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Legal defense and penalties for a first-time DUI

Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC is the California statute that prohibits being under the influence of drug(s) whilst driving. Though drug DUIs are commonly charged as misdemeanors, one may be given more severe penalties depending on the facts of the specific situation. In this article, we will discuss the penalties one may receive for a drug DUI as well as possible legal defenses. 

How are drug DUIs charged under 23152(f) VC?

For first time offenders, drug DUIs are usually charged the same as regular DUIs and could result in any of the following:

  • Fines between $390-$1,800 (including penalties and assessments)
  • Between 3 and 5 years DUI probation
  • Suspension of one’s driver’s license
  • DUI school
  • A maximum sentence of six months in jail (uncommon for first-time DUI offenders)

If, however, a drug DUI is charged as a felony (which could occur for a few different reasons, including injury resulting from drive under the influence), you may be charged with:

  • As much as $1,000 in fines
  • A maximum sentence of 3 years

Charges may be even higher if someone else was injured. This could include up to $5,000 in fines and/or as much as 4 years in jail.

How can I defend against a drug DUI charge?

When being put on trial for a drug DUI, you may choose from a plethora of defenses including defenses for specifically Drug DUIs or defenses that could apply to any DUI. Let’s start with drug specific DUI legal defenses. Below are some of the more common defenses.

  • The police did not apply the correct protocol in accordance with California Code of Regulations Title 17.
  • The police did not have a good reason for pulling you over and analyzing you.
  • You were not told your Miranda Rights.

There are certain problems that can occur when trying to prove that someone’s driving was impaired from drug use. To begin with, there are many many reasons why different symptoms commonly seen in drug users would be present in someone who is clean. For example, driving after a poor night’s rest could result in one’s ability to safely navigate without being impaired. Whilst this does show irresponsibility on the driver’s part, it does not mean they are under the influence. Another issue is that drug tests are fallible. One may test positive even without having taken any drugs, which may in certain cases be used as a defense.


This article has gone over the basics of how drug DUIs may be penalized as well as some possible legal defenses defendants may take. If you would like more information on the subject, please consider contacting us so we may discuss how you can be defended.

Regardless of the classification of the offense, it is important that you seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to help you best understand your legal defense while identifying an outcome that best minimizes your risk. We here at the H Law Group patiently await your call.

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