Most of us are aware that DUI, driving under the influence of alcohol, is a serious offense. It causes lasting legal consequences. What is less understood is a DUID charge or driving under the influence of drugs. Consuming narcotics is already illegal, and DUIDs are a natural extension of that behavior. You can get one even if you are using prescribed medications that are legal.In this article, we will discuss the issue of DUIDs and how to defend yourself against such allegations.
Police use an entirely different process to charge and convict a DUID than a standard DUI. Most notably, there is the measurement of the substance in your system. Breathalyzers can estimate the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, known as the BAC (blood alcohol content). Based on this estimate, police can charge you with a DUI. The general standard for drunk driving is a BAC of .08%. If your BAC is over 0.14%, you could be charged with a more severe crime.
With a DUID, the standard is much less specific. First of all, there is no breathalyzer to detect cocaine or heroin use. People who are high have observable manifestations of their state. They could have dilated pupils or display certain behaviors, but beyond that, only a blood test can verify if someone has taken drugs. Unlike a BAC test, blood tests for narcotics aren’t very specific. The authorities can use only trace amounts of the drug to charge someone.
Moreover, blood tests don’t cover every possibility. There are many drugs someone could take, and some do not appear on test results. In those cases, police have only their assessment of your behavior to make an arrest. You could potentially be arrested for driving while taking legally prescribed drugs. In theory, police could use your drinking a sedative tea like kava or kratom to warrant an arrest.
Ultimately, police have the power and discretion to accuse and arrest someone for a DUID. If an officer believes that a substance has impaired your driving, they can arrest you if they have probable cause. Whenever you are pulled over, do not reveal anything that you’ve had, even if it’s coffee. Exercise your constitutional right to remain silent, and call an attorney as soon as you can Unfortunately, Virginia does not allow you to consult an attorney before interacting with an officer on the side of the road.
DUID Penalties in Virginia
For a first offense DUID charge, the accused can face up to one year in jail, a license revocation of up to one year, a mandatory fine of $250 with a possibility of fines as high as $2,500, and six points on their license.
Subsequent accusations are the same as a DUI:
- Second offense in five years = 20 days minimum jail time with a possibility of up to one year; mandatory $500 fine; one year of license revocation with an additional two years of a restricted license
- Second offense in 10 years = 10 days minimum jail time with a possibility of up to one year; mandatory $500 fine; four months of license revocation with an additional 2.5 years of a restricted license
- Third offense in five years = 180 days minimum prison time with a possibility of up to five years; mandatory $1,000 fine; indefinite license revocation; car may be impounded
- Third offense in 10 years = 90 days minimum prison time with a possibility of up to five years; mandatory $1,000 fine; indefinite license revocation; car may be impounded
- Fourth offense in 10 years = one year minimum prison time with a possibility of up to five years; mandatory $1,000 fine; indefinite license revocation; car may be impounded
If you’ve been charged with a DUID, discuss one of these possible defenses with your attorney. Remember that you should take your lawyer’s legal advice, and if they have a different plan, you should go with what they offer.
There Was a Testing Error
Recall that there is only one chemical test the police use to detect many drugs. It is a fallible system, and it can be challenged. False positives are common. Sometimes, certain foods or combinations of legal prescriptions can mirror narcotics in the bloodstream. The lab or hospital may not have handled the results properly. The blood sample could be spoiled or contaminated. You know if you were under the influence when you were arrested. If you weren’t, and if the test yielded a positive result, something went wrong. Your attorney can also send the sample over for a second analysis which is why it is important to hire an attorney as soon as you are charged.
You Were Not Impaired When the Arrest Was Made
Remember, sometimes behavior is the only evidence police have to make an arrest. There are many unique personalities in the world, and sometimes people who have never taken drugs are accused of being high. The police may have accused you based on such misconceptions.
You could also, once again, challenge the test results. Some drugs stay present in your system long after you take them. Perhaps the police assumed you were high at the moment of arrest, seeing only trace amounts of a narcotic in your bloodstream. You could have been stone sober when you were arrested and still have the residue of something in your system.
You Had No Choice
Recall that even prescription drugs can be used as the basis for an arrest. You could make an argument of necessity. You had to take a specific drug at a specific time for your health, and you had to use your car to get home. This defense will probably not work if you were, in fact, impaired and driving erratically. However, we know that police sometimes make arrests on technicalities alone. Coupled with a “not impaired” defense, the “necessity” defense could be very effective. However, if your doctor provided information about not using machinery while taking your medicine or warns the medication could cause drowsiness, this can be an issue as well. You cannot take medications like this and drive.
Challenge the Police’s Methods
Police have rigid standards they must follow, or they could be guilty of violating a citizen’s constitutional rights. It may be advantageous to investigate the stop or arrest itself. Recently, Virginia downgraded many of its primary traffic offenses to secondary offenses. If you were pulled over for a broken taillight, for example, that stop was illegal. Perhaps there was no justification for the stop at all. Could personal prejudice have motivated the stop and subsequent charge? It is always important to question the police’s motivations in any arrest.
The very act of drawing blood on suspicion is shaky and potentially unfounded. What, exactly, made the police feel that invading your veins was justified? With something as nebulous as a DUID charge, it can be easy to question the authorities’ methods and motivations, putting them on defense.
If you’ve been charged with a DUID, do not assume that you are stuck with this accusation. You have a constitutional right to defend yourself. Contact our office today. We are ready to hear your story, and we may be able to help defend you in court. You can call (703) 940-0001 or contact us online.