Most every American driver has heard of a Breathalyzer test. It is a test used to measure the blood alcohol content of a driver suspected of being under the influence. However, the term under the influence can mean being impaired due to alcohol or drugs. Any substance, even over-the-counter medications that impair a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle can contribute to a DUI charge.
The Breathalyzer is often times an officer’s preferred method of proving intoxication when stopping a suspected drunk driver. However, there is not yet an equivalent to the Breathalyzer for testing drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs. The only real way to find out if a driver is under the influence of medication or illicit drugs is to run blood work at a hospital. There are drug recognition experts that are trained to identify if a person is under the influence of these things, but they are few and far between in comparison to the number of possible DUI stops, and certainly cannot be at every one of them.
The main problem facing officers, prosecutors and judges is that while there is a standard of intoxication that can be measured by a Breathalyzer, there is no such standard that can be quantified for drug impairment. The generally accepted belief is that a person is intoxicated at a BAC level of 0.08, but there is no way of assigning a level of absolute impairment for drug use. By not having an exact level of illegal drug impairment there is a lot of room to argue a DUI based on OTC medications or other drugs.
Individuals being charged with a DUI based on drug related impairment should speak to an attorney. Since there is no generally accepted level of impairment for drug use, an attorney may be able to reduce or completely eliminate charges.