Most people falsely assume that DWI is only alcohol-based because it is a per se offense if the driver had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more. However, if someone is under the influence of consumed drugs and that impair their driving ability, they could also be charged with DWI. This may be true even if the drugs were legally prescribed by a doctor. Penalties for drug and alcohol-related DUIs are typically the same, the only difference between these two offenses may be the evidence that is presented during a trial.
Individuals facing drug DUI allegations are advised to speak with an Alexandria DUI drug lawyer. A hard-working DUI attorney could review the facts of your accusations and build your defense case.
Virginia Code Section 18.2-266 allows conviction for driving while intoxicated if “such person is under the influence of any narcotic drug or other self-administered intoxicant or drug of whatsoever nature, or any combination of such drugs, to a degree which impairs his ability to drive or operate any motor vehicle, engine, or train safely.”
There are various substances that an individual could be charged with using while driving. No matter which type of DUI drug offense a person is charged with, they are recommended to speak with an Alexandria defense attorney for legal representation.
Individuals are recommended to refrain from making statements to the police officers or admitting that they were taking medications before speaking with their attorney. While lying to the police is discouraged, individuals do have the right to remain silent upon questioning if they were pulled over for a DWI-related traffic stop.
Alexandria attorney who is experienced with the various methods law enforcement uses to prove DUI drug charges could review a defendant’s case to build their defense.
Compared to alcohol DUIs, marijuana DUI cases may involve difference evidence. While authorities may still be looking for evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was under the influence of a chemical substance while they were driving, breath or blood tests may not be enough.
It is considered harder to prove that an individual was under the influence of a drug for several reasons. Authorities must typically show what drug the accused was under the influence of, that the person was impaired, and that the consumption was to the level that it impaired their driving.
Individuals typically face the same charges for driving while intoxicated by cannabis as a regular alcohol DUI. This includes a DWI charge under Virginia Code Section 18.2-266, which would be written as driving while under the influence of drugs.
Drug DUI penalties are typically similar to regular DWI penalties in Virginia. A first-time offense may lead to a minimum Class 1 misdemeanor, which is up to one year in jail and a potential $2,500 fine. Given the harsh penalties for marijuana DUI, individuals are advised to speak with an Alexandria DUI drug attorney to learn their rights immediately.
A marijuana DUI attorney may be more familiar with how to mount a defense for such a case, whether it is to the actual drug that is used, the level of impairment, or the testing procedures. Defendants may benefit from a lawyer who is more familiar with this type of charge and how to challenge a drug conviction.
The Virginia legislature wrote DWI laws to prevent people in the community from driving a motor vehicle under the influence of any substance that causes impairment. Even if a person is on Nyquil or a prescription medication, the individual should not be on the road if the medication is impairing their ability to drive. This holds true for everyone.
Individuals could check any medicine bottle, prescription bottle, or even cold and flu medicine that they pick up from the pharmacy to learn if consuming it may impair their driving. If the label says “may cause drowsiness” or “may impair ability to drive,” it means that the medication is already flagged by the state as one of those drugs that could impair one’s ability to drive. If the individual uses medication with such a label and drives while under its influence, they could be held to the same standard as if they had an alcohol-related DUI.
Medication that an individual might need to function may not be treated differently since it is still considered under notice that that prescription could affect their driving. Defendants are presumed to know and have the ability to appreciate that they should not be driving while under the effects of that medication.
Over the counter medicine could still affect someone since it has the potential ability to impair one’s judgment, their reflexes, and their standard responses. These types of drugs could also lead to driving under the influence charges, since they are outside of the person’s normal routine and cause impairment. In certain cases, medication as common as Claritin could cause issues with driving if the individual consumed more than the prescribed amount.
Prescription drugs include any substances that one may get from a doctor. They are not considered over-the-counter drugs since individuals must receive a prescription from a doctor, a registered nurse, or an otherwise-certified person before picking it up from the pharmacy. If the prescription was for a medical condition, the drug could include anything from allergy medication to full narcotics.
Alexandria DUI drug lawyers also commonly see Oxycodone, morphine, and other forms of opioids in DUI cases. Opioids are also linked with prescription drug abuse and have led to the opioid crisis.
Normally, driving under the influence of a prescription drug is charged the same as another drug or alcohol. It is most likely that an individual’s charge would simply read driving while impaired or driving while impaired by a drug or other substance. In that way, the prosecution may not be required to prove what specific drug impaired the defendant’s ability to drive and simply that there was some foreign substance in their body that caused impairment.
Before charging someone with a prescription DUI, authorities must collect evidence of the fact that they were driving, the fact that they were impaired while doing so, and what they were taking that was impairing their driving.
This may include an admission that the driver was taking medication and what that medication was. It may also involve a blood draw which would be analyzed for chemicals in the person’s bloodstream that might show the individual was impaired. To prove impairment in court, authorities may utilize an expert witness.
