Most people tend to think of DUI charges as the penalty for drunk driving. However, a person driving under the influence of drugs can also be charged with a DUI. Some states make distinctions between DUI and DWI charges, where the latter refers to drunk driving and the former includes alcoholic or drug impaired driving.
In Louisiana, DUI is the catchall term for any impaired driving charge, whether alcohol, drug-related, or both. If you are pulled over for a traffic stop and law enforcement has reason to believe you are under the influence of drugs, you will likely be arrested and charged with a DUI.
Getting behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of drugs is a risk to yourself and others. Drugs impair your judgement and reaction time, and can also affect your perception and decision making. There is always a better way to get where you want to go, whether it’s Uber or Lyft, a cab, a DD, or friend.
What Constitutes a Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Charge in Louisiana?
One common misconception about DUI drug charges is that you will only be charged if you are under the influence of illegal drugs. However, you may also receive a DUI drug charge for driving while under the influence of prescription drugs or medical marijuana.
Even if you have a prescription, and have taken drugs legally, you can still be charged with a DUI.
Unlike drunk driving, there is no legal limit for the amount of drugs consumed. If you are found to have drugs in your system you will be arrested and charged with a DUI.
How Do Police Check If You Have Drugs In Your System?
If you are pulled over and a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence of drugs, they need to have reasonable evidence to charge you with a DUI. Likewise, if you are charged, law enforcement must be able to present convincing evidence for you to be convicted.
When a police officer pulls someone over for drunk driving, there are a number of tests they can use to determine whether a person has been drinking or not. However, when it comes to drugs the procedures are little more hazy.
Law enforcement may use blood, urine, or hair tests to determine if a person is under the influence of drugs. But these tests are not always easy to administer during a traffic stop, and do not produce immediate results. They must be sent off to a lab for testing, which can take days or even weeks.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that different drugs can stay in a person’s system for extended periods of time. For example, the THC in marijuana can stay in a person’s system for 4-5 weeks, and it can be impossible to determine from a blood or urine test when the THC was ingested, and whether the person was actually high at a given time.
For this reason, determining whether a person is under the influence of drugs often becomes a subjective determination on the part of law enforcement. Many states have special officers known as Drug Recognition Experts (or DREs), who have been trained to recognize when people are impaired by drugs. They use cues from things like eye movement, behavior, and more to determine when a person is impaired.
In most cases, law enforcement will make a judgement based on their own assessment at the traffic stop. They will administer a blood, urine, or hair test either at the traffic stop or back at the station. The toxicology report will then be prepared as evidence for the court date or hearing.
What are the Penalties for DUI Drugs In Louisiana?
Like drunk driving charges, DUI drug charge penalties vary depending on different factors such as the offender’s criminal history.
- 1st DUI offense – misdemeanor offense; $300 – $1000 fine; 10 days – 6 months in jail; one-year suspension of driver’s license
- 2nd DUI offense – misdemeanor offense; $750 – $1000 fine; 30 days – 6 months in jail; 2-year driver’s license suspension
- 3rd offense and beyond – felony offense; $2000 fine; 1-5 years in jail; 3-year suspension of driver’s license
Individuals will also be expected to pay any additional court fees or other fees that arise. They may also be required to fulfill community service requirements or attend rehabilitation or safe driving programs.
In many DUI drug cases, individuals may test positive for multiple drugs in their system, or may be charged with both drugged driving and drunk driving. Additionally, if you are caught in possession of illegal substances, you will likely be charged separately for that.
All these factors can ultimately affect penalties and fines. Remember, the above are the standard penalties for DUI charges, and can vary on a case by case basis.
What Defenses Do Lawyers Use Against DUI Drug Charges?
Similar to alcohol-related DUI charges, a New Orleans DUI lawyer will devise a defense strategy based on the specifics of your case.
Some common defenses include:
- Inaccurate or false results of sobriety test
- As discussed above, the results of drug tests are not always accurate or reflective of impairment. For this reason, this is one of the most effective defenses used by DUI defense lawyers in drugged driving cases.
- Improper stop
- Police officers must have a reason for pulling you over in the first place. If it can be shown that they pulled you over without a legal, substantiated reason for doing so, then any evidence they gathered from that traffic stop may be rendered impermissible.
- Improper administration of sobriety test
- Similarly, if it can be shown that any blood, urine, hair, or other type of test was not administered according to legal procedure then the results of that test cannot be used against you in a court of law.
- Improper conduct of the arresting officer
- Police officers must conduct traffic stops, search and seizure, and arrest procedures according to legal precedent. Failure to do so may render any charges or evidence impermissible in a court of law.
At the end of the day, every case is unique and has its own circumstances which will determine the strategy and approach of a DUI attorney or criminal defense attorney. That’s why it’s important to contact a New Orleans DUI lawyer as soon as possible following an arrest or DUI drug charge.
Prepare Your Best Defense with a New Orleans DUI Lawyer
If you have been charged with driving under the influence of drugs, contact the New Orleans drug defense lawyers at Bloom Legal today. Our consultations are free, and our experienced defense attorneys will help guide you through the process of getting you out of jail and the next steps to take. Our New Orleans DUI attorneys will work closely with you to devise a defense strategy best suited for you and your situation, and will work tirelessly to get you the best possible outcome for your case.
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Posted by: Zachary Klos