DUI, or driving under the influence, typically involvesștiintoxication with alcohol. However, alcohol is only one of numerous substances that can impair an individual’s ability to operate a motor vehicle. Driving under the influence of drugs, including both legal and illegal substances, can also result in DUI charges.
Mixing drugs with driving, whether it’s medical marijuana or legally prescribed muscle relaxants, is as illegal as driving under the influence of alcohol and can also constitute a DUI offenseștii.știi.știi. There is no defense to drugged driving charges based on doctor’s orders.
According to a survey conducted in 2010 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 10 million Americans drove under the influence of illegal drugs during the previous year. In 2009, more than 18 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for at least one illegal or prescription drug, per a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study (NHTSA). According to another NHTSA survey, one in five motorists killed in car accidents in 2009 tested positive for drugs.
Different drugs have different effects on drivers. However, substances that impair judgment, vigilance, concentration, or motor skills are regarded as equally (if not more) hazardous than alcohol.
Assessing Drug Impaired Driving
In all fifty states, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. At the time of a traffic stop, it is relatively simple to determine a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) due to the rapid elimination of ethanol fromștiinștiinthebodyștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștii And since Breathalyzer tests are highly accurate, readings of 0.08 percent or higher frequently result in a guilty plea or conviction for DUI if the traffic stop was conducted according to protocol.
This is not the case for substances other than alcohol.
For instance, the psychoactive component of marijuana (THC) is detectable in a person’s urine or bloodstream for up to four or five weeks after use, and it is impossible to definitively detect impairment at a specific time. Cocaine, on the other hand, is typically eliminated from the body within two days. In a letter to Congress, the NHTSA acknowledged that current knowledge regarding drugs other than alcohol is “insufficient to permit the identification of dosage limits that are associated with an increased crash risk.”
Some jurisdictions employ “Drug Recognition Experts” (DREs) — police officers with specialized training who follow specific guidelines to determine drug impairment in drivers. DREs scrutinize a person’s eye movements, behavior, and other indicators of drug use. The District of Columbia and 44 states have Drug Evaluation and Classification Programs in place to train DREs.
Typically, a urinalysis or a blood sample is utilized to detect the presence of drugs.știinștiinștiinștiiștiinștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștiiștii
Per se drugged driving laws
15 states have what are known as “per se” drugged driving laws, even though it is more difficult to prosecute drivers accused of driving under the influence of drugs as opposed to alcohol. It is against the law to operate a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of certain drugs in one’s system, according to these DUI laws.
Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin are the 15 states that have laws against driving under the influence of drugs that apply to all drivers. The remaining 12 states have a zero-tolerance policy for the presence of intoxicating drugs.
North Carolina and South Dakota prohibit drivers under the age of 21 from possessing any detectable amount of an illegal or otherwise prohibited substance. In five states (California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, and West Virginia), it is illegal for known drug addicts and regular drug users to operate a motor vehicle.
Intoxicating Effects of Several Illegal Drugs
- Relaxation, euphoria, disorientation, altered time and space perception, drowsiness, paranoia, image distortion, and a heightened heart rate are the effects of marijuana.
- Cocaine causes euphoria, excitement, dizziness, increased focus and alertness (initially), confusion and disoriented behavior, irritability, paranoia, hostility, and a heightened heart rate.
- Methamphetamine causes euphoria, excitement, hallucinations, delusions, insomnia, poor impulse control, an elevated heart rate, and elevated blood pressure.
- Intense euphoria, drowsiness, relaxation, sedation, disconnection, mental clouding, analgesia, slowed heart rate, nausea and vomiting, and diminished reflexes are the effects of morphine and heroin.
- Hallucinations, altered mental state, delusions, impaired depth, time, and space perception, hypertension, and tremors are all side effects of LSD.
Prescription & Nonprescription Drugs
Some drugs purchased legally at a pharmacy, whether prescribed by a doctor or purchased over-the-counter (OTC), can be just as dangerous for drivers as alcohol and can result in a DUI. If you are uncertain about a drug’s potential to impair, consult the label or your pharmacist.
The following prescription and over-the-counter medications can impair driving:
Some sedating antidepressants cause impairment comparable to that of a drunk driver.
- Valium: 10 mg of the popular tranquilizer can cause impairment comparable to 0.10 percent blood alcohol content.
- Many antihistamines reduce reaction time and impair coordination.
- Numerous over-the-counter decongestants can induce drowsiness, anxiety, and vertigo.
- Even in the morning, the residual effects of sleeping pills can impair driving.
- Hydrocodone, the active ingredient in Vicodin, is comparable to opiates and causes impairment comparable to morphine and codeine (oxycodone has similar effects).
DUI charges may still be filed against motorists who reside in states that permit the medical use of marijuana with a valid doctor’s recommendation. Consequently, if the officer and/or drug recognition expert have collected sufficient evidence of marijuana impairment, a valid medical exemption cannot be used as a defense. In this regard, medical marijuana is identical to other prescription drugs that can cause impairment.
Are you under arrest for driving while impaired by drugs? Obtain Legal Aid
DUI charges involving alcohol are easier to prove because the devices used to measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC) are fairly accurate. However, the situation becomes more complicated when other substances are involved. As it is difficult for officers to determine the level of impairment at any given time, a skilled attorney can often provide an effective defense against such charges. If you have been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced DUI lawyer in your area as soon as possible.
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