A drug recognition expert could be used by the prosecution, the accused’s Alexandria drug DUI attorney, or both parties simultaneously. The expert would be put on the stand by either party to talk about what drugs may be involved in the case, what quantity of drug was found in the person’s system, if any, and how that drug would have influenced the specific defendant’s ability to drive.
When building a defense case for such charges, the attorney may need to know what drugs the person was taking, including the quantity, type, and how that would impact them. They might also need to know if the drug was prescription-related and if the person had been taking it for a long period of time without adverse side-effects. While attorneys may do so mostly for sentencing and mitigation issues, it may come up for the actual conviction or guilt phase of the trial in certain cases.
Law enforcement may have multiple means which they could check for drug presence on a driver. This could occur through a blood test by a blood draw, which would require a warrant that could be requested and executed at a hospital by a nurse or a doctor. The nurse or doctor would draw their blood to test for drugs that may be in their system.
Aside from testing, simple observations may also be used to determine whether a driver is impaired. An officer could use their experience and training to testify that they know when a driver or when someone is impaired by drugs or alcohol and that they understand what those symptoms are. Officers may claim that they are skilled and trained at recognizing those symptoms, and they have performed tests and made specific observations that are consistent with a finding in their expert opinion that that individual in question was under the influence of drugs or alcohol after or while they have been driving.
Standard field sobriety tests could also be used. When speaking of such tests, most people normally picture walking within a straight line, standing on one leg, or reciting the alphabet in reverse order. These are the types of tests that may be performed and could still indicate or show that a person was impaired while driving even without a blood or breath test. A skilled Alexandria attorney who is experienced with the various methods law enforcement uses to prove DUI drug charges could review a defendant’s case to build their defense.
It is illegal to decline a breathalyzer test under Virginia Code 18.2-268.3. It is also unlawful for a person who has been arrested for an alleged DWI offense to refuse to have a blood or breath test taken to determine if they have any chemically-altering drugs or alcohol in their system. If someone refused, they could be charged with a criminal or civil offense related to the refusal.
An Alexandria DUI drug attorney who is experienced with the various methods law enforcement uses to prove DUI drug charges could review a defendant’s case to build their defense.
The drug DUI attorney in Alexandria may wish to collect any medical or driving history of the person. This could include any prescriptions, alcohol, or other drug use. Attorneys may also search for information regarding the stop. This may entail any body-worn camera video that could show what standard field sobriety tests were performed at the stop and what the actual condition of the defendant was at the time of the stop.
An Alexandria drug DUI lawyer could fight to suppress statements that are made regarding a prescription, other medications, or chemicals that are used. A person may also look for an attorney who is familiar with the test and the findings for blood-related draws. Such an attorney could question the validity of the tests and of any alleged impairment for any medication or drug that might have been in the accused’s system any may have potentially affected their driving.
Involuntary intoxication is a very rare defense that is not normally used. The prosecution is only required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there were sufficient chemicals within the person’s body that impaired their ability to drive. If the individual is accused of a drug DUI, whatever the amount was, the amount is too much no matter how small or large for the driver to handle and may have likely impaired their ability to drive.
In an involuntary intoxication case, the accused individual has the burden to prove that they were intoxicated against their will after it is proven that they were impaired. Common defenses for involuntary intoxication include the consumption of date-rape drugs. This may occur when someone went to a party and did not know they were being slipped the drug.
While unintentional prescription intoxication cases do not change much from regular DUI cases, defendants might get a lower sentence if they truly were unaware. Typically, the court does not find that a person is not guilty simply if they did not know that they would be impaired by taking that substance. The court presumes or has a high assumption that the defendant should have known better than to drive while under the influence of that medication, and if they did not know they could be impaired by that medication, they should not have driven unless and until they have determined after a period of time of using that drug that they would be fine while driving under the influence of that particular prescription or medication.
It is important to contact an experienced DUI attorney in Alexandria because a person needs someone who knows all of the ins and outs of the law and how to challenge a stop. Defendants may wish to speak with a lawyer who knows how to challenge a stop based on constitutional issues, any reason that the stop itself, the test themselves, or any statements made should be suppressed. An attorney who is able to analyze the facts and the evidence and determine if this is possible could be a useful asset for accused individuals.
An Alexandria drug DUI lawyer who is familiar with the standards of testing could challenge the validity of the tests and whether they were properly conducted. A local attorney may have the information specific to that jurisdiction with regard to the players who are involved, what they would normally look for, and notably what type of decisions they would normally make for sentencing.
It is hard to fight a DWI charge alone if drugs are involved. Fortunately, a dedicated Alexandria DUI drug attorney could put their knowledge and experience to work in your defense. If you were accused of driving under the influence of marijuana, prescription drugs, or another substance, reach out to an experienced defense attorney today to schedule a consultation.
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