Driving drunk is a crime called a DUI. “DUI” is an acronym for “driving under the influence.” While any impaired driving could be charged as a DUI, driving under the influence of narcotics is a separate crime in West Virginia. Sometimes called DUID (“driving under the influence of drugs”), these offenses are charged and sentenced differently from an alcohol-induced, DUI crime. The main differences between the two charges are the evidence needed to make an arrest and how each crime is punished.
A DUI is far easier to charge than a DUID. For example, blood alcohol content (BAC) is much easier to test than the level of narcotics in your system. If the police draw your blood, lab tests can easily determine how much alcohol is floating in your bloodstream. You also don’t need a large BAC to be charged with a DUI. It takes a BAC of only 0.08% – 0.149% for the police to make an arrest. Additionally, intravenous blood tests aren’t the only methods authorities can use to determine BAC. Although breathalyzer results are often controversial, police can use them to make an estimate of your BAC and then use those results against you in an arrest.
Narcotics are more difficult to detect. Police can use thin evidence like the “smell of alcohol” as probable cause in a DUI, but many illegal drugs aren’t noticeable through smell alone. Police may have to base your arrest on your behavior alone. With no other physical evidence, it may be difficult for them to make this charge stick. If an arrest does go far enough for them to draw blood, only trace amounts of the drug need be present for them to charge you. While this may seem harsher than a concrete BAC, it is still more difficult for police to justify a blood draw.
Driving under the influence of prescription drugs complicates the process even further. First off, police have to determine if the drug was, in fact, illegal. Prescription drugs become illegal when they are obtained through fraud or if they are purchased illegally. Authorities will have a hard time tracing the origins of the drug to determine whether or not it is legitimate.
If the prescription is legitimate, meaning it was prescribed and purchased legally, then the police must determine if you took an incorrect amount. They would need to know what your dosage was meant to be and how much you took. This would be difficult for them to test, and a charge would ultimately come down to your word vs. theirs. From there, they would have to determine if you should have been driving while on the prescription, even if you took the correct amount. Finally, they may have to consider your individual, adverse reaction to the drug. There are drugs that shouldn’t impair you, but you may have an odd reaction to them. Ultimately, police will have a hard time charging you of a DUID when you are on legitimate, prescription drugs. They may have to abandon the charge altogether or attempt to alter it to a reckless driving charge.
In West Virginia, penalties are the same for a first offense DUI and DUID charge. Offenders can be sent to jail for up to six months, and they may have fines between $100 – $500. Each charge can come with license suspensions. Once someone becomes a repeat offender, the two penalties start to diverge.
DUI penalties climb as people are charged multiple times. A second offense can land someone in jail for a year with fines of up to $1,000. Further charges count as felonies, and they can involve prison time. Cars can be impounded, or they can have ignition interlock devices (IIDs) installed. Suspensions can last for months or even years after the convict is released.
This is not so with a DUID. You could have your car impounded for longer periods of time, but charges are not ramped up to a felony level. Instead of imposing harsher sentences, the state views multiple offenders as people who need treatment. Charged with multiple DUIDs, you may be ordered to commit to drug rehab services and DUI education courses.
If you’ve been accused of driving under the influence of any substance, contact The Wagner Law Firm now. With decades of experience, Attorney Harley Wagner can help fight your charge in court. Free consultations are available, so call (304) 461-6000 or contact the firm online.