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Attorneys William R. Christoph & Nicholas W. Christoph

California is strict about driving under influence of (even legal) drugs


In the state of California it is illegal to drive under the influence of both illegal and legal drugs.

California drivers cannot drive impaired under the influence of alcohol, drugs or combination of alcohol and drugs. It is unlawful in California to drive a vehicle impaired under the influence of any drug – not only unlawful drugs, but also over-the-counter and prescription medications, including medical marijuana.

California also makes it a felony offense when a driver under the influence of alcohol, a drug, or a combination of alcohol and a drug drives a vehicle at the same time that he or she does an act forbidden by law or neglects a “duty imposed by law in driving the vehicle,” and the illegal “act or neglect” causes injury to anyone else (In Re Ryan, 61 Cal. App. 2d 310 (Cal. Ct. App. 1943)).

In May 2015, the San Diego City Attorney whose office prosecutes misdemeanor drunk driving cases issued a press release about “drug” DUI prosecutions.

The press release indicates that most frequent drug used by younger impaired drivers is marijuana and that for drivers more than 45 years old, prescription medications are more often the problem. A prosecutor is quoted as saying that for these older drivers, they may have been using the legally prescribed medicine for a long time without understanding that the medications can negatively impact driving skills, reflexes and judgment.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles urges drivers to drive with caution when any alcohol or drugs have been consumed. DMV notes that alcohol, drugs or their combination can impair a driver’s ability to drive in a number of ways.

DMV recommends discussing the side effects of medications with a doctor or pharmacist and to read warning labels. Of particular concern can be drugs that cause sleepiness, dizziness, inability to concentrate, impaired vision, or anxiety. Finally, combining drugs and alcohol is a bad idea that could lead to serious consequences by impairing the ability to drive safely. Some medications increase the effects of alcohol significantly.

Driving is a privilege not a right. If you abuse that privilege, you loose it. By getting a license, a driver implies consent to chemical testing if law enforcement has reasonable suspicion of someone driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In California, if a driver refuses a chemical test for alcohol or drugs, he or she opens him or herself up to a potentially significant license suspension or revocation and law enforcement may still take a blood sample by force.

Sometimes the side effects of a medication or other drugs can be unexpected. If you face legal issues related to driving under the influence of a drug, and/or alcohol, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as early as possible.

The consequences of a DUI, in addition to license suspension or revocation, can include jail time, treatment, education, fines, public service, probation and more. A criminal conviction also has collateral consequences that can affect employment, occupational licensing, careers and even immigration.

In Vista, the lawyers of Christoph Law Offices defend individuals with DUI cases involving alcohol, drugs, and combinations of alcohol and drugs as well as other criminal charges in San Diego County.

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