Driving Under the Influence of Drugs is a Serious Crime
In general, the infraction for driving under the influence of substances (Driving Under Influence, DUI) is related to an intoxication with alcohol. But alcohol is just one of the innumerable substances that diminish a person’s ability to drive a motor vehicle. Driving under the influence of drugs, which includes prescription drugs in addition to illicit drugs, can also lead to DUI charges.
Driving while using drugs, whether medical marijuana or myorelaxants legally prescribed, is just as illegal as driving while intoxicated and may also constitute a DUI violation. The orders of a doctor do not serve as a defense against charges for driving under the influence of drugs.
A survey conducted in 2010 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) revealed that in 2009 around 10 million Americans had been driving under the influence of illicit drugs. According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 18 percent of drivers with fatal injuries in 2009 had positive results in at least one prescription or illegal drug. . Another NHTSA survey found that one in five drivers killed in car accidents in 2009 tested positive for drug tests.
The various drugs affect drivers in different ways. But those that decrease judgment, alertness, concentration and motor abilities are considered as dangerous (if not more) than alcohol.
Measurement of Drug Poisoning
Driving with a blood alcohol concentration above a certain level, usually 0.08 percent or more, is illegal in all 50 states. The body quickly removes alcohol from the body, so it is relatively easy to measure blood alcohol concentration when the vehicle is stopped. And since breathalyzer tests are fairly accurate, readings of 0.0 percent or more often result in a formal conviction or conviction for DUI charges if the vehicular arrest was carried out in accordance with the relevant protocol.
Not so in the case of other drugs.
For example, the psychoactive component of marijuana (THC) can be detected in the urine or bloodstream of a person up to four or five weeks after having consumed and there is no way to detect, conclusively, the actual poisoning at a certain time . Cocaine, on the other hand, is usually cleansed from the body after only a day or two. The NHTSA admitted in a letter to Congress that current knowledge about drugs other than alcohol is “insufficient to be able to identify dose limits related to a high risk of accidents.”
Some jurisdictions use what are called “Drug Recognition Experts” (DRE), specially trained police officers who follow specific guidelines to determine drug intoxication in drivers. The DREs carefully examine the eye movements, behavior and other details of a person that indicate a drug influence. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have Drug Evaluation and Classification Programs to train DREs.
In general, the presence of drugs is measured through a urinalysis or a blood sample.
Laws “Per Se” On Driving Under the Effects of Drugs
While it is more difficult to prosecute drivers who are charged with driving under the influence of drugs compared to alcohol, 15 states have what are known as “per se” laws on driving under the influence of drugs. These DUI laws establish that it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of certain drugs in the person’s body.
The 15 states that have per se laws on driving under the influence of drugs are Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Three of these states (Nevada, Ohio and Virginia) have certain limits for the presence of toxic drugs, while the other 12 states have a zero tolerance policy.
North Carolina and South Dakota, on the other hand, consider it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drive with any detectable amount of an illicit or prohibited drug. In five states (California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas and West Virginia) it is illegal for certain known drug users or habitual drug users to drive a motor vehicle.
Effects of intoxication with various illegal drugs
- Marijuana: relaxation, euphoria, disorientation, alteration of the perception of time and space, drowsiness, paranoia, distortion of the image, increase of the heart rate.
- Cocaine: euphoria, excitement, dizziness, increased concentration and alertness (initially), confusion and disorientation, irritability, paranoia, aggressiveness, increased heart rate.
- Methamphetamine: euphoria, excitement, hallucinations, delusions, insomnia, poor control of impulses, increase in heart rate, increase in blood pressure.
- Morphine and heroin: intense euphoria, drowsiness, relaxation, sedation, disconnection, obtundation, analgesia, depression of heart rate, nausea and vomiting, decreased reflexes.
- LSD: hallucinations, altered mental status, delusions, decreased perception of depth, time and space, hypertension, tremors.
Over-the-counter and Prescription Drugs
Some drugs that are purchased legally at a pharmacy, whether prescribed by a doctor or over the counter, can be just as dangerous for drivers as alcohol and can lead to a DUI. Look for warning labels and ask your pharmacist if you have questions about the intoxication capacity of a drug.
The following are some common over-the-counter and prescription drugs that intoxicate drivers:
- Antidepressants: some sedative antidepressants cause intoxication similar to that of driving while intoxicated.
- Valium: 10 mg of the popular tranquilizer can cause intoxication similar to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent.
- Antihistamines: many of them affect reaction time and coordination.
- Decongestants: many over-the-counter decongestants can cause drowsiness, anxiety and dizziness.
- Sleeping pills: even in the morning, the residual effects of these drugs can affect drivers.
- Hydrocodone: This common analgesic, the main component of Vicodin, is similar to opioids and causes intoxication comparable to morphine and codeine (oxycodone has similar effects).
Drivers who reside in states that permit the medical use of marijuana with a valid recommendation from a physician may also receive a DUI charge. Therefore, if the officer or drug recognition expert has collected sufficient evidence of marijuana intoxication, a medical exception can not be invoked as a defense. In this sense, medical marijuana is not different from other prescription drugs in terms of the potential for intoxication.
Consult A Hunter Specialized in DUI
If you or a family member is arrested for DUI, you may need the services of a Hunter who specializes in DUI. A Hunter who specializes in defending DUI charges will evaluate all evidence, including the procedure and results of sobriety tests and chemical substances, to ensure that your rights are protected. In addition, it is important to speak with a Hunter familiar with the laws of your jurisdiction. Most offer free consultations, so your first step should be to contact a Hunter who specializes in DUI.
Speak Today with a Hunter Qualified in Defense for Drunk Driving
This article aims to be useful and informative. But legal issues can be complicated and stressful. A Hunter qualified in drunk driving defense can address your particular legal needs, explain the law and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a qualified Hunter in drunk driving defense near you to discuss your specific legal situation.