While many think about a DUI charge in terms of alcohol, the effects of impaired driving can be attributed to a wider range of illegal drugs as well. Among forms of drug abuse, the use of cocaine has made a dangerous resurgence. Orange County Criminal Lawyers who handle driving under the influence of cocaine cases see this resurgence amongst young people and college students. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 5.3 million Americans 12-years-old or older admitted to using cocaine. With any sort of drug, altering the normal chemical composition of the body and brain can produce disastrous results for drivers, causing them to make erratic movements and unsafe decisions while on the road.
While the effects of alcohol and even marijuana are well-known by most Americans, the effects of cocaine may not be as obvious. Cocaine use can cause a sense of euphoria, a sharp increase in energy, a rise in heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure, possible stroke, seizure, or heart attack and possible death. These effects of cocaine use are evident even after one use making the potential dangers posed by the use of cocaine on driving more apparent. By factoring in the pressures and demands of driving, an increase in energy can cause a driver to act impatiently and ignore the rules of the road. This can make for a very dangerous situation on the road and result in a collision.
For DUI drug case involving cocaine, as in all driving cases, a driver must be pulled over by a law enforcement officer only after the officer observes the driver commit a violation of the Vehicle Code or other law. The reason for the stop does not have to indicate impaired driving and the reason for the stop could something as simple as an equipment violation, such as a malfunctioning headlight or taillight. Many of our client believe they were unlawfully stopped, so part of our job as criminal attorneys is to evaluate the basis of the stop and run suppression motions if it is appropriate.
Once the driver is stopped, the officer will likely be looking for indicators of alcohol or drug intoxication. Most officers are highly trained to know the signed to look for when alcohol is involved, such as bloodshot and watery eyes, slurred speech or the odor of alcohol. However, when cocaine is involved, the physical symptoms may be quite different. In these cases, officers may look for dilated pupils, sweating, dry mouth, hyper active speech or agitation. Further, an officer may look for cocaine residue on the driver’s nostrils, vehicle interior, or hands. Sometimes a person may admit to cocaine use but an officer still must determine that the use of cocaine let to a driver to drive under the influence or be impaired.
The officer may have a Drug Recognition Expert officer come to assist in the evaluation of the driver. DRE officers have received additionally training in recognizing drug intoxication and often assist in DUI investigations when it is suspected that drugs are involved. The DRE will likely ask the driver to participate in a series of drug specific field sobriety tests. Those tests will outlined in a DRE report that the criminal lawyer will receive at court and review with the client. Those results may also be captured in video footage and the driver will later have the opportunity to review the footage with the lawyer to verify that what the report states is accurate.
If, based on the field sobriety test and totality of circumstances, the officer suspects that the driver is under the influence of cocaine, they may be arrested and required to complete a blood test to verify the drug content of their blood. Since there is no breath test that can be used to quantify cocaine intoxication, drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence of drugs are required to submit to a blood test. As there is no way to determine the content of the blood immediately the sample must be sent out to the crime laboratory for testing. Typically, the results of such test can be acquired by an attorney during the discovery process.
If a person has cocaine in their system while operating a motor vehicle, they will more likely than not be charged with driving under the influence of drugs in violation of Vehicle Code §23152(e), driving under the influence of a drug. If a person had both alcohol and drugs in their system, the prosecution will likely charge them driving under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs pursuant to California Vehicle Code §23152(f), driving under the influence of a combination of drugs and alcohol.
In order to properly defend a person being charged with driving under the influence of cocaine, it is imperative to know the quantity of cocaine found in the blood sample. It may be necessary for the defense to obtain a blood split order, which would allow for the defendant to have a portion of the defendant’s blood sample retested at an independent laboratory. Many times, the blood sample retest will show quantities in the blood below the level for what would cause impairment. This may be the case where cocaine was used the previous day and the defendant was no longer under the influence of the drug. In such a case, a defense could be interposed that even though the person has previously used drugs, they were not impaired at the time of driving whatsoever.
If you or a loved one have been arrested for driving under the influence of cocaine, it is important for you to contact the Johnson Criminal Law Group immediately. With our years of experience, we are ready to provide the best defense for those accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.