Piper methysticum plant. The roots of the plant are used to produce the Kava drink.

Can Virginia Police Charge You with a DUI for Drinking Kava Tea?

Across the country, kava bars are on the rise. Even here in Fairfax, you can easily find one to frequent. These bars traditionally serve sedative teas such as kava, kratom, and kombucha, with many also serving gourmet coffees. They tend to be dubbed “sober bars,” as they often do not serve alcohol. However, this can be a misleading title. Sedative teas certainly affect the mind and body, and that’s the primary reason people drink them.

Kava is completely legal, but could you get into trouble for drinking kava behind the wheel? You could, depending on your behavior and confession.

DUI Laws and Drug Use

In Virginia, people found to be driving under the influence of drugs can be charged with a DUI. If an officer reasonably believes you are under the influence, they could arrest you and order a blood test. Unlike an alcohol-related DUI, which relies on a blood alcohol level (BAC), only traces of illegal narcotics can be used to charge someone.

Since there is a wide variety of potential drugs a person could use, there are some that do not show up in tests. Even lawfully prescribed drugs could be used to charge someone with a DUI. It needn’t be a drug that comes with a driving warning, either. You could simply have a bad reaction to a new prescription and be charged with a DUI.

Prosecutors rely heavily on police officers’ accounts when charging for a drug-related DUI. If the drug in question is something that would not show up on a test, officers would charge you based on your possession of the drug or direct confession. This is where kava use becomes legally tricky.

Drinking Kava and Driving

A study conducted in Fiji, a country with high kava consumption, linked kava use with a higher number of car accidents. Beyond that, there has not been much research on the topic of kava use and driving. It is simply not something that police are looking for. In terms of testing, there are ways to detect kava in the system, but law enforcement does not use these methods. Drinking kava and driving is potentially dangerous, but it is ultimately legal.

Consider, however, Virginia’s DUI laws in connection to drug use. Completely legal substances can be used as the basis for a DUI based on the driver’s behavior. If the police pulled you over for egregiously reckless driving, and you told them you had been consuming kava, they could, in theory, arrest you for a DUI.

Remember that whenever you are pulled over by the police, you have a right to remain silent. Exercise this right. If you’ve been drinking kava or another sedative tea, even if that tea is sitting in your cupholder, do not offer that information to the police. Without your direct confession, they should have no basis to accuse you of driving under the influence. If the police are accusing you of reckless driving, stay quiet. Afterward, call a lawyer. Reckless driving charges are serious, and you should be represented by an attorney in court. These charges, however, are far less severe than a DUI and any of its variations. DUIs can lead to points on a license, license suspension, car impoundment, and many other penalties. Don’t give the authorities a reason to charge you with a DUI, and think twice before driving while drinking a sedative tea.

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, call us today. We have years of experience defending Virginia’s residents. Our number is (703) 940-0001, and you can reach us online.

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