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Can I Be Charged with a Drug DWI If I Used Drugs Before Driving, But Was Not Intoxicated?

On behalf of Randall & Stump, PLLC in Drug Charges, Drug Crimes, Drug Offenses, DUI/DWI, DWI on Tuesday, February 5, 2019

 

If you mention driving under the influence (DUI) charges, most people assume that you’re talking about drunk driving. Keep in mind, however, that the specific charge in North Carolina charges is referred to as “driving while impaired” (DWI). As a result, you can be charged with DWI for being under the influence of drugs, as well as alcohol.

If you’ve been charged with a drug related DWI, the case against you may not be as simple as the police and the prosecutors would have you believe. An experienced Charlotte DWI defense attorney can help you understand your options and fight for you to obtain a fair result. To schedule a free consultation of your case, contact us today at (980) 237-4579.

How North Carolina DWI Laws Apply to Drugs

North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) § 20-138.1 defines impaired driving as follows:

  • Driving with a BAC of .08 or higher
  • Driving while under the influence of an impairing substance
  • Driving with any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance in your system

Driving While Under the Influence of a Schedule I Controlled Substance

In North Carolina, drug penalties are determined by the drug involved, which are organized by a Schedule. Schedule I drugs are categorized as the most dangerous, as they are considered to have a high potential for abuse with no accepted medical use. Schedule I drugs in North Carolina include:

  • Heroin
  • Peyote
  • GHB
  • Ecstasy

North Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy for driving while under the influence of a Schedule I illegal substance. As a result, any amount of a Schedule I drug in your system is reason enough to charge you with a drug related DWI.

Impairing Substances and NC DWIs

You can be charged with a drug related DWI if an officer believes that you were driving while under the influence of an impairing substance. This is broader than a Schedule I drug DWI, and can be charged in a variety of situations. If you were alleged to be under the influence of marijuana, for example, this provision of the law is what would enable law enforcement to charge you with a drug DWI. Because the law is so broad, driving while taking prescription drugs can also lead to a drug related DWI.

Determining Impairment

Once an officer has pulled you over, they must make a determination that you are actually impaired. This is challenging in a drug related DWI case, because there is no breathalyzer test that can confirm the officer’s observations. The arresting officer will look for signs of drug-related impairment, such as:

  • Slurred speech
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Inability to follow directions
  • Disheveled appearance
  • Watery, bloodshot eyes
  • Staggering, swaying, or stumbling while walking.

If they believe you to be impaired, the arresting officer will then call a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) to the scene. The DRE is a police officer specially trained to identify drug impairment. They will subject you to a series of tests and observations to determine whether you are under the influence of drugs.

You May Have Been Charged, But Will You Be Convicted?

Whether you can be charged with a drug related DWI if you had taken a drug but weren’t impaired is a complicated question. If the officer had reason to pull you over and had observed signs of impairment, then they may have a basis to charge you with a driving while impaired (DWI). However, drugs can remain in your system for weeks, and drug related DWI charges rely heavily on subjective observations of the arresting officer. As a result, this type of offense can be much harder for the prosecution to prove than an alcohol-related DWI. Just because you’ve been charged does not mean you’ll be convicted.

Contact a Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorney for Help

If you’re facing charges for a drug DWI, the attorneys at Randall & Stump, PLLC can help. We work with clients in the Charlotte area, and we have the skill and experience necessary to fight for you. Call us today at (980) 237-4579, or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.