The following is taken from an interview with a DUID attorney in Virginia as they discuss what goes into stopping and charging a driver with a Drug DUI. If you have been charged, consult with an attorney as soon as possible so they can begin planning your defense.
Police look for drug use in a similar way to how they look for alcohol use during a DUI stop. They’re looking for any visible signs of impairment such as slurred speech, glassy or bloodshot eyes, as well as unsteadiness on ones feet.
They also administer field sobriety tests and look carefully for clues that the individual was under the influence. Police will also take note of whether there is the smell of drugs such as marijuana or whether illegal drugs are in plain view in the vehicle. Police will also often employ a drug dog to detect drugs being held by the suspect or in their vehicle. Finally, blood tests are used to determine if there are drugs present in the suspect’s system, as opposed to a breath test used in an alcohol DUI case.
DUI drug stops are similar to stops for most kinds of DUI. Most of the time they result from either some kind of erratic driving behavior or from some other traffic infraction being committed and the officer noticing evidence of impairment during the stop. Differences include that officers will often smell certain kinds of drugs, such as marijuana, and may notice behavior that is different from intoxicated behavior, but which still shows impairment.
To prove a drug DUI, the government has to show that the accused was found operating motor vehicle while such person is under the influence of any narcotic drug or any other self-administer intoxicant or drug of whatsoever nature or any combination of such drugs to a degree which impaired his or her ability to drive or operate a motor vehicle safely.
It is somewhat harder to prove a drug DUI case because there are a great number of steps which must be followed in order for the results of the blood test to be offered into evidence at trial. This is due to the fact that there are more steps have to be taken in the course of administering the blood test and there are more requirements for how it is to be done properly, which means there are simply more opportunities for something to have been done incorrectly. When this is the case, in many cases, it can result in the blood test being inadmissible.
The primary difference between a DUI drug case and the DUI alcohol case is the way in which the testing for the presence of either alcohol or drugs in the person’s system are performed.
In the case of an alcohol DUI, it is using a breathalyzer test. In the case of drugs, it’s through a blood test. Because a drug test is not instantaneous and it can take months for the results to come back, these kinds of cases often take longer. In addition, the presence of hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or PCP can result in the prosecution treating the case more seriously and the judge imposing harsher penalties.
In all other respects, from the reasons for the initial stop, to the observations the police officer is making, to the field sobriety test, to the arrest process, these kinds of cases are virtually the same.
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