Articles Posted in Drugs, Medications & DUI

weedIt’s common knowledge that driving under the influence of drugs is illegal in California. However, determining exactly what constitutes “driving under the influence of drugs” may come as a surprise. Vehicle Code § 23152(f) is the law that makes driving under the influence of drugs illegal. The law is about as clearly written as it can be: “It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.”

While the law is clear in its wording, it still leaves a lot of questions. Below are some of the most common questions about charges related to driving under the influence of drugs.

Is It Illegal to Drive Under the Influence of All Drugs? Or Just Illegal Drugs?

mj.jpgAssembly Bill 2500 was introduced in February 2014, by Democratic Assembly Member Jim Frazier of Oakland. It was supported by the Association of Highway Patrolmen, the California Council on Alcohol Problems, the California Police Chiefs Association, the California State Sheriffs’ Association, among others. The bill was opposed by the ACLU, American for Safe Access, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, California DUI Lawyers Association, California NORML, Crusaders for Patients Rights, Drug Policy Alliance, among others. The original text of the bill sought to impose a “zero tolerance policy” but the bill was amended to a “per se” standard.

Under the proposed law, drivers who have even a trace amount, (“2 nanograms, or more, per milliliter of whole blood”), of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in their blood regardless of whether the person was impaired, could be charged with drugged driving. (Note, this bill also addressed drugs other than THC, providing a level of detectable metabolite that has to be present for the driver to be impaired; however, we are only going to discuss marijuana in this blog).

There is a huge problem with this standard: There has not been any studies proving a correlation of a certain level of THC in the blood and impaired driving. There simply is no science to back up the 2 nanogram standard and impairment. The result of such a law would criminalize non-impaired drivers! This is unacceptable and the California Assembly Committee on Public Safety correctly rejected the amended legislation.

pot.jpgRecently, the Colorado Senate attempted to treat driving under the influence of marijuana like driving under the influence of alcohol with a .08% or greater blood alcohol content, as reported by The proposed marijuana blood-level limit that was voted on and failed was 5 nanograms of THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Those sponsoring the marijuana, (otherwise known as pot, bud, weed, grass, Mary Jane, MJ, among others), DUI bill argued that THC levels are reliable and they are a scientific indicator that shows if someone used marijuana recently and if they are under the influence for purposes of driving.

Opponents of the bill stated the THC levels do not gauge impairment because even though the psychoactive ingredient is not active and the person is no longer feeling the effects of ingesting marijuana, the chemical remains in the body for an extended period of time. The blood test will show a THC level indicating the subject at some point used pot; however, it will not determine the amount that was ingested, when it was used, or the concentration of THC in the product that was consumed. In addition, each person’s individual tolerance to marijuana is different and it is affected by usage.

In California, under Penal Code Section 23152(a), “It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of…[a] drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle.” Therefore, a person can be charged with drunk driving if law enforcement suspects the person is under the influence of marijuana at the time that they are driving a vehicle.

As the law stands now, the THC level is only one of the factors that is considered to determine if a person is under the influence. These cases are fact specific, looking into the driving pattern, the driver’s appearance, how he or she performed on the field sobriety tests, (or FST’s), and the chemical test result which shows the THC level in the blood. Because there is no hard and fast rules about marijuana impairment, marijuana drunk driving cases are hard for the prosecutor to prove.

Because these cases are so hard to prove, they are great cases to take to trial. Often, especially if there are no other drugs or alcohol in your system, these cases get dropped or the charges are reduced because the prosecutor does not want to take the risk of a not guilty verdict after trial.

There are many strong defenses in marijuana DUI cases. If you have been charged with drunk driving involving marijuana, you owe it to yourself to find an exclusively DUI defense firm that can aggressively fight your case.

The above blog article on marijuana driving under the influence cases is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may change and may not apply to your case. For the latest information or to get legal advice, speak to a drunk driving attorney in your area.

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inhalants.jpgDrunk driving charges were brought after Christopher Jordan Johnson, 20, crashed his car into a tree in East Naples, Florida. He and his passenger, Brock Lyons, 21, admitted to huffing dust remover in aerosol cans before the crash, according to Johnson broke his right leg and hip and Lyons broke his arm and right ankle, and suffered a collapsed lung.

Painkiller DUI’s have been increasing but huffing DUI’s are still rare, according to an officer that was involved in the case.

In California, it is illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and a drug, (see Penal Code section 23152(a)). It does not matter if that drug is a prescription, an illegal substance, or a cleaning product that can be used as an inhalant, as long as the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver was under the influence for purposes of driving.

San Diego prosecutors brought charges in its first huffing drunk driving case in May 2010, according to, stemming from an accident that occurred on December 31, 2009.

Defendant Romeo Dumlao, Jr., 34, was accused of huffing or inhaling difluoroethane vapors from a can of computer dust remover to get high, according to While in Point Loma, he drove his car into another car on Sports Arena Boulevard, ultimately killing 9 year old Ashley Heffington. He plead guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in June 2010, and was sentenced to 16 years in prison in July 2010.

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pills.martini.jpgYou are legally on a prescription or even an over-the-counter medication. You are driving your vehicle. Can you be pulled over, cited, and convicted of a driving under the influence (DUI) charge?

The answer is yes, if you are in fact under the influence and driving!

Driving under the influence, Vehicle Code Section 23152, provides: “It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle.”

So what constitutes a drug? According to California Vehicle Code Section 312: “The term “drug” means any substance or combination of substances, other than alcohol, which could so affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person as to impair, to an appreciable degree, his ability to drive a vehicle in the manner that an ordinarily prudent and cautious man, in full possession of his faculties, using reasonable care, would drive a similar vehicle under like conditions.”

The fact that you are legally entitled to use the drug is not a defense to a DUI case, per California Vehicle Code Section 23630.

According to the DUI jury instructions (2110), you are under the influence “if, as a result of…taking a drug…[your] mental or physical abilities are so impaired that [you are]…no longer able to drive a vehicle with the caution of a sober person, using ordinary care, under similar circumstances. The manner in which a person drives is not enough by itself to establish whether the person is or is not under the influence of…a drug…However, it is a factor to be considered, in light of all the surrounding circumstances, in deciding whether the person was under the influence.”

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