Typically, they’re just charged with the drug charge. I don’t see that many drug related DUIs in this area and one of the reasons is we don’t have a lot of officers who are certified as drug recognition experts.
Proving somebody under the influence of drugs while they’re driving is a very difficult task for the police and it can be impossible for the police that somebody is doing the right things along the line. The state has to prove that you are under the influence and they can do that by getting the blood test. A person can refuse the blood test without any consequences to their driver’s license unlike a breath test for alcohol which, if you do refuse, you’re generally subject to automatic suspensions.
If a person does not take a drug or any type of blood test, then it’s up to the police to get a drug recognition expert in who will look at your eyes, test your pulse, do certain other tests with you as far as your coordination and different things to try to determine and get an opinion as to what drug you’re on.
For people who are under the influence of drugs that are pulled over and don’t have drugs in their vehicle, it’s very hard for the state to convict them because the State has to prove that they were driving or that whatever drug they were on caused them to not be able to operate a motor vehicle in a safe and efficient manner. Once they do that, they have to try to identify what the drug is and that’s one of the hardest things.
Typically, drug possessions or people who are in that situation are more likely to get charged with the simple possession because it’s much easier for the police to charge that crime than it is to try to charge a driving while under the influence of drugs or illegal substance.
Are the Penalties Harsher for a Drug Related DUI?
These penalties fall under the same statute as the alcohol, basically maximum one year and $1,000 fine unless you’re a multiple offender and those can go up if you have prior convictions. I rarely see people with multiple convictions for driving while under the influence of drugs.
How is the Process Different for a Drug Related DUI as Opposed to an Alcohol Related One?
The process is generally lengthier because it’s going to involve either a person voluntarily submitting to a blood test which will take an officer much more time than bringing somebody to the local barracks and having them blow into a breathalyzer. The other end is the drug recognition expert. As most officers in this area are not certified for that, so if they find somebody who’s under the influence in that way, they’re more likely just to process under the DUI rather than wait the extra time for a drug recognition expert to get on the scene.
What Typical Role Do Medical Prescription Drugs Play in a Drug Related DUI Charge?
It’s more likely than not that the people who I have encountered in 20 years doing that are people who are also drinking alcohol and are affected by alcohol and another drug. It’s very rare that I see somebody who is just charged with driving while under the influence of a prescription or a legal narcotic. People have the right to take their prescriptions. If you have a prescription narcotic and you’re sitting there and you get pulled over, you tell the police officer, “I’m taking my Vortab today and it’s all legal.”
If the officer wants to maintain this, he’s going to have to show facts that you were driving in some manner that was not safe basically the statute goes to say that you’re so impaired by the drug that you’re unable to safely operate a motor vehicle. Swerving, crossing the centerline, failing to stop at a stop sign, or speeding excessively: those are all things that they can try to attribute to it but they have to put on facts that will convince the judge that you were driving erratically.
If the Drugs Are Part of My Prescription, Could I Still Have a Case There?
There can still be a case there and that’s going to come down really to the fact of how bad you were driving and how that officer can prove impairment. If they’re following you near a video camera and you cross the centerline 3 or 4 times before they pull you over, a judge is going to take that as strong evidence of impairment as opposed to a police officer saying, “Hey, I only crossed the yellow line one time,” that’s a little bit weaker evidence of impairment which is harder to get the conviction on.
If an Officer Searches My Car Without my Consent and Finds Prescription Drugs, What Will Happen?
If you don’t give permission to search, then an officer has to have probable cause to search. He can make a search based off a valid arrest, so if there is some traffic infraction or something that he sees that he can arrest you for, he can generally do a search of your vehicle.
If he doesn’t have any independent cause or any reason, then a person can refuse the officer’s request for search. Another common occurrence in these cases where drugs are suspected is an officer will get a K9 over to a car. If he does that within a reasonable period of time, the K9 alerts, that’ll basically give the officer probable cause to arrest you.
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