Virginia DUI laws apply to the use of alcohol and drugs when operating a motor vehicle. Drug DUIs include any drugs, including legal drugs, prescription drugs, and even over-the-counter medicines. Unfortunately, a driver can test positive for drugs even if the driver is completely sober.
Drugs can remain in an individual's body long after any effect of the drug has worn off. Blood tests can show traces of marijuana in a person's body days after use. Inaccurate drug test results or even eating certain foods can lead to a drug DUI for innocent drivers. If you have been charged with a drug DUI in Virginia, talk to your Virginia DUI defense attorney about your rights.
Drug DUIs in Virginia
Under Virginia Code § 18.2-266(iii), it is unlawful for any person to drive or operate a motor vehicle while such person is “under the influence of any narcotic drug or any other self-administered intoxicant or drug of whatsoever nature, or any combination of such drugs, to a degree which impairs his ability to drive or operate any motor vehicle, engine or train safely.”
Pursuant to Virginia Code § 18.2-266(v) Even if the driver is operating the vehicle safely, a driver can still face a drug DUI when testing positive for certain levels of drugs, including:
- PCP, or
This generally means that a driver with a sufficient level of those 4 illegal narcotics in a blood test can be convicted of a drug DUI, even if the driver was driving perfectly fine. If one or more of those enumerated drugs were not found at the requisite level in the driver's blood, a driver can still be convicted of a drug DUI if they were “under the influence” of a drug to a degree that impairs the driver's ability to safely drive.
“Under the Influence” of Drugs and Driving in Virginia
To show a driver was “under the influence,” of drugs to a degree which impairs the ability to drive safely, the prosecutor generally relies on a combination of the arresting officer's testimony and report, and a drug test.
The drug test results generally involve analyzing a blood test taken after the driver was arrested. These blood tests can show the results for a number of drugs, including illegal narcotics, prescription drugs, and other substances which could impair a driver.
The police officer could also provide evidence that:
- The driver had drugs in their possession,
- There was the smell of drugs (like marijuana) on the driver,
- Drugs were found in the car,
- There was drug paraphernalia in the vehicle,
- The driver was in the process of taking drugs or some other substance, or
- The driver admitted to taking drugs.
Police Officer Drug Detection
Police officers and law enforcement are generally trained in drug and alcohol detection for drivers. In addition to physical evidence of drugs and the smell of drugs, the officer will look for physical signs from the driver, including:
- Slurred speech,
- Bloodshot eyes,
- Pinpoint pupils,
- Non-reactive pupils,
- Tremors or shaking,
- Twitching or scratching, and
- Impaired coordination.
The police may see these signs or symptoms just from looking at or talking to the driver. The officer may also ask the driver to submit to field sobriety tests. These tests are supposed to help the officer determine whether the driver may be impaired. However, these tests are not mandatory and drivers can refuse to submit to field sobriety tests when pulled over in Virginia.
Chemical Testing for Drug Use in Virginia
After a driver is arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, the driver may have to provide a chemical blood sample. A breath sample only tests for alcohol while a blood test can look for alcohol, drugs, and other substances.
A blood test after a DUI is mandatory under Virginia's “implied consent” laws provided certain requirements are met. Presuming the requirements of implied consent are met, refusing to give a blood sample after a DUI arrest in Virginia will result in penalties including a suspension of the driver's license. A first offense is a civil offense and will result in a suspended license for one year. A second refusal could result in criminal penalties and loss of license for 3 years.
False Positive Tests for Drug Use in DUIs
Blood tests are not 100% accurate. There are a number of reasons why a blood test could come back positive even if the individual has never taken drugs. A positive blood test could be caused by human error, intentional tampering, medical causes, or even eating certain foods. Certain medications or foods can result in a positive blood test, including:
- Diet pills,
- Allergy medication,
- Over-the-counter pain medication,
- Nasal decongestants,
- Hemp food products, or
- Poppy seeds.
If the person taking the blood sample has not followed the proper safety and policy procedures, the sample could be contaminated or mixed up. In some cases, lab employees or others have intentionally misrepresented blood samples that show a positive drug test for innocent people.
Drivers can get a drug DUI for using marijuana in Virginia. Even if the driver has a valid medical reason for taking marijuana or cannabis, the driver can still face a drug DUI if the officer suspects the driver is impaired by marijuana or some other drug. If the driver is in possession of marijuana at the time of the DUI arrest, the driver may also face drug possession charges.
Prescription Drug DUIs
Drivers are often shocked to find out they can be arrested for a drug DUI because they were taking a prescribed medication by a doctor. Many prescription drugs have the potential to impair a driver's ability to safely operate a vehicle. Unfortunately, many individuals are unaware that their prescription drugs can impair their driving and lead to a DUI arrest.
Charlottesville Drug DUI Defense Attorney
Drivers who do not feel impaired can face a DUI arrest if the officer suspects the driver is under the influence of some unnamed drug. Faulty drug tests can also come back positive for innocent drivers. If you were arrested for a drug DUI in Virginia, talk to an experienced Charlottesville drug DUI defense attorney about your case and how to keep your record clear. Contact attorney Thomas M. Wilson today for a free consultation.