If you find yourself pulled over for driving under the influence of an opioid like morphine or a stimulant like cocaine, a police officer can arrest you for a drug DUI (DUID).
In California, Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) says is it unlawful for a person to drive under the influence of any drug. And California Vehicle Code Section 312 defines a "drug" as any substance not alcohol that could affect a person’s brain, muscles or nervous system, making them unable to safely drive a vehicle.
How would a police officer find out you were driving under the influence of drugs? There are a series of tests you may be asked to undergo, including a drug impairment evaluation and chemical testing through a blood sample.
What is a Drug Impairment Evaluation?
Drug impairment evaluation is normally conducted by a specially-trained police officer called a drug recognition expert or evaluator (DRE). The DRE officer administers a 12-step evaluation to look for evidence of a DUID. Some of the evaluation steps include checking for physical signs and symptoms on the driver, interviewing the arresting officer, and conducting some sobriety tests.
It is important to note that under the Fifth Amendment, you can refuse to take part in the drug impairment evaluation or any sobriety testing. And a DRE may not evaluate you as not all California counties have access to one.
What is Chemical Testing?
If arrested for a DUID, a police officer will ask you to undergo chemical testing to check for drugs in your system. Chemical testing takes a sample of your blood and looks for traces of drugs in your system.
The chemical test looks for traces of stimulants and opioids in your bloodstream. A drug like cocaine requires a blood test as it does not show up in a breath test like alcohol does.
An important note — the chemical test will show a positive or negative for a drug like cocaine in the system. It will not show how much of the drug was in a person’s system, which a good criminal defense attorney could use as a possible defense.
Can You Refuse a Chemical Test?
Unlike the drug impairment evaluation, California law says you cannot refuse the chemical test if arrested.
Under California law, the moment you obtain a driver’s license and drive on state roads you are now under its “implied consent” law. Under implied consent, any California driver that is lawfully arrested for a DUI must agree to take a breath or blood test.
Refusal of a chemical test can result in driver’s license suspension for at least a year. And you can still be found guilty of a DUID without a positive chemical test.
If you find yourself arrested for a DUID for cocaine or any other stimulants or opioids, make sure to contact a criminal defense attorney competent in California drug DUI law and the potential inaccuracies that drug impairment evaluation and chemical testing can bring to a case.