Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
Special Legal Issues That Justify Hiring a DUI Specialist for a DUI Drugs Case
By: William C. Head, Atlanta DUI lawyer
An increasing number of driving under the influence of drugs cases across America involve drug charges. When many people hear the word “drug,” they think of illegal drugs. However, most driving under the influence of drug accusations are made against DUI drivers who have a prescription for medication.
Most citizens charged with driving under the influence of prescription drugs are shocked to learn they can be criminally charged for DUI. Being prescribed a drug that affects the central nervous system and a person’s reaction time is no “free pass” after a DUI arrest.
While every state provides a limited exception under state DUI laws for people taking prescription medications, drug DUI cases may be pursued against any person who has been involved in an accident where evidence of drug use is indicated (through symptoms of physical evidence), or where the driver admits to taking any type of drugs and driving.
In most of our DUI drugs cases, our clients do not have the prescription bottles with them in the vehicle. But, police officers trained in verbal communication techniques like “verbal judo” are skilled at asking innocuous questions, and then using information from our clients’ own verbal admissions.
Driving while under influence of drugs can carry very harsh driver’s license consequences in many states. In Georgia, a mandatory 6-month total loss of driving privileges is imposed, whereas a driver with the same DUI offense, but has an alcohol level of 0.350 is permitted to obtain an immediate “work permit.”
For example, a first offense DUI driver in Georgia who is charged with DUI alcohol, regardless of how high the breath test might be, is permitted to get an immediate limited driving permit if he or she submits to a breathalyzer test as part of the DUI arrest.
On the other hand, any first offender convicted of any drug offense in Georgia, including driving under the influence of prescription drugs, faces a minimum total loss of driver’s license for 6-months.
After arrest, where a DUI drug offense is suspected, instead of a breath alcohol test, a DUI blood test will be sent to the state crime lab or the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). If the impairing substance involved in your driving under the influence case is a substance other than alcohol (e.g., driving under the influence of marijuana, or taking oxycodone and driving or taking sleep medicine unintentionally, “sleep driving”, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who has defended DUI drug cases at trial.
A DUI specialist in your state will be familiar with the blood test kits issued by the GBI to law enforcement officers, and will know all blood collection requirements and compliance protocols for establishing a chain of custody of DUI blood results.
Since 2013, U.S. Supreme Court case law has determined that a police officer cannot simply take a forcible blood test from a driver without first obtaining a judicial warrant approving such invasive testing. One of the best ways to eliminate a drug DUI case is to have the illegally seized blood results excluded from use in the prosecutor’s case, after a pretrial motion hearing where the Judge suppresses the laboratory blood test results, by a warrantless search.
Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana – DUI Drug Arrest – Marijuana Possession
The DUI marijuana cases we see in our office have several recurring patterns of facts leading up to the marijuana DUI arrest. The distinct, pungent odor of burnt marijuana is readily picked up by law enforcement officers. Second, aggressive questioning of the driver often results in an admission to using marijuana, and trying to convince the police that the use was the day before or at some remote time.
In many cases, an inventory search (after the arrest for DUI drugs) reveals marijuana or paraphernalia in the vehicle. Then the driver also faces both DUI for weed and marijuana possession. Whether the charges are a felony or misdemeanor depend on the quantity. DON’T TALK. REMAIN SILENT. PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS.
Lab Test Evidence for DUI Drugs Cases
Much like a DUI breathalyzer test, a DUI blood test run by the crime lab is subject to many possible handling errors, preservation errors, contamination errors, and analytical errors. A DUI lawyer who has been trained in forensic blood analysis and is familiar with laboratory test protocols will be able to explain the various DUI defenses that exist for laboratory blood results for various types of DUI drug cases.
The laboratory processes followed in a crime lab include a quick, inexpensive initial screening by immunoassay techniques, or ELISA, before seeking a confirmatory test by a more sophisticated means of analysis and quantification.
You should ask any DUI attorney that you are considering for your representation how many trials he or she has completed that involve DUI drugs accusations? If the criminal attorney indicates that he or she has never tried a DUI drug blood test case, you need to look further before you hire an attorney.
Otherwise you may have run into a DUI law firm that is simply going to take a retainer and talk you into a slow guilty plea.
Any truly skilled DUI defense attorney will tell you that winning a DUI drugs case where the medication found by the crime lab is YOUR prescribed medicine, and within therapeutic ranges, will be MUCH easier to win at trial or by negotiation than a DUI alcohol test, even at a 0.08 grams percent level.
However, a DUI for weed can pose a significant challenge at trial, assuming the DUI driver has no valid marijuana prescription. Jurors often take prescription medications and drive, but they have less tolerance for DUI drivers who are proven to be using an illegal substance.
A Drugs and Alcohol Case Is Harder To Win Than Just Alcohol
SPECIAL CAUTION: Most prescription medications (drugs) that impact the brain and central nervous system have cautionary labels advising against mixing the prescribed drug and alcohol.
This applies to almost all benzodiazepines, opioids, painkillers (including aspirin), sedatives, sedative-hypnotics (like Ambien, Sonata and other sleep medications), and anti-anxiety pills. As with DUI marijuana cases, jurors are far less willing to acquit when alcohol and drugs have been mixed, so STAY AWAY from alcohol when you take prescription medicines.
Also do not drink alcohol and drive while you are taking over-the-counter medications like Benadryl, gastric acid blockers. or any psychoactive medications.
Call now and talk directly with a driving under the influence of drugs legal specialist at (844) 832-6384. William C. Head, Atlanta DUI attorney, is Board Certified in DUI defense and has been named to multiple peer vote lists for excellence.
He will listen to what happened and put your mind at ease about the many ways to win a DUI Drugs case. We can also refer you to the best DUI attorneys in other states.
More DUI Drugs Resources
If you’d like to learn more about DUI for illegal drugs, take a look at some of our comprehensive articles on the subject below:
- DUI Illegal Drugs
- DUI Prescription Drugs
- Common Over-The-Counter Drugs In DUI / DWI / OUI / OWI Cases
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