Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

California Vehicle Code 23152(a) says driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is a crime.

The definition of “drugs” in California law is any substance (besides alcohol) that could affect your nervous system, brain or muscles.


If you are impaired by narcotics to the point that you can no longer operate an auto like a sober person and you get behind the wheel, then you are driving under the influence of drugs.


Driving under the influence of any drug can lead to prosecution. It does not matter if they are
hard narcotics such as meth, prescription drugs such as vicodin, or over-the-counter drugs such as diphenhydramine (in Tylenol PM). Even legally prescribed medications can lead to a DUI drugs charge.

The way in which investigations (and later prosecution) for DUI involving drugs differs from a DUI involving alcohol. Usually, a drug recognition expert (DRE) is called in to conduct the roadside investigation. DRE’s have special training to identify drug impairment.

In a DUI investigation involving alcohol the police would check for your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The “magic number” they look for is .08% or greater. But in a DUI involving drugs there is no magic number that says you are definitely impaired. That makes a DUI involving drugs charge more difficult for the district attorney to prove.


The punishments for DUI are usually the same for alcohol or drugs. A basic DUI involving drugs in California is a misdemeanor. But the punishments can greatly increase if this is not your first DUI offense or if certain circumstances accompany the crime. You may be charged with a felony if it is the fourth DUI offense, you cause a collision that injures someone, or you have a prior felony DUI conviction.

The “usual” punishments for a DUI involving drugs conviction include:

1. DUI probation for 3 to 5 years,
2. Attend DUI classes,
3. Fines (about $1800 for a first offense),
4. Jail time is possible in certain counties depending on the circumstances and your prior record.
5. A suspended driver’s license

Note that more info is available in our related page on California DUI’s. The penalties can be influenced by these factors:

1. All or some of these penalties can be avoided If your charges are negotiated down to reckless driving or exhibition of speed.
2. If you were under the influence of one of the drugs listed in Health and Safety Code 11550 California’s being under the influence of drugs law, you could be charged for that as well and face additional penalties for that.



There are many defenses that are available to fight your DUI charge. Here are some of them, but there can be many more:

1. Just because you had drugs in your system does not necessarily mean that your driving skills were being influenced by those drugs
2. Collection, storage or analysis of blood or urine samples must follow strict procedures called California Title 17 procedures. Any failure to properly follow any of those procedures can be used as a defense
3. If you had reason to appear exhausted or anxious for reasons other than drugs, then the appearance of those conditions is not necessarily a sign of drug influence


Our California DUI defense attorneys have represented DUI clients throughout the state.


Below, they provide an in-depth information on what to expect during a DUI involving drugs investigation, prosecution and defense by discussing the following topics:

California's Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Law
What to Expect During A Drug DUI Investigation
Drug recognition experts (DREs)
What happens at a Drug DUI trial in California?
The arresting officer's testimony
The DRE's testimony
Legal Defenses
Defenses that are specific to drug DUI
Penalties, Punishment and Sentencing for California Drug DUI

If you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at the Law Offices of Marc Grossman.

You may also find helpful information by reading up on Vehicle Code 23152(a); Driving Under the Influence; Vehicle Code 23152(b); Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN); Understanding Your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC); The Walk and Turn Test; The Romberg Balance Test; Chemical DUI Blood Tests; The One Leg Stand Test; The Finger to Nose Test; The Probable Cause Required to Initiate a DUI Investigation; California DUI Defenses; California Title 17 Procedures; Miranda Rights; DUI Probation; DUI Causing Injury; California DUI School; DMV Driver’s License Suspensions; Refusing to Submit to a DUI Chemical Blood or Breath Test; California DUI Penalties; Penal Code 1000 PC Drug Diversion; Health and Safety Code 11550 California’s “Being” Under the Influence Law; California Drug Court; Proposition 36; Marijuana; PCP; Methamphetamines; Cocaine; Heroin; Ecstasy “X”; Vicodin; Codeine; and GHB “the date-rape drug”

Call us for help…

For questions about California driving under the influence of drugs charges, contact us at the Law Offices of Marc Grossman to set up a free consultation with one of our California DUI defense attorneys.

We have local criminal law offices in and around San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, and several nearby cities.

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