DUI, Prescription Drugs and Penalties

I am in Court tomorrow in Van Nuys with a client who has been charged with a DUI based on prescription drugs. The facts of the case are that my client was arrested following a collision with a parked car. She was unresponsive when approached by the police and displayed symptoms of impairment including poor performance of field sobriety tests. She agreed to blow into a breath machine which gave a 0% breath alcohol level. The police then obtained a blood sample to test for drugs and the sample was positive for benzodiazepines and amphetamines. The benzodiazepines were from Xanax and it is believed that the positive test for amphetamines results from a prescription drug called Adderall which is prescribed for attention deficit disorder.

My client maintains that she felt OK to drive, despite the facts of her case. The problem is that the Xanax was taken without a prescription which exposes her to a possible prosecution for being under the influence of drugs which is a violation of Section 11550 of the Health and Safety Code. This count carries a minimum of 90 days county jail. Taking drugs with a valid prescription is a defense to this charge. 

At present, the City Prosecutor has offered a plea to a first time DUI with no jail time. This presents us with a choice of accepting the offer and avoiding jail or taking the case to jury trial and risking jail. As a DUI trial attorney I would be very happy to take the case to jury trial and put the prosecution to proof on the question of impairment, but my client is minded to avoid the cost and risk associated with trial. Clients charged with DUI are often faced with this kind of choice, and as professional lawyer, it is not my job to make a decision for them. It is very important in these circumstances to give the client as much information as to the options and consequences of choices so that the client can decide on the best option for them. This often comes down to balancing priorities and the clients individual tolerance for risk.

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