This section prohibits driving a "motor vehicle" under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or a combination of the two. It prohibits a person from driving a vehicle while under the influence of any substance that impairs their ability to drive with the care of a normal sober person. That includes otherwise legal medications, including prescription or over-the-counter medications, if the substance causes impairment. This also includes marijuana, even if the person has a medical marijuana certificate. The extent to which marijuana in small doses impairs a person‘s ability to drive is the topic of heated debate among experts in the field. As with legal medications, even though a person may have a medical marijuana certificate from a doctor, it does not allow a person to drive if the marijuana impairs their driving.
It comes as a surprise to most people that prosecutors increasingly use this section to charge and attempt to convict people with tested blood alcohol levels below .08, even with no drugs in their system. The theory is that people can be too impaired to drive even at blood alcohol levels below .08. Toward that end, over the years state crime lab toxicologists have lowered their opinions of the level at which people are impaired. They now commonly claim that people can be too impaired to drive at levels as low as .05, and that all people are too impaired to drive at levels as low as .08, irrespective of their size and drinking history! Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) continues to exert tremendous influence on our politicians and government agencies.
As stated above, the use of even legal medications and drugs can result in a DUI if the substances cause impairment. If there is a DUI involving a drug or narcotic that is illegal, it leads to an additional violation of California Vehicle Code section 11550. This section prohibits being under the influence of a controlled substance, whether driving or not.
Conviction for a violation of California Vehicle Code section 11550 carries a sentence that includes a minimum of 90 days in jail, and a maximum of 1 year. In addition, if the offense involved driving, the person is not eligible for a drug treatment Deferred Entry of Judgment program under Penal Code section 1000. The result is that the person is faced with actually serving the 90 days - 1 year of jail time.
Do you need the services of an exceptional dui attorney in Southern California including Los Angeles and Orange County? The dui lawyer in our Orange County office has extensive experience in criminal law as both a high profile prosecutor and public defender. Attorney Mike Brewer can help. Contact us for more information.