California Health and Safety Code Section 11550 HSC: Under The Influence Of Drugs

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimedrug crime defense

Not only is it a crime to possess controlled substances, a person can also be prosecuted for being under the influence of drugs. Under California Health & Safety Code Section 11550 HSC, it is a crime to use or to be under the influence of a controlled substance.

In order to prove that a defendant is guilty of using or being under the influence of a controlled substance, a prosecutor must be able to establish that:

  1. The defendant willfully and unlawfully used a controlled substance a short time before his or her arrest or was under the influence of a controlled substance when he or she was arrested.

A person is considered to be under the influence of a controlled substance if that person has taken or used a controlled substance that has appreciably affected the person's nervous system, brain or muscles or has created in the person a detectable abnormal mental or physical condition.

Someone who has a valid prescription for a controlled substance would not be guilty of this offense. In addition, marijuana is not considered a controlled substance for the purposes of this statute.

There is no clear answer regarding how much time is allowed to pass between when a drug has been taken and when the defendant can be criminally liable for this offense. Courts have found that drug use within 48 hours is sufficient to satisfy the statute.

2. Related Offenses

Similar offenses include the following:

  1. Possession of a Controlled Substance - California Health & Safety Code Section 11350 HSC
  2. Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol - California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC
3. Examples

Police are summoned on a distress call when a man is found passed out in his car. The police arrive and have to physically rouse the man, who displays physical and mental impairment consistent with someone under the influence of drugs. The police also notice empty baggies surrounding the man containing the remains of a powdery substance. The man submits to blood testing and is found to be under the influence of cocaine. He could be charged criminally with being under the influence of a drug in violation of California Health & Safety Code Section 11550 HSC.

In another example, a young woman is taken into custody on suspicion of being under the influence of drugs after appearing disoriented and highly ill. The woman had recently quit heroin four days earlier and was going through the process of withdrawal, which was causing her to suffer severe symptoms. The woman would not be criminally liable under California Health & Safety Code Section 11550 HSC, as someone suffering the effects of drug withdrawal is not considered to be in violation of the statute.

4. Defenses to Under the Influence of Drugs

If the defendant had a valid and legally obtained prescription for the drug used, that defendant would not be guilty of this offense.

Additionally, there may be circumstances in which a drug is ingested unknowingly, such when a drug is slipped into someone's drink. People who have been unknowingly drugged can raise the defense of involuntary intoxication if charged criminally with being under the influence of drugs, as they did not know that they were, in fact, ingesting a drug.

5. Penalties

Using or being under the influence of drugs is a misdemeanor offense that carries steep penalties. Those convicted must be sentenced to a minimum of 90 days and a maximum year in jail. In addition, the defendant might have to attend drug treatment and complete community labor or community service. Those with two prior convictions for this offense within seven years must spend a minimum 180 days in jail. Drug rehabilitation is an option for those wanting to avoid jail time.

6. Criminal Defense for Under the Influence of Drugs Cases

If you or someone you know have been charged with using or being under the influence of drugs, it is critical that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experienced who knows how best to effectively defend those charged with this offense.

For more information about under the influence of drugs cases, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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