Is Driving While On Drugs The New DUI?

When most people hear the phrase “driving under the influence” the image that most frequently comes to mind is that of a person who takes the wheel after having too much alcohol to drink. But there are other substances that can impair a person’s ability to properly operate a vehicle, and being caught driving while one of these substances is in your system can lead to an arrest. If you are pulled over, and the police believe you are on drugs, or taking things that can cause you to have difficulty driving, you will likely be arrested and charged.

With a number of states legalizing marijuana, it is possible that we will start seeing more people being charged with a drug-related crime if they are also driving while smoking. The increase in arrests associated with impaired driving in this regard has led some to wonder if driving while on drugs can be considered the “new DUI” and a lot of discussion has been had on the issue. For instance, an article discussing the subject had this to say:

• Studies show that driving with marijuana in your system is no more likely to cause an accident than driving without having partaken in the substance. This finding was based on statistical data, and in no way promoted the concept of driving during or after smoking marijuana.
• One conclusion drawn was that the impact smoking marijuana while driving is more difficult to determine than the influence drinking alcohol has on a person’s driving abilities.
• Detection of THC, the major component of marijuana, can be made for several days after a person has smoked pot. In contrast, alcohol leaves the system over the course of several hours and cannot be detected days later. This makes it hard to figure out how detrimental smoking marijuana and driving can actually be, because detection of the substance may come days after consumption. So, if you are in a wreck and tested for substances, marijuana may appear in your system even if you have not smoked in a few days. This fact could make it difficult for the prosecution to claim your driving pattern was impacted by smoking marijuana.

What this study shows, and the center of much of the debate around legalizing marijuana, is that the law does not currently provide a broad enough scope to include certain activities within the definition of “impaired driving”. The example used was that of driving after smoking, and the study went on to state not all laws include for treatment of this type of violation because the use of legalized marijuana is relatively new. If you have been charged with DUI as a result of smoking marijuana, it is crucial to investigate the facts so you can develop a defense that makes sense for your case. We can help.

If you have questions about driving while impaired, call our office for answers. Call an experienced criminal defense attorney in Key West. We offer initial consultations by phone, and are just a call away.