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Legal Difference Between Drunk Driving and Driving While on Drugs


Published in Car Accidents,dui on April 18, 2016.

A DUI – driving under the influence – is still a DUI, no matter what “influence” you’re under. In Georgia, you’re over the legal drinking limit for driving if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) registers .08% or higher within three hours of driving – regardless of whether your driving ability was actually impaired. However, you can also get a DUI for driving while impaired as the result of taking drugs (prescription or illegal) or using inhalants.

So is there a difference between an alcohol-related driving offense and a drug-related one, from a legal standpoint? The answer is yes. Getting caught driving while on drugs can lead to more consequences than alcohol-related DUI charges. You can face community service, fines, and incarceration. In Georgia, it’s easier to get a DUID – driving under the influence of drugs – than a DUI while under the influence of alcohol.

Georgia DUI Law

Georgia is one of only 15 states in the US that abides by “per se” drugged driving laws, meaning a DUID can be issued with any detectable amount of certain drugs in a driver’s system. Georgia has a zero-tolerance policy, so the amount of drugs in a driver’s system is completely irrelevant. Any amount constitutes driving drugged, versus an alcohol-related DUI that must reach a BAC of at least .08% to qualify for DUI.

A common misconception surrounding DUIDs is that if a doctor prescribed the drugs to a driver, he or she can’t receive a DUID charge even if he or she was impaired. Prescription drugs, such as antidepressants, Valium, decongestants, sleeping pills, and antihistamines, can impair drivers to the point that it’s an offense to be caught driving – regardless of whether the driver has a prescription for the drug.

If you get caught driving under the influence of illegal drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, meth, LSD, heroin, or other narcotics, you face other repercussions besides alcohol-related DUI charges. Your license is suspended, you must take and pay for a Drug Risk Reduction Program, and you must pay for license reinstatement fees. You can also face possible jail time or other court-imposed penalties if the judge mandates it.

In the state of Georgia, police don’t need your consent to test your blood or urine for the presence of drugs. There’s an implied consent rule, and refusal to allow testing can be used against you as evidence of your impairment in court. Even if you’re in a parked car while under the influence with no intention of driving, it’s considered a DUID since you can make the vehicle move.

Depending on the narcotic used, drugs can stay in your bloodstream for a few days or several months. Because of this, officers can’t tell if you’re currently under the influence or if traces of a drug still remain in your bloodstream from previous use. In some cases, a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) is brought in to observe a suspect and testify in court about his or her behavior at the time of the offense to make this distinction.

Get Help With Your DUI or DUID

Getting caught while driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated, or driving drunk is tricky business. Hire an attorney with an expert understanding of scientific, medical, and legal concepts relating to your state’s laws. A DUI lawyer must question police officers and argue your DUI charges down, settling for a plea bargain or minimizing penalties if the case allows.

Getting into a DUI-related accident involves further implications. If you or a loved one has been involved in a DUI-related car accident in the middle Georgia area – whether you were the one under the influence or not – contact Nelson & Smith Attorneys at Law to discuss your specific case. Our firm will fight to ensure you obtain full compensation from responsible parties and protect your rights in a court of law.