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Santa Cruz DUI defense attorneyMost people understand that a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) is not limited to drunk driving. Alcohol is just one of many substances that can impair a driver’s judgment and ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. In California, you can be charged with DUI if police suspect that you are impaired by any substance, including illegal drugs and drugs taken as prescribed by a doctor. Getting a conviction, however, requires prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving under the influence which can be much more difficult—especially if the only drug found in your system is caffeine.

DUI Arrest and Charges

In August of 2015, a 36-year-old was pulled over in Fairfield, California, for driving erratically. According to reports, the police officer administered several field sobriety tests and, based on his observations and driver’s attitude, arrested the driver on suspicion of DUI. The man submitted to a blood test following his arrest.

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drugged driving, Santa Cruz DUI defense lawyerWith medical marijuana programs becoming increasingly common around the country and decriminalization efforts underway in many states, there has been much discussion about those who drive under the influence of drugs and how to handle such cases. While some states have proposed—and even implemented—quantifiable standards for traces of certain drugs in a driver’s system, others like California currently rely on a more subjective standard of impairment. Recently proposed legislation seeks to change that standard somewhat, but the measure has been met with a fair degree of skepticism.

Detecting the Presence of Illegal Drugs

Senate Bill 1462 was introduced by California Senator Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, and would allow law enforcement officers to conduct an oral swab on a person suspected of drugged driving. The test would be permitted based on probable cause after a driver has already failed field sobriety tests. The swabs are designed to detect the presence of marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and prescription pain medications, but do not provide information about the amount or concentration of the substance. Senator Huff has acknowledged as much, saying that the swabs are not meant to replace blood testing, but that “oral swabs are the only way to quickly and accurately test for the presence of six of the most common drugs of abuse.”

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A California lawmaker is proposing a form of zero tolerance rule to driving under the influence of medications under California law. The measure proposes to make any detectable amount of any drug listed in California's schedules of controlled substances would suffice to bring California drugged driving charges against a driver.

The Santa Ana, California state senator says that the proposal would make an exception for medications that are duly prescribed by a doctor and taken in accordance with the medically prescribed dosage. The exception reportedly would account for medical marijuana law in California.

Some commentators compare the drugged driving proposal to the legal limit to drive set for alcohol. California law presumes that a driver is impaired at an alcohol level of 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration. However, the measure proposes to give law enforcement and prosecutors the ability to bring DUI charges based upon any detectable amount Class I through IV drugs and medication for drivers who have no prescription.

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An alleged car chase that began on Highway 17 has lead to a string of allegations, including theft, drug charges and driving under the influence of drugs. An officer with the California Highway Patrol says that a Toyota 4Runner was traveling north on Highway 17. The officer thought the vehicle had an issue with its equipment and decided to make a traffic stop around 1:55 a.m.

However, the CHP says that the driver of the Toyota left Highway 17, taking the El Rancho Drive exit. Law enforcement says the Toyota sped into Santa Cruz, with the CHP in chase.

Authorities claim that a man jumped from the Toyota while the SUV was still moving on Franklin Avenue in Santa Cruz. The Toyota reportedly slammed in a parked car, while the man accused of fleeing police tried to get away of foot. However, the CHP says that the man was injured after jumping from the SUV.

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Law enforcement says that the driver of a motorcycle refused to stop Monday. The California Highway Patrol says that an officer sought to conduct a traffic stop on allegations of speeding and equipment violations along Highway 17 around 8:00 Monday morning. Later, the CHP says that a Santa Barbara man driving the bike crashed. He now faces charges of drugged driving, evading and several drug-related charges.

Authorities assert that the motorcycle rider sped off from the attempted traffic stop heading south on the Santa Cruz Highway, eventually taking the exit for Mount Herman Road. Shortly after leaving the highway, the CHP says the motorcyclist lost control of the bike and crashed. Officers approached and say the 45-year-old became combative. Law enforcement pulled out a Taser-like device and reportedly subdued the motorcyclist while taking him into custody.

The CHP says that they believe the biker was driving under the influence of drugs at the time of the police pursuit. Officers say that the motorcyclist had a large amount of marijuana and methamphetamine in his possession. It is unclear in the media what amounts of each substance officials claim were seized. It is also unclear where the drugs were allegedly found.

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