Orange County, CA Criminal Defense Law Blog

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Impaired Driving is Illegal, Whether Due to Alcohol or Drugs

Most people might imagine those arrested for driving under the influence would be pulled over after drinking too much at a party or a bar. For increasing numbers of drivers their impairment has nothing to do with drinking and everything to do with using drugs, both legal and illegal.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that in a 2007 survey more than 16% of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription or over-the-counter drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). More than 11% tested positive for illegal drugs. A 2009 NHTSA study found 18% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drug, according to NIDA.
California law was changed this year so that it distinguishes between those operating under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both. State law defines "drugs" as any substance other than alcohol that could affect your nervous system, brain or muscles. You would be considered “under the influence” if a drug impairs you to the point that you can no longer drive like a sober person under similar circumstances. It doesn’t matter whether the drug is illegal, over the counter or a prescription medication.

There are no current, reliable roadside tests for drug use by drivers. Due to that lack of equipment the investigation should be led by a drug recognition expert trained to spot drug impairment. This makes it even more critical that someone pulled over and questioned exercise their rights to legal representation and not to make any self-incriminating statements to law enforcement. 

The best way to avoid a conviction for driving under the influence of drugs is to not use illegal drugs and if you’re taking medications be aware of how they may impair your ability to drive. Ask your physician or pharmacist if a medication could impair your driving. Don’t take medications for the first time then get behind the wheel because you may end up being surprised when a police officer pulls you over.

DUI due to drug use is a serious offense which can have far ranging consequences.  If you have been arrested for DUI, call Orange County, California criminal defense attorney Mark Raymond McDonald at (888)686-7874 for a consultation today.


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