Driving Under the Influence of Painkillers in California

Driving under the influence of painkillers or any other drugs is illegal in the State of California. California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) VC makes it a crime for a person to drive under the influence of drugs, including prescription and nonprescription painkillers. So, if you ever choose to take painkillers, such as Vicodin, Percocet, codeine, oxytocin, and other painkillers, keep in mind that even if they’re prescribed to you, you can still be charged with and convicted for driving under the influence of drugs.

You should not a painkiller DUI lightly as a conviction of painkiller DUI carries a jail sentence of up to six months, payment of hefty court fees and fines, and suspension of your driver’s license. So, if you have been charged with driving under the influence of painkillers, you should immediately contact an experienced painkiller DUI defense attorney at The H Law Group to represent you and defend you.

Our attorneys have defended thousands of clients charged with DUIs, so they have the knowledge and experience necessary to achieve the best possible outcome for you. Schedule your free consultation today by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

Proving a Person Guilty of a DUI of Painkillers

For the prosecution to convict a person of a painkiller DUI, the prosecution must prove a number of elements beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor fails to prove even one element, he will not be able to convict the defendant of a DUI involving painkillers.

The prosecution must prove the following three elements:

  • The defendant drove a vehicle
  • The defendant drove while under the influence of painkillers, AND
  • The defendant’s ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired, meaning the painkillers impaired the defendant’s ability to drive as would a sober person who is not under the influence of painkillers

Note: If you’re arrested for driving under the influence of nonprescription drugs or painkillers, the prosecution can also bring charges against you for violating California Health and Safety Code Section 11350 HSC, which makes it a crime for a person to have possession of drugs for which he does not have a valid prescription. Also, the fact that you were using a painkiller such as Vicodin as prescribed to reduce pain or recreationally, the penalties are the same.

To convict the defendant of a painkiller DUI in violation of VC 23152, the prosecution will point to the police officer’s observations and chemical testing. Observations include things, such as drowsiness, droopy eyelids, constricted pupils, red bloodshot eyes, and nausea. A good painkiller DUI defense will defend you by providing the court with an innocent reason for what the police officer observed.

Penalties for a Conviction of a Painkiller DUI

If the prosecution convicts a person of driving under the influence of a painkiller, he faces the following potential penalties and consequences:

  • Conviction of a misdemeanor for first-time offenders
  • Up to six months of imprisonment in county jail
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for up to six months
  • Enrollment in and completion of a DUI education program
  • Placement on informal summary probation
  • Payment of a fine of up to $1,000
  • Potential installation of an ignition interlock device

Note: If you have three prior DUI convictions or three prior wet reckless convictions, the fourth DUI will be charged as a felony DUI. Also, if this is your first painkiller DUI and you injured a person while driving under the influence of painkillers, you can be charged with a felony painkiller DUI.

Defense to a DUI Involving a Painkiller

If you have been charged with a DUI involving a painkiller, there are a number of defenses that your attorney can make to defend you. Here are some of those defenses:

  • The defendant was not the driver of the vehicle
  • The defendant did not take painkillers, such as Vicodin prior to driving the vehicle
  • Field sobriety tests were not properly conducted
  • The defendant was a victim of an unlawful search or seizure
  • The defendant’s ability to drive was not impaired
  • The blood or urine sample collected by law enforcement was contaminated
  • The defendant admits to taking a painkiller but introduces an expert, who argues that even though you had the drug in your blood, you were under the influence of the drug at the time you were stopped by the police officer.

Examples of Painkiller DUIs

Justin injures his foot while playing soccer. The doctor prescribes Justin a painkiller known as Vicodin. The label of the medication states that the medication causes drowsiness and that he should operate vehicles and heavy machinery with caution while taking the medication. Justin decides to take his medication and go out for a drive. As he’s driving, he feels drowsy and swerves a little. An officer pulls him over and discovers that he’s been driving while under the influence of Vicodin. Justin can be charged and convicted of a painkiller DUI because Vicodin impaired his ability to safely drive a vehicle.

What Medications Can Result in a Painkiller DUI Conviction?

There are a variety of medications and opioids that can land you in the unfortunate situation of driving under the influence of drugs (DUID). These painkillers include the following medications:

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin)
  • Codeine (Tylenol 3)
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Oxycontin
  • Methadone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Percocet
  • Norco
  • Demerol
  • Dilaudid

Note: Any drug that has the ability to make you drowsy and affect your ability to drive a vehicle can be the basis for the prosecution to charge and convict you of driving under the influence of drugs in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) VC.

Contact an Experienced Painkiller DUI Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been charged with driving under the influence of a painkiller, you should immediately contact an experienced DUI Defense Attorney to represent you and keep you from going to jail and losing your driver’s license for a long period of time. Our painkiller DUI defense attorneys have handled thousands of DUI cases, so they have the knowledge and experience necessary to achieve the best possible results for you. Schedule your free consultation by filling out the contact form below or by calling us at 1 (213) 370-0404.

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Charged with a Crime?


Act now to protect your legal rights.