The Difference between an Alcohol DUI and Drug DUI
Driving Under the Influence, or DUI, usually relates to an offender operating a vehicle with under the influence of alcohol. Although this is the most common occurrence, there is a long list of substances, both legal and illegal, that can result in impaired driving abilities and Driving Under the Influence charges. Using drugs, whether they are prescribed or illegal, and driving is just as illegal in the eyes of the law as drinking and driving – a doctor’s prescription cannot protect you from a controlled substance DUI charge.
The effects of alcohol on our ability to drive are well known, but not many people understand the effects that different drugs have on our ability to operate a car. While all drugs will affect all people in different ways, they will most often cause the following effects:
- Impaired judgment
- Lack of concentration
- Lack of alertness
- Slowing of reflexes
- Loss of motor skills
All of the effects listed above influence how we drive, which is why law enforcement and the court system see driving under the influence of drugs just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than driving under the influence of alcohol and as such, carry the same consequences.
How Does Law Enforcement Measure Drug Impairment?
When it comes to measuring alcohol impairment, law enforcement often, if not always, uses Blood Alcohol Content or BAC to measure the amount of alcohol in an individual’s system. Driving with a BAC over a certain level – which is usually 0.08 percent or more – is considered to be illegal in all 50 states. Alcohol is rapidly flushed from the body’s systems, so measuring a driver’s BAC at the time of a traffic stop is relatively simple and effective considering the accuracy of using a Breathalyzer.
Measuring a driver’s impairment from drugs is not as simple – an example of this is marijuana. The psychoactive component of marijuana, or THC, can be detected in an individual’s urine and bloodstream for a period of up to four or five weeks after it has been used. This means that law enforcement has a harder time determining actual impairment when the individual has been pulled over. Currently, many states are training Drug Recognition Experts or DREs in order to better evaluate impairment from drugs.
Do DUIs for Drugs have the Same Penalties as DUIs for Alcohol?
In many cases, Driving Under the Influence, whether it is the influence of drugs or alcohol, carries the same penalties for the offender if they are convicted. The charge generally isn’t what you consumed but the fact that you were operating a vehicle while under the influence of a substance. The only difference between drug DUI charges and alcohol DUI charges is that if you are pulled over, arrested and convicted of a drug DUI charge, you may face additional charges depending on what type of drug was being used.
What Penalties will I Face if Convicted of a Drug DUI?
The penalties that come with being convicted of a DUI drug charge are generally the same as those you would face for being convicted of a DUI alcohol charge. Some of the common penalties include:
- Jail time
- License suspension or revocation
- Enrollment in drug/alcohol education classes
- Requirement to use an Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
- Vehicle confiscation
Depending on which state you receive your DUI conviction in and how many prior offenses you have, these penalties can range from mildly to very severe. It is also important to note that additional circumstances surrounding the arrest may also play a role in the consequences you face. If you are also charged with resisting arrest, refuse to take a Breathalyzer test or have a very high Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), chances are you will face harsher penalties and possibly some additional penalties.
Will I Lose my License if I am Convicted of a DUI Drug Charge?
In most DUI cases, the offender’s license is suspended for some period. Usually, the license suspension occurs after the individual has been convicted of the crime and the period of suspension varies from one state to the next. It will also be dependent on the number of prior DUI convictions on the individuals record. Should the offender refuse a Breathalyzer or blood test after being pulled over and arrested, their license is generally suspended right away, even before the trial begins.
As mentioned, each state has different suspension periods for DUI convictions. Since these periods can vary from one state to the next, it is important to confirm with your DUI lawyer or your state to find out what the minimum license suspension period is. Here are some examples of license suspension periods for first time DUI offenders:
- Arkansas – 120 Day License Suspension
- Florida – 6 Month License Suspension
- Idaho – 90 Day License Suspension
- Louisiana – 90 Day License Suspension
- Mississippi – 90 Day License Suspension
- New Jersey – 3 Month License Suspension
- Oklahoma – 30 Day License Suspension
- Rhode Island – 45 Day License Suspension
- Texas – 90 Day License Suspension
- Washington – 90 Day License Suspension
Additionally, the penalties for second or third time offenders will often be harsher than first time offenders. This means that license suspension periods for DUI convictions are generally increased. Here are some examples of license suspension periods for second and third time offenders:
- Alabama: 1 Year License Suspension for 2nd Offense; 3 Year License Suspension for 3rd Offense
- Colorado: 1 Year License Suspension for 2nd and 3rd Offense
- Georgia: 3 Year License Suspension for 2nd Offense; 5 Year License Suspension for 3rd Offense
- Iowa: 1 Year License Suspension for 2nd Offense; 2 Year License Suspension for 3rd Offense
- Maryland: 120 Day License Suspension for 2nd Offense
- Missouri: 1 Year License Suspension for 2nd and 3rd Offense; Vehicle Confiscation Possible
- New Jersey: 3 Year License Suspension for 2nd Offense; 5 Year License Suspension for 3rd Offense
- Ohio: 1 Year License Suspension for 2nd and 3rd Offense; Vehicle Confiscation for 4th Offense
- Pennsylvania: 1 Year License Suspension for 2nd and 3rd Offense; Vehicle Confiscation Possible
- Tennessee: 2 Year License Suspension for 2nd Offense; 3 Year License Suspension for 3rd Offense
Will I Need to Use an Ignition Interlock Device after a First Time DUI Drug Charge?
Just like license suspension periods, needing to use an Ignition Interlock Device, or IID, after a DUI drug conviction will vary from one state to the next. Additionally, you are more likely to be required to use an IID should you already have DUI convictions on your record. Here are some examples of Ignition Interlock Requirements for first time drug DUI offenders by state:
- Alabama: Ignition Interlock Device Not Required
- Colorado: Ignition Interlock Device Required
- Georgia: Ignition Interlock Device Required
- Iowa: Ignition Interlock Device Required
- Maryland: Ignition Interlock Device Required
- Michigan: Ignition Interlock Device Not Required
- Nevada: Ignition Interlock Device Required
- New Jersey: Ignition Interlock Device Required
- Pennsylvania: Ignition Interlock Device Not Required
- Tennessee: Ignition Interlock Device Required
Second or third time DUI offenders or habitual offenders are much more likely to be required to use an IID than first time offenders. Again, the penalties for multiple time offenders are often much harsher and for a good reason – the idea behind harsher penalties is to help encourage individual’s to abstain from driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated again.
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