Alcohol is just one of many impairing substances that can result in a DUI arrest. Prescription drugs, marijuana, and illegal drugs can also result in a DUI arrest. It is important to note that there are two types of DUIs. Initially, every arrest begins as “less safe” DUI. Meaning that the officer is arresting you for being under the influence of some impairing substance to the extent that you are less safe to drive than you otherwise would have been had you not ingested the impairing substance. At the moment of arrest, the officer does not have a chemical test to use against you to establish exactly what is impairing you or the amount of that substance in your system. However, if you submit to the chemical test, then you are giving the prosecution additional evidence to use against you in a separate DUI “per se” charge. Therefore, it is always recommended that you refuse the chemical test unless you are absolutely certain the results will exonerate you.
There are four charges that can be brought in a DUI Drugs case:
In a DUI drugs less safe prosecution, the state is attempting to prove you were under the influence of drugs to the extent you were a less safe driver. This is a broad category since the drugs may be illegal, prescription, or marijuana which is legal in limited circumstances in Georgia. However, the same less safe standard is used no matter what drug is alleged to have impaired you. For prescription medications, the fact that you have a valid prescription is not a defense. We must argue that you took the medication as prescribed, and that there was no warning about consuming the medication and driving. Detecting drug impairment is more difficult than alcohol impairment. Officers are required to attend additional training because basic DUI training only covers alcohol impairment. More advanced training is required to detect drug impairment due to the variety of drugs that exist and the different ways in which they may exhibit impairment.
In a DUI vapors less safe prosecution, the state is attempting to prove you were under the influence of some toxic vapor to the extent you were a less safe driver. This is an uncommon charge. If you were under the influence of one of these substances, the effects would be highly impairing in the short term but would quickly dissipate. I have only seen this charged after a traffic accident in which a cold aerosol can was found in the floorboard of the suspect’s vehicle, or when the suspect made admissions during questioning by the officer. The same less safe standard applies to a DUI vapors case as any other variation of DUI. In a DUI vapors case, there would likely be terrible driving, but little signs of impairment through physical manifestations or field sobriety testing since the effects would have dissipated.
In a DUI combo less safe prosecution, the state is attempting to prove you were under the influence of a combination of intoxicating substances. This is a common charge, and the same less safe standard is applied as discussed in other variations of DUI. While drugs have a variety of effects and impair people in different ways, those effects are even more varied when combined with other substances. For instance, alcohol is a depressant with specific manifestations of impairment, and Adderall is a prescription stimulant with specific manifestations of impairment. When combined, the depressant and stimulant do not cancel each other out. Instead, they each enhance the intoxicating effect of the other while also exhibiting a variety of manifestations that are inconsistent with either substance. Therefore, the officer might say that they saw several signs of impairment that can only be attributed to some type of interaction between multiple impairing substances. The state does not have to prove how each substance impaired you or even what specific substances you ingested. If you have a case where there is evidence of a particular drug you ingested, you may need a toxicologist to testify about the interplay between specific drugs and why they would manifest themselves in a way that is contrary to what the officer is alleging. Ultimately, if you look good on video and did not admit to ingesting a cocktail of drugs before driving, then the jury will likely ignore the complexities of the drug interactions and just focus on whether you look impaired.
In a DUI drugs per se prosecution, the state must prove you had detectable amounts of a controlled substance or marijuana in your system through either a blood or urine test. A breath test would not show the presence of anything besides alcohol. For marijuana and lawfully prescribed medications, the state must prove that the substance impaired you using the less safe standard. For illegal drugs or prescription drugs for which you do not have a prescription, the mere presence of the drugs in your body will result in a per se violation. So, there is no specific limit for marijuana and lawfully prescribed medications, and there is zero tolerance for illegal drugs or unlawfully obtained prescription drugs.
Once a drug enters your body, it begins breaking down into its derivative metabolites. For marijuana, the initial metabolites are still impairing while the subsequent metabolites are not. The GBI’s report will break down the amount of those various metabolites, and a skilled attorney will be able to explain the impairing or non-impairing impact that the various metabolites would have on you. If metabolites of illegal drugs are present, then a successful defense would depend on having the entire test result thrown out. Otherwise, the defense would have the more difficult task of throwing doubt on the reliability of the results based on the unreliability of the testing process or chain of custody. For a marijuana or prescription drugs case, the defense may want to hire a toxicologist to discuss the levels of drugs present and how they would interact. Typically, the state will have the GBI toxicologist testify, and they always tend to say that the drugs were impairing you. Having an expert of our own to contradict the GBI toxicologist is much more persuasive than trying to get concessions during cross-examination of the state’s witness.
For more information on DUI Drugs Defense In Georgia, call or text (470) 728-1725 to speak with attorney Carl Chapman.
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