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Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

Facing charges for driving under the influence of drugs is a serious offense that will remain on your record for the rest of your life. If you are facing charges for DUID/DUI, it is not recommended you face them alone. The right criminal defense attorney can help you fight for your rights and maintain control of your freedom.

How Does California Define Driving Under the Influence of Drugs?

California Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC makes driving under the influence of drugs, DUID/DUI a crime which carries serious consequences. More directly, California law states it is against the law for an individual to drive/operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of a drug other than alcohol. According to the law, any substance that can alter the brain, muscles, or nervous system is considered a drug. The type of drugs could range from over the counter(OTC) drugs to prescription medications or illegal substances. Regardless of the origin, it is considered driving under the influence of drugs if your judgment and/or hand-eye coordination were impaired.


Larry decided to take some mushrooms before going out partying with his friends. Once they arrived at the club, he noticed the crowd of people in the rest room. He discovered they were doing lines of cocaine and decided to join in. He did multiple lines of cocaine and proceeded to the dance floor.

By the end of the night, despite being visibly under the influence of drugs he chose to drive home. His driving was erratic and he ended up scraping against another vehicle. Luckily, he was pulled over by police within minutes of the incident. The officers knew from Larry’s behavior and dangerous driving that drugs had been involved.

Daniels’ lower back was giving him trouble and he had a sore throat with a constant cough. He had spare muscle relaxers from a past prescription and decided to take the last two pills. His cough and sore throat became unbearable so he bought medicine at the corner store. All they had was Nyquil, which can have drowsy side-effects. He felt his cough was so bad that he decided to take twice the recommended dosage as soon as he got into his car.

On the way home, he begins to feel drowsy and ignoring the side-effects from the combined drug medications, he still attempts to drive home. He ends up dosing off behind the wheel and his car swerves off the road into a field before coming to a stop.

Closely Related Offenses

California Vehicle Code 23152(f) VC is closely related to driving under the influence of drugs. However, it involves the combination of drugs and alcohol while operating a motor vehicle instead of just drugs. More specifically, the law states it is illegal to operate/drive a motor vehicle under the influence of both drugs and alcohol.


John gets pulled over for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. Once he is pulled over, officers can smell the alcohol coming off his breath. They charge him with a DUI for driving while intoxicated and eventually discover cocaine in the middle console of his car. John admits he did a few lines of cocaine before leaving the party he was at. Instead of being charged with a simple driving while intoxicated/DUI or driving while under the influence of drugs/DUID, John will face charges for California Vehicle Code 23152(f), operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs.

Associated Crimes/Offenses

There are often related charges that can be filed in conjunction with Vehicle Code 23152 VC, DUID/DUI. Facing additional charges could have a major impact on the consequences you already face. It could mean sentence enhancements along with steeper fines and long-term penalties. The following lists only some of the associated offenses that can often be charged in addition to Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC driving under the influence of drugs, DUID/DUI.

California’s Health and Safety Code 11550 under the influence of a controlled substance law. This can be charged if someone is willfully using, consuming, or is under the influence of a controlled substance or illegal narcotic drug.

California’s Vehicle Code 23152(c) VC driving while addicted to drugs is illegal and does not encompass drugs that are part of a legal drug program.

California’s Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC is when someone is driving/operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
What Must The Prosecution Do?

In order for the prosecution to get a conviction for Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC driving under the influence of drugs/DUID, they must first prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the elements of the crime took place. The elements of this particular crime take two main factors into account; the defendant operated a motor vehicle and while they defendant drove, they were under the influence of drugs.

Since a blood test is part of the procedure for DUID/DUI, if there are drugs in your system, no matter the amount, it will be detected. This is why it’s crucial that you seek legal representation as soon possible. The prosecution has the support of first-hand testimony from the police officer(s) and the drug recognition expert(DRE) as well as the results of the drug tests.

It will be extremely difficult to even attempt facing such charges alone. Retain a criminal defense attorney who can aggressively fight for your rights and for the best possible outcome is a must.
Who Can Be Charged?

There are the simple cut and dry cases where people can get charged with California’s Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC, DUID/DUI. There are also cases that are more complicated and require more careful scrutiny. The following are some examples that demonstrate who can be charged with driving under the influence of drugs.

Nate had not slept in three days and had been taking methamphetamine the whole time. On the third day, he got behind the wheel of his truck and proceeded to drive dangerously through town. Not only was he speeding, he was running red lights and stop signs, narrowly avoiding other vehicles.

His erratic driving resulted in a high-speed chase with police, spanning from Imperial Beach to National City. Even though they were able to stop him before any property damage or injuries were caused, the charges he faces will be severe. In addition to Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC driving under the influence of drugs, Nate could face charges for California’s Felony Reckless Evading Law Vehicle Code 2800.2 VC.

