complexities of your case and help minimize or eliminate your charges. We have more than a decade of experience successfully defending clients against all types of drug charges in courts throughout Southern California, so contact us at (714) 361-0453 for unparalleled legal assistance and representation.

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Additional Information

Whether you're facing a felony or a misdemeanor, don't risk a conviction. Act quickly to redeem your reputation and protect your record by consulting with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer. Call today to schedule your free consultation.

(714) 530-9690

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