Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

Driving under the influence, or DUI as it is called in most states, is the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Although the substances are completely different, they are sometimes lumped in the same group and under the same title: DUI. However, there are several differences in being charged with a DUI from alcohol and a DUI from illegal drugs, including differences in repercussions and punishments.

What is DUI?

Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) refers to the crime of driving a motor vehicle while blood levels of alcohol are in excess of a legal limit (Blood Alcohol Content, or BAC). When caught driving under the influence, a field sobriety test is administered, and when found driving above the limit (0.08 percent BAC in most states), the driver is then taken to jail, followed by several court appearances, hefty fines (depending on the BAC), alcohol and drug schools and assessments, and a suspension of the driver’s license. There are various other repercussions, such as criminal record and skyrocketing insurance rates.

 What is Drugged Driving?

Those who operate a vehicle under the influence of an illegal drug are committing something the National Institute on Drug Abuse calls drugged driving. Driving under the influence of any drug impairs one’s motor skills, reaction time, and judgment. However, this is harder to detect due to the fact that there are no agreed-upon limits for which impairment has been reliably demonstrated. Drugs also linger around the body for a number of days or even weeks of initial ingestion, especially the psychoactive component of marijuana (THC), according to FindLaw.

Only some states (about 15) have passed per se laws, in which it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle if there is any detectable level of a prohibited drug in the driver’s blood. However, 44 states and the District of Columbia have implemented Drug Evaluation and Classification Programs designed to train police officers as Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) – specially trained police officers who follow specific guidelines to determine drug impairment in motorists. DREs closely examine the driver’s eye movements, behavior, and other cues pointing to drug influence. The presence of drugs is formally measured through urinalysis or a blood sample.

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There are no clear federal laws regarding repercussions for drugged driving except for the one that makes the action illegal. In the state of California, for example, driving under the influence of marijuana, drugs, or any combination is a crime and carries the same sentence as driving while intoxicated according to a DUI defense attorney out of Southern California. Some minor differences include no administrative suspension as with DUI (which occurs due to the per se laws in California where if the BAC is at or above 0.08 percent, the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) automatically suspends a license, but since no blood-alcohol level is established for drugs, the driver cannot be charged). Another difference is the way testing for presence of the substances is conducted. A standard DUI test is done with a breath test, but DUID tests are performed with a blood or urine test. Most cases rely on the DRE to testify to the driver’s physical appearance, performance with field sobriety tests, driving behavior, and conduct.

Driving under the influence of any substance will result in substantial penalties, loss of driving privileges, and a criminal record. The repercussions between DUI and DUID are not too different and should be referenced on a state-by-state basis.

This article was written by Robert Tritter, an aspiring lawyer who looks forward to sharing more of his knowledge across the web. He writes this on behalf of Jay Cohen, your number one choice when looking for Drug Charge Defense Lawyers in Houston. As a knowledgeable, passionate Houston drug charges defense attorney, he is dedicated to protecting your rights and your freedom.

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