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Everything to Know About DUI of Drugs

When people hear about DUI, many automatically assume that the driver was under the influence of alcohol. However, a significant percentage of drivers involved in DUI accidents test positive for drugs as well. Let’s discuss how drugged driving is detected, charged and how you may be able to fight these complex charges.

What Drugs Cause Drugged Driving?

As you likely expect, driving under the influence of illegal drugs is a crime.

This includes:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • LSD
  • Heroin

What may surprise you, though, is that fully legal and safe drugs may also warrant DUI charges. Some prescription drugs have side effects or interactions that may affect your driving ability. If the police find prescription drugs in your car during a search, they may pursue DUI charges.

Additionally, some over-the-counter medicines contain alcohol. Check the label on your liquid cold and flu medicine. Some popular brands have an alcohol percentage of up to 10%. Breathalyzer machines can’t distinguish between recreational drinking alcohol and the alcohol in your medicine; your BAC may be surprisingly high after taking cold medicine.

How Do The Police Detect Drugged Driving?

The initial things police look for to spot a drugged driver are almost the same as what they would look for for a drunk driver.

Common signs include:

  • Erratic driving behaviors
  • Slurred speech
  • Appearing disoriented or unable to communicate normally

Some distinct differences which may lead police to believe the driver is under the influence of drugs other than alcohol include pupil size or other eye irregularities, as well as the scent of marijuana coming from the vehicle.


In many cases, during DUI stops the officer will request that the driver takes a breath test for a blood alcohol concentration score. However, for DUI of drugs cases, this test won’t produce the needed evidence. You may be wondering, what do they do instead?

Evidence for DUI of Drugs Cases

If the police believe that the driver is under the influence but did not test positive for alcohol, they will likely request that the driver participates in further testing in the form of field sobriety tests. These tests are highly debated among legal and law enforcement professionals because of their subjective nature.

During these tests, participants must perform physical tasks under the observation of an officer. Inability to perform the tests up to the officer’s standards may result in the officer failing the driver and charging them with DUI.

This is important: field sobriety tests are optional and you are never obligated to take them. Even if you have had nothing to drink and taken no drugs, we still recommend refusing to participate.

While breath tests don’t pick up on drugs in one’s body, blood and urine tests can. Under implied consent laws, you are required to give samples for these tests if asked by the police. If your samples come back positive for drugs, you could be charged. While blood and urine tests are regarded as being very accurate, there are still ways to prove this evidence is invalid.

Legal Defenses for Drugged Driving

There are a number of ways you and your attorney may choose to go forward with your drugged driving defense. While these are a few examples, your case has unique circumstances that will factor into your defense.

  • Test error: blood and urine tests that are incorrectly handled and/or stored may be altered or contaminated, leading to incorrect results.
  • Not impaired: if your charges are for legal drugs, your defense may be able to argue that your medication did not actually have any effect on your driving and therefore you should not be facing charges.
  • Improper test administration: if you participated in field sobriety tests, you may be able to prove that the officer at the scene either was not properly trained on how to administer the tests or did so incorrectly, which affected your ability to pass.
  • Illegal stop: you may be able to point back to the very start of your interaction with the police and prove they did not have probable cause to stop your vehicle.

Virginia Beach DUI of Drugs Defense

If you’ve been charged with drugged driving in Virginia, contact Tillotson & Martin, LLC. These cases require extensive knowledge not only of DUI laws, but the science behind a drugged driving charge. Our defense attorneys have what it takes to provide quality legal defense for individuals charged with DUI of drugs. Call us at (757) 568-7978 or fill out our online consultation request form to get started.