Saturday, January 30, 2016

Can Drug Withdrawal Equate To DUI?

It has long been accepted that a person who drives while impaired by a drug can be convicted of DUI.      In this recent case, however, the Court decided that a driver who is affected by the symptoms of drug withdrawal can also be impaired under the current laws in California.  As a Torrance DUI Attorney I have seen many cases where the Courts have allowed a prosecution for DWI when drugs were involved, this case stretches the limits of those laws and was likely influenced by the fact that 2 people died in the case.  Here are the facts of People vs. Jimenez:

Approximately 12 hours after he ingested methamphetamine, defendant drove his car. As defendant withdrew from the effects of the drug, he fell asleep, lost control of his car, and struck two pedestrians, killing them. A jury found him guilty of two counts of second degree murder and other offenses; it sustained allegations of prior DUI convictions. The trial court found a strike and other priors true. On appeal he claimed that "withdrawing" from the effects of methamphetamine does not constitute driving "under the influence" of the drug. The appeals court upheld the conviction. A person is under the influence of methamphetamine when, as a result of using the drug, his mental or physical abilities are impaired to a degree that he no longer has the ability to drive his car with the caution characteristic of a sober person under the same or similar circumstances. 

The Court found that Substantial evidence showed defendant smoked methamphetamine at some time before the accident and subsequently went into drug withdrawal, which resulted in defendant falling asleep at the wheel and killing two people. The prosecution did not need to prove that the defendant was in the first "excited" phase of intoxication. Defendant had three prior DUIs, had received judicial admonitions about the dangers of driving under the influence, and had attended classes in which he was warned of the dangers of drug-impaired driving. Substantial evidence supported the finding defendant drove while drug impaired with conscious disregard for life.   (Thanks CCAP).