We’ve talked plenty about the portable breathalyzers, blood and breath tests police use to measure the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of a driver suspected of drunk driving, but when it comes to driving high, things are a lot more complicated. That’s because there is no legal limit defining how high someone needs to be in order for them to be considered intoxicated and thus, unable to drive safely. Instead, it’s completely up to the discretion of the officer who made the arrest. This is why it is so important to know your rights and refuse to answer police questions without a La Jolla DUI lawyer present.
Identifying High Drivers
Just like drunk drivers, police have to have a reasonable suspicion someone violated the vehicle code before stopping them for driving. That means just having a Rasta sticker or a retro VW van is not enough to justify stopping someone, even if the police officer thinks these are signs of people who often drive while high. If you have been stopped for a violation of the vehicle code, police need an objective reason to keep you detained longer than it takes to issue a traffic ticket. In order to arrest you for driving under the influence, the officer must have probable cause to do so.
Signs that someone is driving while high will vary based on the drug, but might include erratic behavior, trembling hands, bloodshot eyes, the smell of marijuana or other drug in the vehicle, or having drug paraphernalia or drugs in an area of the vehicle visible by the police officer.
Evidence of Driving While High
Of course, you can’t just be convicted of driving under the influence of drugs based solely on something like bloodshot eyes or the smell of marijuana. In order to build a case, the prosecution must rely on evidence from the police officer.
In some cases, a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) may be called to the scene where you were pulled over to evaluate you to see if she believes you are driving under the influence. The DRE may ask you to perform field sobriety tests. It is important to recognize that you are not legally required to take these tests and doing so will only provide the police with more evidence against you. You may also be asked to submit to a cheek swab to see if you have traces of marijuana in your mouth. This test is also entirely optional.
Similarly, you are not required to answer any questions about where you have been, whether you have been using drugs or whether you have used drugs in the past. Always remember that it is illegal to drive under the influence of any drug, even those that are legal, including marijuana or even cold medicine. In fact, Del Mar drug crime attorneys agree that the only information you should give the police is that regarding your identity and your proof of insurance.
If you are arrested for driving under the influence of drugs, you will be asked to submit to a blood test. You are legally required to submit to these tests. In fact, the court may even issue a warrant to force you to submit to a blood test if you refuse.
Fighting Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Charges
There are a lot of ways to fight Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) charges and it is important to tell your Solana Beach DUI attorney every relevant detail about your arrest. If you were wrongly stopped, illegally detained, or arrested without probable cause, it’s possible the charges could be dropped. If the police wrongly made you believe that a field sobriety test or cheek swab were required by law, the evidence may be withheld from your case. If your blood was drawn without your consent and without a warrant, the results cannot be used against you.
Another way you can fight the charges is by arguing that just having a drug in your system does not mean you were driving while you were under the influence of the drug. Many drugs do not appear on these tests, so if the test was negative and the evidence is limited to police observations, your lawyer may be able to explain away signs like trembling hands or dilated pupils. Even if you had drugs in the car, it does not mean you used them prior to driving.
The biggest issue with prosecuting drug-impaired driving is how marijuana affects driving and how to measure it. UCSD is currently conducting a study to determine the effects of marijuana on driving. Additionally, private companies are trying to develop a field marijuana impairment test similar to a breathalyzer. This area of the law is evolving and you should expect to see many changes in the coming years.
If you have been accused of driving while high, it is critical you speak with a Carmel Valley drug defense lawyer as soon as possible. You can schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss by calling (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 at any time.
Creative Commons Image by Joshua Wood