DUID stands for driving under the influence of drugs. All intoxicated driving is against the law in California, whether a motorist is impaired from marijuana, alcohol, an illegal substance, a legal prescription, or an over-the-counter drug. However, unlike the breathalyzer devices used to measure alcohol intoxication, there is no convenient technology that lets law enforcement officers test motorists who are suspected of driving under the influence of drugs. This makes it considerably more difficult to prove that a motorist is guilty of drugged driving.

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When a California police officer stops a driver in traffic and suspects that the driver is under the influence of drugs, the officer may call for a DRE – a Drug Recognition Evaluator – to be sent to the site of the traffic stop. Drug Recognition Evaluators are police officers with special training that helps them to recognize impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs other than alcohol. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conducts the training of DREs across the country in cooperation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

WHAT DOES A DRUG RECOGNITION EVALUATOR DO?

In California, when a DRE responds to another officer’s call, a drug evaluation is conducted. The Drug Recognition Evaluator will check the suspect’s blood alcohol content level, pulse rate, conduct an eye exam, administer a field sobriety test, interrogate the suspect, and may conduct other tests and procedures to determine if a driver is DUID. If a DRE determines that a motorist is driving under the influence of drugs, that driver will be taken into custody, charged with a DUID, and probably subjected to even further testing.

Apart from alcohol, marijuana is the drug most commonly involved in DUID cases. A DRE is specifically trained to detect the signs that someone is high on marijuana. Those signs include an elevated pulse rate, elevated blood pressure, dilated pupils, the odor of marijuana, dehydration, and short-term memory impairment. If a DUID case goes to trial, the Drug Recognition Evaluator will testify for the prosecution, and the defendant will need the legal counsel and services of an experienced California DUID lawyer. Only a sharp and savvy DUID lawyer will be able to cast doubt on a trained and certified DRE’s conclusions and testimony.

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The best strategy is simply this – don’t drink or consume any other drug before driving. Even legal over-the-counter and prescription medicines can impair your driving ability, and merely having a prescription from a doctor to use marijuana or any other drug is not a defense against a DUID charge in California. The penalties for a California DUID conviction are the same as the penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol (“DUI”).

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR DUID IN CALIFORNIA?

For a first-offense DUID, the charge is usually a misdemeanor unless there are aggravating circumstances. The sentence for those convicted of first-offense DUID is a $1,000 fine plus more than $2,600 in penalty assessments, up to six months in jail, up to five years on probation, a six-month drivers’ license suspension, and mandatory attendance at a DUI school or completion of a drug treatment program. Subsequent convictions, as you might suspect, are punished more harshly.

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Blood and urine tests can tell us that a motorist has or hasn’t used marijuana, but what those tests can’t tell us is whether a driver consumed marijuana an hour ago and is still high, or consumed marijuana a week ago and is utterly sober. That doesn’t mean that marijuana isn’t dangerous when you’re driving – it absolutely is. US News reports that the number of traffic fatalities in accidents linked to marijuana use in the U.S. has tripled in just the last decade. As marijuana is becoming decriminalized, more people are driving while high, and in California today, one out of nine drivers on average – on any street at any time – will test positively for marijuana.

WHAT DRUGS ARE INVOLVED IN DUID CASES?

Marijuana is not, of course, the only concern. Substances such as cocaine, heroin, hydrocodone, and PCP, as well as over-the-counter medicines like Benadryl and Nexium, can also impair a motorist’s driving ability. In states that conduct toxicology exams after fatal collisions, researchers have found that the number of deaths related to drugged driving in the U.S. rose from 16 percent of all traffic fatalities in 1999 to 28 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2010.

Motorists who are high on cocaine or methamphetamines can be antagonistic, careless drivers, while many sedatives can cause dizziness and fatigue. More obscure concoctions with street names like “spice” and “bath salts” can have unpredictable and dangerous effects including psychotic and violent behavior. Drugged driving is a growing threat and a genuine safety concern to anyone and everyone who travels on California’s boulevards and freeways.

HOW WIDESPREAD IS THE PROBLEM?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse conducted a survey in 2013, and 9.9 million drivers admitted in that survey that they drove under the influence of drugs at some point during the preceding year. Do not be one of those drivers. Anyone facing a DUI or DUID charge is facing a genuine threat to his or freedom and future. Those who face any DUI or DUID charge in the state of California must retain the advice and services of an experienced California DUI & DUID lawyer immediately.

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It’s a cliché to say that the baby boomer generation is aging, but it means that more drivers today are using prescription medications. Marijuana is legal for medicinal use in California and may soon be legal for recreational use. Clearly, drugged driving is a growing problem and risk for a number of reasons. Parents, schools, and the media all have an important role to play in raising our awareness of the danger of driving under the influence of drugs.

Technology may or may not be able of help soon. A number of tech firms are trying to develop a “marijuana breathalyzer” that can actually measure marijuana intoxication levels, but it hasn’t happened yet. Police officers will need better training in the future to identify drugged drivers, and lawmakers will need to bring DUI and DUID laws up-to-date to reflect both the increasing risk to the public as well as the advancing science and technology linked to driving under the influence of drugs.