What Is It Like to Be Stopped for Drugged Driving?

Illinois defense attorney, Illinois criminal lawyer, Cook County defense lawyerDrugged driving is a growing problem. With the recent legalization of marijuana in a few states, and widespread acceptance in many others, law enforcement officials across the  country report an alarming increase in the number of drivers caught driving while high. Marijuana is not the only culprit, either. Authorities nationwide are being trained to identify when a driver is under the influence of any illegal narcotic or prescription drug that could cause impairment, and for good reason. According to recent studies, 20 percent of weekend, nighttime drivers are under the influence of some type of drug. The police use a number of tactics, including impairment tests and blood work, to determine if a driver is guilty of drugged driving. What is it like getting pulled over and being suspected of driving while on drugs?

In response to the growing problem, police departments across the country are training their officers to recognize and handle drugged drivers. Many officers are receiving specialty training to become DREs, which stands for drug recognition expert. The training is extensive, and includes over 100 hours of education. The officers are taught to identify signs that may indicate the driver is intoxicated due to a drug. Signs include unusual pupil activity, such as twitching, dilating or pulsing, strange tongue coloration, flecks of powder in or around the nostrils, and high pulse rate, to name just a few. Different drugs have different telltale signs. An officer may be able to identify which type of drug the driver is using at the scene, but further tests are often necessary once the driver is brought into custody.

A Typical Drugged Driving Stop

An officer notices a vehicle being operated erratically, and pulls the driver over. If impairment is suspected, the driver is given a field sobriety test. This is the standard roadside impairment test. The driver may be asked to walk in a straight line, or stand on one leg. If the driver fails, they are arrested for driving while intoxicated. If a breathalyzer test is administered and the results show no alcohol, the officer will begin testing for illegal or prescription drugs that may be impairing the driver. Typically, the officer will either have a drug testing kit with them, or call for back up to bring one. This kit includes a thermometer, a blood pressure meter, a stethoscope, and a “pupilometer,” a tool that helps officers determine if a suspect’s pupils indicate drug use.

Through this testing, an officer should be able to identify which substance the driver has ingested, be it an illegal drug or prescription medication that has impairing effects. From there, further testing, including urine testing and blood work is available if necessary. In Illinois, refusal to take these tests can lead to further consequences for the driver. Authorities say these tests help them arrest dangerous drivers, and also help rule out drivers who are not impaired at all, but may seem like they are under the influence.

Drugged Driving Consequences

The state of Illinois handles cases of drugged driving very seriously, and consequences are severe. Even a first time offender could face license suspension, lofty fines, and other penalties. Second and third time offenders should expect even higher fines, loss of licenses for extended periods of time, and potential imprisonment. Any trace of an illegal drug found in a driver’s system could be reason to press charges, even if the user ingested the drug hours or days before driving. Marijuana, for example, can be detected in the body for up to a month after ingesting, and a driver could potentially face drugged driving charges even if they ingested the drug long before driving.

If you are facing charges related to driving while under the influence, be it due to drugs or alcohol, you need the help of a qualified Chicago area criminal defense attorney. Attorney Hal M. Garfinkel and his team has successfully defended numerous clients facing DUI charges, and we are here to help you today. Call 312-270-0999 to schedule your free consultation with us today to review your legal options.

 

Sources:

http://norml.org/legal/item/illinois-drugged-driving

http://www.courant.com/community/manchester/hc-ct-drugged-driving-0912-20150911-story.html

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