The State of California estimates that this year is the year that drug DUI cases will outpace the number of alcohol DUI cases.

In the past four years in CA, there has been a 400% increase in driving under the influence of marijuana cases, and a 150% increase in methamphetamine DUI cases.

The state has ordered each county to upgrade detection equipment to detect various drugs in blood or urine, and have pledged to specially train over 1,000 police officers as “DRE” officers – which stands for “Drug Recognition Enforcement”.

Defining what a drug is for DUID.

For legal purposes of a DUID, or DUI drugs, the definition of a drug is “a drug is any substance, which when taken into the human body, can impair the ability of the person to operate a vehicle safely.”

There are considered to be five general categories of drugs.  Those categories are:

  • Central Nervous System Depressants (Like alcohol, or GHB)
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants (Like Methamphetamine)
  • Narcotic Analgesics – (Such as Marijuana/Cannabis)
  • Hallucinogens – Dissociative Drugs, like LSD, or Mushrooms
  • Anesthetics – (Such as many inhalants)

Alcohol is also a very common central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Cocaine is a commonly used CNS stimulant. Heroin is a narcotic analgesic that is especially dangerous.  Although the last two are illegal drugs, there are many prescription drugs that fit the above categories.

What do the police look for in a Drug DUI arrest?

All arrests start with observation or information reported to the officer.  From there, a drug recognition expert will conduct an examination.  Part of every drug examination includes eye exams, as many drugs will show up as indicators in the eyes, which are very difficult to hide or fake.

Drug eye examinations

The four key eye examinations include:

  1. Eye Tracking Ability;
  2. Eye Pupil Size
  3. The presence of Eye Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (a fluttering or jerky motion of the eyes when looking side to side); and
  4. Vertical Nystagmus (a fluttering or jerky motion of the eyes when looking up and down).

Drugs have different effects on the eyes. For example, Narcotic Analgesics usually cause the pupils to constrict. The opposite effect is seen with CNS stimulants and Hallucinogens, which usually cause the pupils to dilate. Cannabis causes dilation of the pupils but may appear normal.

Certain CNS stimulants, such as Hallucinogens, Narcotic Analgesics and Cannabis do not induce horizontal gaze nystagmus in the eyes at all.

An especially difficult problem is what is called “polydrug use”, which is the practice of using two or more categories of drugs at the same time, i.e., combining drugs.  That practice can aggravate the effects of each drug in the body.  Alcohol is commonly available and consumed with other drugs, and many drugs can magnify the effects of alcohol, and alcohol can magnify the effects, and thus the danger, of other drugs.

This article was written by top rated DUI attorney Robert Miller, an  Orange County DUI Attorney, at the firm of Miller & Associates, in Orange County, California. Contact him or the firm with any questions.