Memphis Drug DUI
When it comes to DUIs, most people associate them with excessive drinking. That is often the focus since it appears more people drink than experiment with drugs.
However, a drug DUI is not a remote possibility. Drug DUIs cover illegal substances like marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines but many forget that prescribed opiates, sleep aids, and even that codeine cough syrup can also impair. This opens new possibilities for people who would not drink in excess but require prescription medication.
Drug DUIs are approached differently and come with their own challenges. Here are common inquiries we receive about them.
How is a drug DUI different from an alcohol-related one?
Drugged driving covers any substance that produces stimulating effects on the nervous system. This broad standard increases the risk of drug DUI charges but circumstances make them difficult to prove.
First, there is no evidentiary standard for determining impairment. Alcohol is subject to BAC levels but there is no reliable baseline test for substances. Any substance present in your system amounts to a drug DUI. Since many drugs stay in your system weeks or months after use, it is nearly impossible to use that evidence to show impairment at the time of your arrest.
Second, you can receive a drug DUI even if the impairing drug was one prescribed by your doctor and you use it appropriately. While there is no legitimate reason to drink excessively and drive, there are medically sound circumstances surrounding drug DUIs. Unfortunately, if you are prescribed enough to drive impaired, you can still face charges—even if your reasons are legal. While overdrinking is often voluntary, many patients do not realize the impairing effects of their prescriptions which makes a drug DUI a very frightening possibility.
What are the possible penalties?
No matter the impairing substance, the penalties are the same. They depend on your previous record:
- First Offense. A fine ranging from $350 to $1,500 and a driver’s license suspension up to one year.
- Second Offense within 10 years. Fines range from $600 to $3,500 and a prison sentence up to 45 days is possible. Any time in prison will not exceed 12 months. License suspension increases to up to two years and courts may require mandatory participation in a drug rehabilitation program.
- Third Offense within 10 years. Fines range from $1,100 to $10,000 and prison sentences fall between 120 days and 11 months and 29 days. If the court orders a driver’s license suspension, that will last between three and 10 years.
- Additional offenses: If you offend beyond three times, you face a fine of $3,000 to $15,000 and a felony conviction with imprisonment of at least 150 days. License suspension lasts at least five years.
There are also enhancement penalties in drug DUIs. If you had a child under 18 years of age in your car at the time, you face a mandatory minimum of 30 days and a minimum fine of $1,000.
How do you defend drug DUIs?
The good news is, there are many approaches to defending drug DUIs. Your unique circumstances may present other options and none of these strategies is guaranteed to succeed with your case. Each case must be considered individually since the facts of these charges are as diverse as the individuals who face them.
One approach deals with evidence. As mentioned above, it is nearly impossible to prove impairment at the time of driving. A blood or urine test shows results from days to months ago, especially with THC products that stay in the system. Determining impairment depends on subjective circumstances that can be called into question.
This is true even if the arresting officer was a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). The training involved in that program is more involved but still requires subjective judgment when evaluating a suspect. If the arresting officer was not a DRE, then the time lag between arrest and calling in a DRE will affect impressions regarding impairment. This calls the evidence into further question.
Other grounds for challenging drug DUIs include illegal traffic stops, errors during arrest or mishandling at a sobriety checkpoint. If you were targeted unfairly at a checkpoint or if the checkpoint was inappropriate, your charges may be dismissed.
What should I do if I am facing charges?
If you require prescription medication, be aware of the side effects. When starting a new medication, avoid driving for a few days until you see how it affects you.
Tennessee has an implied consent law that states all drivers already consent to tests for determining BAC or drug content in blood or urine. While it risks worse penalties, you can refuse these tests and officers cannot force you to take them. This decision reduces the evidence against you and makes it hard for charges to stick—especially if you showed few signs of impairment.
Contact an Experienced Drug DUI Lawyer in Memphis
If you already faced arrest and charges, you need to hire an attorney as soon as possible. The penalties for drug DUIs are burdensome and the last thing you need is a one-year license suspension for merely keeping current on a prescription. Whether legal or illegal drugs lead to alleged intoxication, we can examine your case and find the best defense if you contact us in time.