Posted on April 22, 2015

California Health & Safety Code § 11550(a): Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance

A majority of under the influence charges are built upon a single police officers observations of a suspect. A problem arises for the prosecutor because a police officer is not a qualified expert and is merely subjectively guessing. Additionally, police officers have a common tendency to exaggerate the physical symptoms of a suspect in an effort to build evidence in hopes of later gaining a conviction for their arrest. However, a skilled criminal defense attorney can expose those exaggerations and argue numerous legal defenses to have the case dismissed or acquitted at trial.

Los Angeles Drug Crimes Lawyer

Don’t assume that because you have been arrested, you are guilty of this charge. The best approach to defeating drug charges is early intervention by a criminal defense attorney. Los Angeles Drug Crimes Attorney John Rogers has extensive experience representing clients accused of numerous drug charges with a proven successful track record. Mr. Rogers may be able to avoid formal criminal charges by communicating with the prosecutor at the earliest possible stages and agreeing to an informal resolution. Contact Mr. Rogers immediately for more information to defeating your drug charge.

Under the Influence Defined by Statute

In California, the charge of being under the influence of a controlled substance is formally defined under Health & Safety Code § 11550(a) which provides in pertinent part, “A person shall not use, or be under the influence of any controlled substance … except when administered by or under the direction of a person licensed by the state to dispense, prescribe, or administer controlled substances.”

Elements of the Crime

Pursuant to CALCRIM 2400, in order for someone to be found guilty of being under the influence of a controlled substance, the prosecutor must prove each element below beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Defendant willfully used a controlled substance
  2. Defendant used a controlled substance shortly before their arrest

What are the Legal Defenses to Under the Influence?

  • You were not under the influence. Perhaps you were suffering from a panic attack that portrayed common physical symptoms of someone normally under the influence of a controlled substance – i.e., red eyes, shaking, fast paced pulse, sweating, etc.
  • You did not willfully consume a controlled substance. For instance, someone slipped a pill in your drink without your knowledge and you were arrested after feeling the effects.
  • You did not use a controlled substance a short time before your arrest. In other words, you may have ingested or consumed a substance a substantially longer period prior to your arrest.
  • You had a valid medical prescription from your physician, or person authorized to write a prescription to use the substance.
  • The police officers are fabricating or exaggerating the circumstances. For example, if you were shaking because you were scared, the police officer might additionally say you were sweating profusely and muttering and avoiding eye contact.
  • The police officers unlawfully detained you absent probable cause or reasonable suspicion in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.

What is the Punishment for Under the Influence?

The crime of being under the influence is a misdemeanor offense but can carry harsh consequences. In addition, if you suffer from a prior conviction within the last seven years, pursuant to P.C. § 11550(b)(1), you must serve a minimum of 180 days in the county jail.

  • Up to 1 year in the county jail
  • Up to 5 years of Court Probation
  • Court Fines and Fees
  • NA Meetings / Drug Counseling Classes
  • Register as a Narcotics Offender
  • Immigration Consequences
  • Temporary Loss of Search & Seizure Rights

Symptoms Law Enforcement Looks For

  • Red-Watery Eyes
  • Sweating Profusely
  • Shaking / Rapid Movement
  • Frequent Lip Licking
  • Muttering or Slurring
  • Lack of Eye Contact
  • Distorted Eyesight
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Comatose
  • Lack of Facial Expression

Los Angeles Drug Expungement

Pursuant to P.C. § 1203.4, under the influence is a conviction eligible to be expunged in California. Upon successful completion of probation, the court will withdraw its finding of guilt, a not guilty plea is entered and then the court will dismiss the case. There are a number of benefits to obtaining an expungement, contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for more information to expunge your drug conviction.


Dan was sitting in his Los Angeles apartment watching television after consuming ecstasy. A neighbor calls the police and informs them of his suspicion that Dan might be consuming illegal drugs. Police officers show up to Dan’s house walk into his home and arrest him. Thereafter, they observe Dan portraying common physical symptoms of someone under the influence. Dan is formally charged with unlawfully being under the influence of a controlled substance. In this case, Dan would move to suppress the evidence against him as a violation of his Fourth Amendment right to unlawful searches and seizures. Dan’s attorney will argue that police officers did not have permission to enter Dan’s home and police officers never obtained a warrant. Furthermore, the police officers illegally detained Dan without any probable cause because his neighbor had a suspicion but not actual knowledge. If the judge agrees, the court will suppress the evidence and the prosecutor will be unable to proceed, thus the case will be dismissed.

Dan was in a local Los Angeles park walking his dog. An hour prior he consumed 3 valid prescription medication pills. A police officer observed Dan swaying back and forth having trouble with his balance and noticed Dan was slurring his speech. The police officer formed the opinion that Dan was unlawfully under the influence. In this case, Dan will not be guilty because he was legally prescribed medication from a physician.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

If you have been arrested or charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance, contact Los Angeles Drug Attorney John Rogers at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers located at 1801 Century Park East, 24th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Call 877-888-9820 now for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.

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