Don’t Get Caught Driving Under The Influence of Drugs (illegal OR prescription)

prescription drugsDriving under the influence of alcohol is one of the most well publicized crimes in the Commonwealth of Virginia and around the country. However, DUIs or DWIs with alcohol are only part of the story when it comes to driving while intoxicated. The Code of Virginia prohibits not only driving under the influence of alcohol but also drugs. This can include illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine and also prescription drugs. According to one National Highway Safety Administration Study, more than 16% of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for at least one illicit, prescription or over the counter drug.

Drug Blood Test Procedures

Virginia Code § 18.2-266 criminalizes driving while under the influence of drugs. In order to prove what’s commonly referred to as a DUI-D, the police are required in most cases to get a blood test from a driver they suspect of being impaired. The implied consent law applies to DUI-D cases as well as alcohol cases. If an officer has probable cause to suspect a driver is under the influence of drugs, then they can require a driver to submit to a blood test instead of a breath test. This blood test must be done under the strict guidelines set forth in § 18.2-268.5 of the Code of Virginia.

Once an officer has probable cause to believe a person is operating a motor vehicle under the influence of controlled substances, he or she must use a properly trained registered nurse, phlebotomist or other person deemed suitable by the Court to take the person’s blood. In addition, this person must use a blood draw kit approved by the Department of Forensic Science (DFS). Once the blood is drawn, it must be sent to DFS for testing, and retained for 90 days. In addition, a person whose blood was drawn under implied consent has the right to have the blood independently tested.

Drug Legal Limits

Just as with alcohol, some drugs have “legal limits.” This includes most illegal narcotics such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstacy (MDMA). Prescription drugs do not have legal limits. A common misconception is that if you have a valid prescription you cannot be prosecuted for driving under the influence. If the level is impairing, or it is a drug that is always impairing (like Ambien), a person can be under the influence while they are driving.

If you have an questions of what drugs can impair a driver, or have been charged with DUI-D, DWI or DUI, contact the attorneys at Winslow & McCurry at 804-423-1382.