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I was arrested for under the influence of a controlled substance and need legal advice but have very limited funds. what to do?

San Diego, CA |

The police had me by the side of the road and asked me if I would submit to a breathalyzer and I said yes, but then they suddenly handcuffed me and said I was going to the station for a blood test because I refused the breathalyzer. Baffled,I kept telling them that I wasn't refusing anything, but they were intent on giving me a blood test. I suspect that they wanted to give me a blood test to see if I had drugs in my system and by saying that I refused the breath test gave them reason to take me in. Are they allowed to do this?

Attorney Answers 6

  1. I think that's a good guess on your part. They realized you weren't drunk and had no probable cause to arrest you. Instead of getting a Drug Recognition Expert to the scene to give you the drug-related field sobriety tests, they invented the probable cause by claiming you refused the breath test.

    I don't know when your arraignment is set, but I would get an attorney immediately. I usually don't recommend that, but I'm guessing your smoking gun might be in the police radio traffic tapes. An attorney needs to make sure they aren't destroyed, since they are only kept for a limited time (which varies agency to agency, county to county).

  2. If they suspected you of being under the influence of an illegal drug, a blood test is the only to test for that. A breathalyzer tests for alcohol and is usually only used for DUI investigations. Your question states that you were stopped for being under the influence of a controlled substance, which would require a blood test to prove. You should talk to an attorney, if you can not afford one, ask for a public defender. San Diego has some excellent public defenders who can help you. If the police contact you for a statement, exercise your right to remain silent, keep your mouth shut and tell them you want to speak to an attorney before answering any questions.

  3. I agree completely with Ms. Gutekunst, and write to endorse the concept of securing counsel immediately to take the steps necessary to secure the tapes of police radio communications in your matter. Most here offer free consultations. Take advantage of that to speak privately and confidentially with one or more qualified criminal defense attorneys in your area. You will have the opportunity to screen candidates for the job and determine what your options for moving forward may entail. Good luck.

  4. I am surprised they didn't bring a drug recognition expert to the scene. Retain a local San Diego criminal attorney who is familiar with DUI & the court system. Good luck

    This is not intended to be legal advise or as legal representation. I am a California personal injury attorney . Be aware that every state has its own statute of limitations; and statutes & case laws that govern the handling of these matters.

  5. The answers here are on point. If the police suspect you are under the influence of drugs, they are entitled to require that you submit to a blood test. Yes, you can go with a public defender, however, the are some drawbacks to using an attorney who is paid by the same people who pay the prosecutor, and who have limited time to deal with you and your case. My suggestion is to use whatever limited funding (or borrow some money) to obtain the best private attorney that you can afford to hire. You need someone who will spend the time necessary on your case to get you the best outcome. It may cost a bit more now, but it can save you $$$ later. Most of us here on AVVO offer a free phone consultation and we might not be as expensive as you think.

    I will be happy to speak with you at no cost with a FREE phone consultation if you have a San Diego or California matter. Please call my office at 619-238-1905 or visit my website at

  6. The basis for the initial detention may be the key here.

    Hire a locally experienced criminal defense attorney to assist. Otherwise you will have to wait for your first court appearance to be assigned an attorney from the office of the public defender, assuming you qualify for appointed representation.

    Law Offices of David Shapiro 3555 4th Avenue San Diego, CA 92103 (619) 295-3555

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