Criminal Offense of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

Criminal Offense of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

The criminal offense of driving under the influence of drugs is similar to the criminal offense of driving while under the influence of alcohol. The crime of driving under the influence of drugs is codified and defined in the same statute as drunk driving in most states. The elements of driving under the influence of drugs are also virtually identical to the elements for drunk driving.

To convict a defendant for driving under the influence of drugs, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant was driving or in physical control of a vehicle in a prohibited place while under the influence of a drug or combination of drugs. The definition of what is a drug is very broad and includes any substance that can affect a person’s mental or physical capacities to the extent that driving may be affected. A conviction requires that the defendant was under the influence of a drug or drugs, but the prosecution is not required to prove any of the elements of possession of the drug. Further, in most states that prosecution does not have to show evidence of unsafe or erratic driving.

The prosecution is not required to show that the defendant was aware that he or she was under the influence of drugs at the time of driving or that the defendant intended to drive while under the influence of drugs. However, some courts have required a limited knowledge element if the drugs at issue were medically prescribed. Therefore, impairment by prescription drugs may be a defense in some situations.

The defense used in many actions for driving under the influence of drugs challenge the admissibility of drug use or impairment on grounds that the evidence is unreliable, that the officer testifying is not an expert in drug recognition, or that the evidence of low drug concentration is irrelevant and prejudicial. If you are charged with the criminal offense of driving under the influence of drugs you should immediately contact an experienced criminal law attorney. An experienced attorney can advise you on how to proceed in order to best protect your legal rights.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.