Most people understand that it is unlawful to get behind the wheel of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. However, few drivers have a thorough understanding of what can get them in trouble in the eyes of the law when it comes to drugs.
In Maryland, any substance that has the potential to impact your ability to drive is considered a drug, whether it is an over-the-counter medication, a prescription, or an illegal substance. This is a broad definition that gives law enforcement a great deal of leeway when charging someone. Unfortunately, this also means that some of the arrests for driving under the influence of drugs could be unwarranted.
DUI Charges in Maryland Involving Drugs
Maryland’s Transportation Article 21902 provides for about five different types of DUI charges, three of them involving alcohol and the other two involving drugs. An offense under 21-902(C) involves driving while impaired by alcohol and a controlled substance, such as a prescription drug.
If you are taking a prescription, such as Xanax, and combine it with alcohol, this could quickly impair your ability to drive. You don’t have to have a 0.08 BAC to be charged for DUI in this case. It is more about your level of impairment individually, so this is subjective at best.
An offense under 21-902(D) is for a controlled substance that is not prescribed to you such as cocaine, heroin, or marijuana. In addition to a DUI charge, you are also likely to get a drug possession charge.
How Officers Will Charge a Drug DWI
In these cases, the officer must have a sufficient cause for pulling you over in the first place. This means that you were driving poorly or otherwise failing to follow the rules of the road. Assuming there was a valid reason to stop you, the officer must also have a good reason for suspicion that you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A cloud of marijuana smoke or strong smell are telltale signs, as are empty pill bottles or white powder residue on the center console.
While you don’t have to agree to a field sobriety test during the initial police stop in Maryland, this is an implied consent state. This means that when you applied for your driver’s license, you implicitly agreed to a chemical (breath, blood, or urine) test upon arrest for DUI. If you refuse the chemical test, you will face additional consequences.
One of the most common reasons that a person is charged with driving under the influence of drugs is the suspicion of impaired driving followed by a breath test at the police station that comes back with a 0.00 result, showing no alcohol in their system. This and the presence of drugs or drug paraphernalia in the vehicle at the time of arrest are used as evidence in a drug DUI charge.
What to Expect with a Drug DUI Case
The process for a drug DUI is much the same as an alcohol DUI case. You will have an initial court date and will also have the right to a jury trial if you wish.
One of the major differences with a drug DUI case is that there will not be an immediate license suspension upon arrest unless you refuse the chemical test. Even if the test comes back positive for drugs, there won’t be license consequences like there are with alcohol.
Defending Your Drug DUI Case
Just because you get to hold onto your license for the short term does not mean you aren’t in legal jeopardy because of a drug-related DUI arrest. These are still serious charges. Fortunately, defending a drug DUI case can be easier than an alcohol case. There might be issues with the traffic stop by the police, an illegal search and seizure, and inconclusive testing.
Whether you were accused of driving under the influence of legal or illicit drugs, your criminal defense attorney may also be able to fight the case based on the level of impairment. This is a subjective matter, particularly if you were pulled over for an equipment violation instead of bad driving. If you are facing DUI charges for drugs in Maryland, this isn’t something that you should attempt to handle on your own. A DUI conviction has severe and lasting consequences that you want to avoid at all costs. At Grabo Law, LLC, our goal is to shield you from these harsh penalties that threaten your future and liberty. Contact our Rockville office now at (301) 938-7652 to schedule your free initial consultation.