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Driving Under the Influence of Drugs – Expert Testimony along with Defendant’s Actions Sufficient Evidence to Convict – California Vehicle Code Section 23152

The California Court of Appeal recently ruled that evidence supported the conviction of driving under the influence of methamphetamine where the drug was described as one that could impair driving ability and defendant was agitated, paranoid and impaired when stopped.

In People v. Benner, 2010 D.A.R. 8942, the defendant was pulled over by police officers for having expired registration tags. The defendant threw a bag out of the window before pulling over. The police found the bag and discovered about three ounces of methamphetamine. A drug recognition expert, Allen Rieckhoff, arrived on the scene. He noticed signs of methamphetamine use, which were subsequently confirmed from a blood test. Rieckhoff took the defendant to the police station where sobriety tests were administered. The defendant failed a number of the tests and was charged with driving under the influence of methamphetamine.

Under Vehicle Code section 23152, subdivision (a), it is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug to drive a vehicle. For purposes of this section, the term drug means any substance, other than alcohol, “which could so affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person as to impair, to an appreciable degree, his ability to drive a vehicle in the manner that an ordinarily prudent and cautious man, in full possession of his faculties, using reasonable care, would drive a similar vehicle under like conditions.” (Veh. Code, § 312; see also People v. Canty (2004) 32 Cal.4th 1266, 1278.)

Appellant asserted there was no evidence methamphetamine could so affect a person. However, drug recognition expert Rieckhoff testified methamphetamine tends to make people jittery, anxious and emotionally erratic. He said users are prone to mood swings and are generally unable to perform tasks they are given. While decreased agility and concentration does not result in all cases, the drug tends to make it harder for people to perform “divided attention tasks,” i.e., those tasks that require a person to do more than one thing at a time. Rieckhoff put driving in that category, explaining that drivers must not only be able to operate a motor vehicle, but also react to “whatever comes [their] way, be it a red light [or] be it a kid [who] steps off the sidewalk into [their] path.”

The court found that there was sufficient evidence to convict the defendant on driving under the influence of drugs based on the defendant’s actions and the expert testimony.

If you or a loved one is facing a charge for driving under the influence of methamphetamine, it is important that you speak with an experienced DUI attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our Southern California DUI attorneys have over 30 years of experience. Our attorneys are highly knowledgeable on the most up-to-date DUI laws. We will aggressively fight to get you the best possible result in your case. Call us today at (888) 280-6839 or contact us through our website at www.wklaw.com. We will be there when you call.

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