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

April 22, 2015

A majority of under the influence charges are built upon a single police officers observations of a suspect. A problem arises for the prosecutor when the 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.

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 HS 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

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you have been arrested or charged with being under the influence of a controlled substance, contact Newport Beach criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers located. Call (949) 625-4487 now for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.

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