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Drug-Driving Penalties: Laws and Regulations

DWI and DUI laws exist for one reason – the safety of both pedestrians and drivers.

These laws cover not only drunk driving but also driving under the influence of drugs. A driver as high as a kite on illegal substances poses the same threat as a drunk driver. While all states have drug-related DUI laws, most have their own version of the legislation and how to enforce it.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways state laws tackle the drug-driving problem.

Drugged Driving Laws in the U.S.

When it comes to DUI laws, you’re looking at two general types: “impairment” and “per se.” On an impairment DUI charge, the law looks at the actual effects alcohol or drugs had on the driver. Under per se DUI laws, it’s illegal to drive with a specific amount of drugs or alcohol in your system.

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Let’s expand on these laws a bit further to see how they work to curb drugged driving.

Impairment DUI Laws

While state laws do not allow driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the terms differ per location. Some states need evidence that the driver was “substantially impaired” or “incapable of driving safely” for a DUI conviction. Other states are laxer, and all the prosecution needs to do is show the extent of the effect the drugs had on the motorist.

In some states, there are different penalties based on the driver’s level of impairment. When dealing with repeat offenders, law enforcement can look up the owner by vin to see how many times the driver has gotten into an accident.

Issues with Impairment Laws

One issue with impairment DUI laws is how to link the driver’s clear state of intoxication with drug use. In general, state laws are pretty inclusive when it comes to what type of narcotics can lead to a DUI conviction.

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Some states have exhaustive lists of prohibited drugs. Others use “catch-all” phrases such as “any intoxicating substance” or some form that widens the net of what law enforcement can catch. However, prosecutors still face conviction problems, unless the driver undergoes a drug test to identify what type of drug is in his/her body.

Moreover, drugs don’t have an identifiable odor as alcohol does. It’s also hard to make a snap judgment if strange behavior is due to drug abuse or a mental condition. Unsafe as it may be, driving while mentally disturbed does not qualify as a DUI.

Per Se DUI Laws

Not all states have Per Se DUI laws that apply to narcotics, and with the ones that do, the approach isn’t uniform. Per Se DUI laws state that all the prosecution needs to do for a conviction is proof that the driver had a prohibited amount of illegal drugs in the system.

Some states use a zero-tolerance approach to drugged driving. It is illegal to operate a vehicle if there’s any trace of a controlled substance in your body, imposing harsher penalties for drivers under 21. Other states have a list of common drugs such as weed or cocaine and the corresponding blood concentration levels for each.

Like impairment DUI laws, a Per Se DUI conviction hinges on a drug test showing how much drugs (and what type) are in the driver’s body. Thankfully, there is an “implied consent law” that requires all arrested drivers on a DUI charge to submit themselves for testing.

In most cases, the prosecution will have access to evidence. Again, law enforcement may need to do a Vin check to help build evidence for a lawsuit against repeat offenders.

Drugged Driving DUI Penalties

In most cases, a DUI case may lead to either criminal or administrative penalties. After a DUI conviction, the court is in charge of imposing a criminal penalty on the driver. Administrative penalties fall under the purview of the DMV.

Administrative Penalties

Almost all states have “administrative per se” laws. These regulations don’t allow driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08% or more. The DMV usually administratively suspend a driver’s license for this type of violation. Administrative per se laws are only applicable to alcohol.

Criminal Penalties

All states handle DUI convictions differently, but alcohol and drug DUIs more or less get the same treatment. First-time offenders are looking at $200 to $2,000 fines and up to a year in prison.

Conclusion

Driving while under the influence of drugs is as bad as drunk driving. DUI and DWI laws carry stiff penalties because nothing is more important than human life. Drivers who threaten everyone else’s safety because they’re high will get the maximum punishment under the law.

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