Tina’s back was hurting all week, but she had to wait for her doctor’s appointment before filling her Vicodin prescription. She was unable to get enough sleep during the week because her back pain had been keeping her up at night. A friend of hers had some hydrocodone pills left over from a past prescription and offered them to her during lunch hour. Tina accepted and took some to ease her back pain.

To her dismay, she was extremely groggy by the time she was off of work. Despite her sleepiness, she decided to drive home, forgetting that she had taken a high dosage of hydrocodone. She fell asleep behind the wheel at a stop light and ended up slowly rolling through the red light. She crashed into a parked car on the other side of the intersection before waking up. Fortunately, no one was hurt and neither of the cars was seriously damaged.

As a patient who routinely suffers from back pain, Tina fully understood why it was not recommended that she operate any motor vehicle while taking high dosage pain medications. She also knew how drowsy she had been after work and neglected to account for the side-effects of the pain pills. However, when facing charges for driving under the influence of drugs, her physical and medical conditions would be taken into account. Other questions could be posed as well, such as was the accident caused by her extreme fatigue from lack of sleep or from being under the influence of drugs? Regardless, she was negligent by choosing to operate a motor vehicle while being too drowsy and on pain pills. 

Legal Defense

Finding a quality legal defense team to represent you in court can be challenging. You can learn more about your rights and what to do with the right criminal defense attorney by your side. Here are some of the most common legal defenses that have been used when facing charges for Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC, driving under the influence of drugs.

Is there an innocent explanation?

Testimony regarding signs of impairment can some times be challenged depending on whether you suffered from physical conditions, not drug impairment. For instance, suffering from fevers, illness, fatigue, exhaustion, or an injury is not the same as driving under the influence of drugs.

Was the chemical test accurate?

Chemical tests are not always accurate and results can vary depending on the measurement parameters and whether the test was done correctly. Some of the factors that can result in inaccurate chemical tests include improper handling and/or storage of the blood sample. Other determining factors include possible contaminated or damaged medical equipment.

Were you really under the influence of drugs at the time?

Just because drugs were taken does not necessarily mean that you were driving under the influence. There are several factors that need to be considered, for instance, drug tolerance is very specific to each individual. Toxicology screenings can reveal whether there are drugs present, but they cannot detect the levels or the quantity.

Drug tolerance differs from person to person and can remain in an individuals system for short or long periods depending on their height, weight, and metabolism. This defense is one the most commonly used defenses because having drugs in one's’ system is not indicative of being impaired by them.


The consequences for being convicted of California’s Vehicle Code 23152(e) are the same as California DUI penalties where alcohol was involved. The penalties are as follows:  

If convicted of a misdemeanor and it is your first offense you could face; 

A minimum fine of three hundred ninety dollars,

Additional fines up to eighteen hundred dollars,

DUI (informal) probation for three to five years,

Attendance and completion of a three month California DUI school/program,

Driver’s license suspension for a maximum of six months, and/or

A possible jail sentence with a maximum of six months in county jail.

It’s important to note that second or third offenses can be charged as a misdemeanor. However, for each subsequent offense, the penalties are increased. This means your drivers’ license will be suspended longer and you could face a mandatory jail sentence.

Felony charges can be filed based off of your criminal history and include;

Any past felony charges for driving under the influence, or

This is your fourth, fifth, or subsequent DUID/DUI offense, or

A third party was injured due to the accident you caused, or

Any other aggravating factors.

Related/Additional Penalties

California’s Vehicle Code 23152(c) VC driving while addicted to drugs has the same penalties as driving under the influence of drugs, 23152(e) VC.

California’s Health and Safety Code 11550 under the influence of a controlled substance law.

Up to five years of informal probation,

Mandatory drug counseling,

Up to one year in county jail, and

Possible community service and/or labor.

California’s Vehicle Code 23152(a) VC driving under the influence of alcohol.

Three to five years of informal probation,

Up to six months in county jail,

Fines between three hundred ninety to one thousand dollars,

Driver’s license suspension between six and ten months, and

Court ordered/approved three to nine-month alcohol/drug education program.
Hiring An Attorney

Being charged with California’s Vehicle Code 23152(e) VC DUID/DUI is not a situation you should take lightly or face alone. If you need a criminal defense attorney and are located in the greater San Diego area, Orange County, or Los Angeles then contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum. As a former prosecutor and award winning attorney, you can expect a vigorous and effective fight on your behalf.

If you or a loved one is facing charges for driving under the influence of drugs, don’t hesitate to contact a top-notch criminal defense attorney today. If you have any questions, would like more information, or would like a free consultation you can call 619-233-4433.

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