If the use of any substance affects your driving, you could be charged with a crime. Driving while high is often called a “DUID” charge, or “driving under the influence of drugs.”
In Virginia, penalties for a DUID and a standard DUI are much the same. For a first DUID offense, the accused can face a year in jail, followed by a mandatory $250 fine and year-long license suspension.
After that, DUI and DUID charges are identical:
- 2nd offense in five years: minimum 20 days in jail, maximum of one year; $500 fine; one-year license suspension; two years of license restriction.
- 2nd offense in 10 years: minimum 10 days in jail, maximum of one year; $500 fine; four-month license suspension; 3 years of license restriction.
- 3rd offense in five years: minimum 180 days in prison, maximum of five years; $1,000 fine; indefinite license suspension; car may be impounded.
- 3rd offense in 10 years: minimum 90 days in prison, maximum of five years; $1,000 fine; indefinite license suspension; car may be impounded.
- 4th offense in 10 years: minimum one year in prison, maximum of five years; $1,000 fine; indefinite license suspension; car may be impounded.
What is very different, however, is how each accusation is charged. Determining whether someone is drunk is easy. Breathalyzers, though not 100% accurate, can produce a reasonable estimate of someone’s BAC (blood alcohol content). Blood tests are more accurate, showing exactly what percent of your blood carries the drug.
The presence of narcotics is far more difficult to determine. First off, there are many potential drugs to screen for. One test must cover heroin, cocaine, meth, and an assortment of other drugs. Even if these drugs are found in your system, they don’t appear as direct percentages like a BAC reading. Because of this, police must see only trace amounts of the drug to make an arrest.
Moreover, blood tests do not cover all possibilities. Newer street drugs are not detected, nor are prescription drugs. Essentially, without hard evidence, police can charge you with a DUID based solely on their judgement.
Since detecting drugs in your system is much harder, police may rely on their discernment of your behavior to make an arrest. Their methods are not completely arbitrary. They can look at the dilation of your pupils, your speech patterns, your mobility, and so on to decide that you are high. Perhaps your driving itself is erratic, and, coupled with your behavior, authorities make an educated guess, arresting you for a DUID.
If you are ever pulled over by police, exercise your right to remain silent. They will ask you leading questions like, “How much have you had to drink” or, “What medication did you take?” You do not have to respond. If your driving or your behavior raises suspicion, they will use your answers against you. Your medication may not have narcotic side effects, but if the police believe your driving is impaired, they can justify an arrest. Even a strong cup of coffee could be used as evidence.
Prescription Drug DUID Defenses
You Were Not High
The Drug Wore Off
Perhaps your medication has narcotic effects, and it is detectible in a blood test. That does not mean that you were under the influence at the time of the arrest. Recall that police need to find only trace amounts of a drug to accuse you. If you took your medicine that morning or the day before, it could still appear on a screening. The side effects may have worn off by that point. You can argue in court that the police were overzealous, arresting you on a technicality.
Police Misunderstood Your Behavior
Anything can throw off your rhythm. If you are too hungry, you can act strangely. If you are on a prescription, the illness you’re treating can affect your behavior. Perhaps you are going through a divorce or a death in the family, and the stress is making you behave oddly. In fact, none of the above may be true at all. Some people simply have eccentric personalities, and the cops can mistake routine behavior for being drug-induced.
Science Does Not Support the Police’s Claims
A good attorney will investigate not only the circumstances surrounding your arrest but also the drug itself. Perhaps you were not on a large enough dose to justify an intoxication claim. Maybe you are on a large dose, but, based on your size, it’s unreasonable to assume the medicine could affect your behavior. Using accepted science, your attorney could prove that although you were on the medication, your driving was not impaired.
You Had No Other Choice
Quite simply, people need their medicine, and they need to drive to reach their destinations. You may have been in a circumstance where you were stuck. If you didn’t take your medicine, you were going to become ill, but you also couldn’t stay where you were. This defense is most effective if you were only minimally affected by the medicine. If you were staggering, slurring, or incoherent when the police pulled you over, the court may not be sympathetic to your plight.
If you’ve been unfairly accused of a DUID because of a prescription drug, contact our office today. We may be able to take on your case, helping defend you against these unjust accusations. You can reach us by calling (540) 827-4446, or you can contact us online.