Primer on Drug Use and DUI
You are pulled over, but you haven't been drinking. The arresting officer asks if you've taken any drugs, legal or illegal. You have. What should you say? As with admitting to drinking, if you've abused drugs, or taking legal medication which impairs your driving, you should not admit to it. If you feel you're in danger of being charged with a DUI (if not DWI), you should only take any breathalyzer tests given, which are required, while also giving over identifying information.
Will you always be charged if you admit to using drugs?
This is a complex subject, as there are few laws defining what drugs you can or cannot take and drive, what level of drugs in your system is legal, and how this affects your driving. If you admit to taking some drugs, even if legal, you risk being charged with a DUI. The problem is, if the officer believes your driving has been affected by the drugs you took, even if prescribed, you can be charged with a DUI. The laws here change from state to state, but treat this as you would a drinking and driving offense: do not give over incriminating information to the officer.
What if you use illegal drugs?
If you use illegal drugs, this too can affect your driving ability. If drugs are found on your possession, this is no different than being caught anywhere else: you can and will be charged. The laws are again different on this issue. For one, if you are addicted to any drug, some states define this as a drug causing impairment. The important point here is that legal or illegal drugs does not matter; what matters is if the drug affects your ability to drive.
What if you used legal drugs?
If you use legal drugs that affect your driving, it does not look much better to the officer nor the judge. The laws on how much of a drug it takes to influence your driving is different from alcohol. State laws are all different here, but if it's obvious you are driving while impaired and an officer should be able to interpret this you can be charged.
What if you mix drugs and alcohol?
Common knowledge shows if you mix certain medications or other drugs with alcohol, it can not only be dangerous to your health, but also impair your driving abilities.
What charges do you face?
Typically state laws on DUI for drugs are similar to alcohol related DUI charges. State laws differentiate between drug related DUI and alcohol related DUI, but the penalties are similar. You will face a license suspension, fines, potential jail time, probation, and sometimes more.
Who can help?
If you are charged with any DUI, no matter the circumstance, you need an experienced DUI lawyer. It's his or her job to defend you in court, to question the charges, and to limit any penalties you face. For example, some drug related DUI charges can lead to losing your license for years. Then you might lose your job because you can't drive. A good lawyer can often limit charges, if not defeat them.