Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) is a relatively new crime that was created to make drug-induced driving a separate and a more specific crime then the general “driving while intoxicated” laws.  Every state now has some form of DUID crimes on the books, but the methods of testing and punishments vary widely.

Critics of the laws say that they are unfair, because unlike alcohol sobriety tests, many DUID tests do not test for actual intoxication from drugs, but only for the presence of chemical changes (called metabolites) in the body that prove drugs have been taken at some point in the past few days.  This means that, in states that use such tests, one can use drugs on Friday, recover completely from their effects, and yet still be arrested on Monday for DUID (despite being sober at the time).  Proponents of the test, however, say that the constant threat of being arrested for driving under the influence of drugs is an efficient way to curb all drug use.

Are the Elements of DUID the Same in Every State?

No, each state creates its own laws to govern what exactly it considers to be “under the influence of drugs.”  The laws generally fall into one of three categories:

  1. Effect – Based DUID LawsThe majority of states use effect – based DUID laws, or laws that measure directly the level of impairment of the driver.   The usual wording of the legislation is that the driver must be “incapable of driving safely” because of their drug use, and this is usually demonstrated in the same ways drivers are tested for sobriety under a drunk driving test.   Taking a field sobriety test, observations from the police officer, and a positive result from a bodily fluid test will all usually be required to be convicted of a DUID in states with effect – based laws.   Generally, a positive drug test alone will not suffice; the driver must be visibly impaired, and the totality of circumstances will be taken into account to determine whether he is fit to drive.
  2. Per Se DUID LawsPer Se DUID Laws employ a fixed limit of drugs in the system that must be surpassed in order to consider someone under the influence.  The most well known per se law is probably the ones most states have against drunk driving.   In those states, a blood-alcohol limit is set (usually around 0.08%), and if a driver has more than that, he is automatically found guilty of DUI, regardless of any actual impairment or lack there of.  Unfortunately, setting such a standard for drugs is very difficult, as many of them, such as marijuana, have no stable amount that can be labeled as “intoxicated.”  According to the US Department of Transportation, “toxicologists have failed to agree on a specific level of drugs in the blood that could be designated as evidence of impairment.”  Accordingly, Per Se laws for DUID are not very common.
  3. Zero Tolerance DUID LawsZero tolerance DUID laws, as the name suggests, allow convictions of DUID for ANY amount of drugs (and sometimes drug metabolites) in the system.  These laws were generally created in response to researchers failure to set definite standards for drug use.  This standard is also the most controversial, as it can allow for convictions of drivers who are undeniably sober, but may have used some kind of drug within the past few days (heavy marijuana users can sometimes have metabolites in the blood for more than a week after their last use).  To date, ten states have zero tolerance laws of various strictness:  Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin.

    Of these, Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, and Utah also forbid ANY drug metabolites in the system and require mandatory imprisonment even on the first offense.  Minnesota, however, specifically exempts marijuana from its DUID law.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) in any state, you should contact a drug lawyer immediately.  You will need a good lawyer to explain your rights and your best chances for defense, especially if you are in a zero tolerance state.  Some states use of zero tolerance DUID laws may even raise constitutional questions, so having a good lawyer will be essential to your defense.