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Can I get a DUI for driving while high?

by | Mar 27, 2020 | Criminal defense |

You already know the serious dangers of drinking and driving. Not only can you risk a severe accident, you can face stiff penalties. DUIs can mean jail time, fines, loss of driving privileges and a criminal record. But can courts convict you for more than just alcohol?

In Virginia, DUIs can be for anything that impairs the ability to drive. While most people connect them with alcohol, other substances like marijuana can also lead to charges. But how do courts determine impairment?

More than one substance can impair drivers

Under Virginia law, multiple factors can lead to a DUI. Most people may be familiar with the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) being 0.08. But drivers can also face charges for impairment from self-administered narcotics. If the police have enough evidence to prove that the influence of the drugs affected driving ability, they will arrest the driver for a DUI.

What evidence can convict drivers?

However, determining intoxication for marijuana is not as simple as alcohol. While the law has a specific rule for BAC, there is no minimum or maximum level of marijuana allowed. Instead, the court will consider evidence based on other factors. Police may testify that the driver was swerving or driving erratically. They may use a field sobriety test to determine impairment. If there was a smell of marijuana in the car, that could be used against a person.

DUI penalties can be stiff

Driving while high can mean the same level of penalties as a DUI charge for alcohol. Drivers can face a minimum fine of $250 and a license suspension for up to a year. They may also need to install ignition interlock devices in their cars. These machines measure alcohol on the driver’s breath. Subsequent DUI convictions can also mean jail time.

Just because police can’t measure the exact level of intoxication for marijuana does not mean drivers can’t face convictions and punishments.