Can Drugs Elevate a DUI Charge?
By: The Wagner Law Firm
Drugs and DUIs
The answer to the question, “can drugs elevate a DUI” is (usually) no. Drugs can lead to a DUI charge, but drugs and alcohol combined won’t get you a “double DUI.” What drugs CAN do is ADD to your existing DUI charge especially if you are in possession and/or under the influence of illegal substances.
In West Virginia, drugs are treated the same across the board in most cases, but consecutive charges can quickly add up to a felony offense. There are no set limits to the amount of narcotics in the blood stream at the time of arrest – there only needs to be a “trace amount” of drugs in the system. If you have ingested a small amount of illegal drugs, law enforcement can arrest you for driving under the influence of drugs/narcotics.
If you are on prescription drugs, a doctor will need to confirm the prescribed amount and compare it with the amount in your bloodstream to determine whether you simply took too much or were purposefully using the drug recreationally.
Punishment for Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
If you are convicted of a DUI for drugs, you could face:
- Up to six months in jail
- A maximum fine of $500
- Loss of driver’s license for up to six months
In some cases, you may be able to avoid jail time through a conditional discharge. This option is usually only available to first offenders and it allows you to get probation instead of jailtime. You can be released from probation six months later as long as you avoid an additional drug charge during the probation period.
West Virginia courts double the maximum sentence for subsequent convictions, which means repeat offenders face increasingly harsh consequences for illegal drug use/possession. Keep in mind that possession and distribution are two different crimes, and the legal consequences are treated as such. If you are convicted for distribution of an illegal substance, you could face serious penalties.
Why Driving Under the Influence of Drugs Is a Serious Offense
Most people understand why driving drunk is hazardous: impaired vision, reaction time, and judgement make for reckless driving. However, you might not be as familiar with the risks of driving under the influence of drugs.
For starters, drugs affect the brain differently than alcohol. For example, drivers under the influence of methamphetamine or cocaine tend to drive aggressively and recklessly whereas downer drugs like marijuana and some prescription drugs dramatically slow the driver’s reaction time.
Avoiding a Drug-Related DUI
The best way to avoid a drug-related DUI is to avoid driving under the influence.
Make sure you:
- Have a designated driver
- Give the car keys to the DD
- Get a ride to and from parties/bars
In general, it’s best to avoid illegal drug use altogether, but it’s critical that you avoid driving under the influence.