Cocaine DUI in California
Driving under the influence (DUI) is one of the leading causes of traffic deaths in America, causing 32 deaths a day according to the United States Department of Transportation. From 2019 to 2020, the death toll from drunk driving rose 14 percent, killing a staggering 11,654 Americans. The costs aren’t limited to lost lives either; DUIs cost the nation over $44 billion every year. Just like drinking while driving is illegal, it is also against the law to drive while under the influence of drugs. For example, driving while high on cocaine is a major violation of California law and may result in a DUI (also known as driving under the influence of drugs or DUID).
In this blog post, we’ll explore California DUI law and provide resources in the event you’re arrested for a cocaine DUI in CA.
It is a violation of California Vehicle Code 23152 to drive a vehicle under the influence of any drugs and/or alcohol, including cocaine. If you or someone you know needs treatment for cocaine abuse Addictions.com has a great list of treatment facilities in California.
The term “drug” is defined by California law as any substance, or combination of substances, other than alcohol which could affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person to impair their ability to drive a vehicle in a cautious manner with reasonable care.
Unlike alcohol, which has a legal limit, California law prohibits the use of any drugs. Meaning, if you are pulled over by the police and have any substance, you could face a DUID charge no matter what the drug — it could be marijuana or cocaine.
Cocaine is a stimulant drug derived from coca leaves; it is sold illicitly as a white powder or small white rocks. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), cocaine goes by the street names: coke, crack, coca, flake, rock, snow, and soda cot.
In powder form, cocaine is usually snorted or dissolved in water and injected. In the form of crack, cocaine is cooked down into small pieces (or rocks) and smoked. There used to be medicinal use for cocaine as a local anesthetic, as it reduced bleeding in the nose, throat, and mouth. However, according to the DEA, it is no longer used medicinally in the United States.
Cocaine causes feelings of euphoria, alertness, and energy. It can also cause irritability, restlessness, paranoia, and anxiety. Following the “high” there is a crash leading to feelings of depression and exhaustion which can entice people to take the drug again, making it potentially addictive.
The DEA classifies cocaine as a Schedule II drug under the Controlled Substances Act, given its high potential for abuse and addiction. This means it is illegal to sell, use, or possess cocaine.
When pulled over for driving under the influence of alcohol, you may be breathalyzed or asked for a blood test to test your blood alcohol concentration. If you are stopped and suspected of being under the influence of cocaine or other drugs, on the other hand, a drug recognition expert may be called to identify the drug and level of impairment.
You may be taken to the police station to carry out the drug impairment evaluation. This may involve:
- Taking blood and urine samples to test for drugs and alcohol
- A physical examination of pupil size, pulse, any injection marks, drug residue around the nose or mouth, and observing eye movements
- Field sobriety testing, such as asking the driver to stand on a single leg, perform a balance test, or a walk-and-turn test
Test results, officer reports, and DRE investigation reports are all considered when determining whether to prosecute a person for a DUID.
Driving while high on cocaine is ultimately putting yourself and others in harm’s way. Unfortunately, it is more common than you might think. According to the United States Department of Transportation, 56 percent of drivers involved in serious injury and fatal crashes tested positive for at least one drug in their system.
Cocaine and other stimulants can impair driving in several ways:
- Can cause drivers to become aggressive and reckless
- Paranoia causes difficulty focusing on the road and driving
- Increased sensitivity to light, which can affect vision
- Poor judgment skills
DOT warns that you should never attempt to assess your own level of impairment if you have taken any substance, including cocaine. Their campaign, If You Feel Different, You Drive Different, educates Americans about the dangers of driving while impaired and suggests ways to make safer choices.
Under California Vehicle Code 23152, it is considered unlawful to drive after taking any amount of cocaine, no matter how small.
Driving under the influence of drugs carries several penalties under the California Vehicle Code. The penalties vary depending on circumstances like whether it is a first offense.
Typically, a first offense can lead to a misdemeanor, resulting in the following:
- Up to six months in jail
- 3-5 years’ probation
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Suspended driver’s license for up to six months
- Required to attend California DUI school for drug education for a minimum of three months
A second or third DUID offense can mean higher fines, a longer suspension, probation, and DUI school. For example, a second offense within ten years may result in one year in jail and a two-year suspended license. However, a fourth DUID, or if someone was severely injured or killed because of driving under the influence, can result in a felony conviction.
Felony DUID convictions carry the following penalties:
- 16 months to 4 years in jail or state prison
- Suspended or revoked license for a minimum of one year
- Fines from $1,000 to $5,000
- Felony probation
Penalties are not limited to those imposed by the courts; there are also the repercussions of a criminal record. For example, this charge would show up on background checks for employment or housing, which can make life more challenging and limit your options. You can also face a higher car insurance premium.
There are potential defenses for California drivers accused of a suspected DUID, such as:
- If the arresting officer had probable cause: there must be probable cause to initiate a traffic stop, search a vehicle, and take blood and urine tests
- The technicalities of impairment: DUID charges can be challenged on the basis that impairment differs from person to person. For example, a person may have built up a tolerance for taking a certain drug over a period and even though it is detected in a blood test, the drug does not impair the driver’s judgment or reaction times
- Other possible explanations: various illnesses, allergies, or even working late nights, are all reasonable explanations for someone having bloodshot eyes or appearing fatigued. Thus, it is possible that there is an innocent explanation for what may appear to be a driver impaired by the influence of drugs.
How a Los Angeles DUI Lawyer Can Help
A Los Angeles DUI lawyer can help you build a strong defense in your case by upholding your rights, challenging probable cause, and any other factors relevant to your situation. Hiring an attorney is the best way to build a defense strategy to challenge a DUID.
Images Courtesy of Shutterstock
Images Courtesy of Shutterstock