Aggressive DUI Lawyer in Los Angeles

What is a drug DUI?

Vehicle Code § 23152(e) says:

“It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.”

Vehicle Code § 23152(f) reads:

“It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle.”

California law defines “drugs” as “any substance or combination of substances, other than alcohol, which could so affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person as to impair, to an appreciable degree, his or her ability to drive a vehicle.”[1] This applies to illegal drugs, as well as prescription or over the counter drugs.

“Under the influence” means that your physical or mental abilities are impaired so that you can no longer drive as well as a normal cautious sober person.[2] Thus, the key issue in these cases is whether any type of drug impaired your ability to drive safely.

The skilled DUI attorneys in Los Angeles at Moaddel Law Firm are experienced in cross-examining DREs to show that you were not “under the influence” of drugs while you were driving. They can elicit testimony that drugs have different life spans and affect people differently, based on their size and tolerance.

What penalties are associated with a § 23152(e) drug DUI conviction?

Generally, VC § 23152(e) drug DUI cases are filed as misdemeanors and have the same penalties as alcohol DUIs. Misdemeanor drug DUI consequences include three to five years of probation, fines, DUI school, and driver’s license suspension.[3] There is a possibility of jail time, depending on the county and your prior record.

These cases can be filed as felonies if you have a prior felony DUI conviction, you have four or more DUI convictions, or you caused an accident that injured someone.

Additionally, if you refuse to submit to a blood or urine test, you will be charged with refusal to submit to a DUI chemical blood or breath test. A refusal results in a mandatory county jail sentence of at least 48 hours and a driver’s license suspension of at least one year.[4]

If your DUI is the result of certain drugs listed in Health and Safety Code § 11550, including cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, you can also be charged under that section.[5]

Vehicle Code 23222(b) Possession of Marijuana While Driving

Vehicle Code § 23222(b) makes driving in possession of up to an ounce marijuana an infraction. However, the recently passed Proposition 64 legalized small amounts of marijuana. Vehicle Code § 23222 contains an exception for possession “as authorized by law.”[1]

Accordingly, police will likely not enforce this section against drivers in compliance with California’s recreational and medicinal marijuana laws.

However, driver’s possessing more than the legal amount of marijuana may still be fined under Vehicle Code § 23222 (and potentially under Health and Safety Code § 11357).

This section applies only to drivers who possess marijuana, not drivers who are suspected of driving while under the influence of marijuana or those inspected at a DUI checkpoint. Driving while under the influence of marijuana, even if you are using legally or medicinally, can result in charges of DUI under Vehicle Code § 23152(e).

Additionally, Proposition 64 enacted an “open container” marijuana law. Health and Safety Code § 11362.3 prohibits driving with an open container or package of marijuana. This infraction results in a fine of up to $250.[2]

[1] City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court (2007) 157 Cal.App.4th 355, 375.

[2] Health and Safety Code § 11362.4(b).

Fighting Back Against Drug DUI § 23152(e) Charges

Your attorney can present defenses to fight your drug DUI charge. These include proving you were not “under the influence of drugs” or your behavior was caused by something other than drugs, such as fatigue. An attorney can also challenge the collection, storage, or testing of your blood or urine samples. Your attorney can challenge the probable cause for your arrest.

Unlike alcohol DUIs, a drug DUI usually involves a drug recognition expert (DRE), who is a special law enforcement officer called to evaluate you by the arresting officer. A DRE is a law enforcement officer that is specially trained in identifying when a suspect is under the influence of drugs. A DRE will generally discuss the suspect’s driving and behavior with the arresting officer, and then conduct an examination of the suspect, including objective measures, such as the pulse rate, and subjective measures, such as field sobriety test. Upon completion of the investigation, the DRE will ask the suspect to submit to a blood or urine test.

The DUI lawyers in Los Angeles at Moaddel Law Firm are well versed in the battery of tests used by DREs and how to challenge their administration and validity, effectively showing there was no probable cause to place you under arrest.

Give us a call and we can put together the strongest defense possible on your behalf: (877) 375-8188.


[1] California Jury Instructions, Criminal 16.830.

[2] California Jury Instructions, Criminal 16.831.

[3] Vehicle Code § 23536.

[4] Vehicle Code § 23578.

[5] H&S § 11550 can be punished with up to one year in county jail, but also allows first-time offenders to participate in a drug diversion program instead of jail.