Drug DUI Charges in Washington, DC
Alcohol is not the only substance that can lead to DUI charges in Washington, DC. Below a DC Drug DUI Lawyer discusses what you should know regarding DUID cases including how they are investigated and what makes them different from alcohol related DUI charges.
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Investigation of DUI Drug Charges
The investigation for a DUI drug case is almost the same except that the police officer has to be trained to conduct what’s called a DRE investigation, or a DUI drug investigation. The testing is similar and the reason that someone gets pulled over is typically the same. There are a variety of reasons that police officers will pull you over and those are pretty much the same whether someone is doing a DUI alcohol or DUI drug investigation.
The officer doing the investigation is seeking to determine whether or not there is probable cause that you are driving under the influence of any sort of drug, whether it be some sort of controlled substance or prescribed drug.
It does not matter if you are impaired by over the counter medication, prescription drugs, or illicit controlled substances. If you are driving under the influence of a drug, then it does not matter whether it is prescribed or not, even if it is over the counter.
I have represented clients accused of driving under the influence of various over the counter medications or prescription medications such as Ambien, or driving under the influence of controlled substances such as cocaine, methamphetamine, or PCP. There’s a wide variety of substance that can potentially trigger a DUI arrest for drugs.
DC Police Investigations Into Drug DUIs
Most of the DUI drug investigation is relatively similar to a DUI alcohol investigation. One difference is that an officer will look for what is called vertical nystagmus and that will usually trigger them to look for more indicators of DUI drugs.
Nystagmus is the involuntary shaking of your eye. An officer doing the investigation will look for indicators of your eyes moving side to side, and if they are shaking when they are moving side to side. That is called horizontal nystagmus and that can be an indicator under certain circumstances that someone is driving under the influence of alcohol. They will also have you move your eyes up and down. If there’s a nystagmus going vertically, that can indicate the presence of drugs.
The other indicators don’t necessarily specify or indicate that drugs are involved, but that’s why officers will often check for smell of certain drugs inside the car. They will also check for pupil dilation, which can indicate presence of drugs. Additionally, pupils being excessively closed can be indicative of presence of drugs. In general, DUI drug investigations are somewhat more dependent on looking for outside indicators, such as drug paraphernalia in a person’s car.
DC Drug DUI Enforcement
Officers take DUI drug cases as seriously as they do DUI alcohol cases. But officers are concerned with DUI drug cases, because they believe that when people are arrested and they’re under the influence of drugs, they tend to act more erratically and that can pose a problem for officers.
Drug Tests in DC Drug DUIs
If a driver is suspected of DUI under the influence of some sort of drugs, typically they will be given a urine and/or a blood test. Blood tests are much more accurate than urine tests in detecting the presence of either over the counter prescriptions or controlled substances in your blood. A urine test is much less accurate and it’s typically not conducted in the proper way.
In Washington, D.C., a person will be taken to a hospital and given a blood test. There are some police departments outside of D.C. that will have someone on staff who will extract the blood.
For a blood test, it usually takes weeks to months to get that result back. The urine test is done at the police station in Washington, D.C. and again that typically takes between several weeks to even up to several months to get the result.
Will These Tests Catch Over the Counter Medication?
In my experience, I have seen drug tests pick up prescription drugs such as Ambien, and controlled substances such as PCP, cocaine, or heroin, and some methamphetamine.
Theoretically they can pick up some of the components of allergy medications, but most commonly, they will get a positive result for opiate and that can be due to a prescription for some sort of either very low level painkiller or an antidepressant. These prescriptions could sometimes give a false positive for opiate.
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