1. How does California law define “under the influence of heroin”?
According to California law, Health and Safety Code 11550, you are under the influence of heroin when your physical and/or mental abilities are impaired in “any detectable manner.” 1
It isn’t necessary that you misbehave or engage in other criminal activity. Simply being under the influence of heroin is a crime in and of itself.
2. What about “driving under the influence of heroin”?
Per California Vehicle Code 23152f VC, people violate California’s law against driving under the influence of heroin when they:
drive a car after using heroin, and
can no longer operate the vehicle like that of an ordinarily prudent and cautious person in full possession of his faculties.2
This means that driving under the influence requires a higher level of intoxication than being under the influence.
So even if you are caught driving when the officer suspects you are under the influence of heroin, the prosecutor could opt to charge you with being under the influence since that is an easier charge to prove.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.