Differences Between Alcohol and Drug Related DUIs in DC

The beginning of a DUI drug case is typically the same as any other DUI case, except when it comes to testing for the presence of substance impairment. When a person is arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, they’re given the option of providing a breath sample, and if they do provide a breath sample, that result is ready right away. That means that when a person appears for their first court date their DC DUI drug lawyer is already aware of whether or not they submitted to a breath test and if they did submit to the breath test the attorney is already aware of what the result is.

In a case where a person submitted a urine sample or a blood sample because the police officer believes the person may have been under the influence of a drug, then the results of that blood or urine test most likely won’t be ready by the time the person comes in for their first court hearing. In those situations, the judges typically grant the prosecutors a separate status hearing that would be sometimes three weeks out to get the results of a blood test or two months out to get the result of a urine test. Once the results of any chemical tests are returned, there are different procedures for challenging the admissibility of breath, urine, and blood test results.

Complicating Factors in DUID Cases

The DUI drug cases that prosecutors charge are complicated by the fact that the urine test results are not the most solid evidence of being under the influence of a drug at the time they were driving.

By comparison, alcohol is out of the urine usually within several hours. So, urine alcohol content, while it still has a number of accuracy problems, can be more closely linked to a person’s impairment than can the presence of drugs. For that reason, the challenges that defense attorneys raise in DUI drug cases are very different from the challenges they raise in DUI alcohol cases.

Defense attorneys will very often look to a lack of evidence aside from the urine test to challenge the government’s assertion that a person was under the influence of a specific drug at the time that they were driving.

As an example, if a driver has marijuana in his urine but was not showing any outward signs of impairment at the time they were driving, this could be used as evidence the person was not impaired. This is very common in marijuana cases because marijuana will often stay in a person’s urine for as much as 3 to 4 weeks after the effects of the marijuana have worn off.

Have There Been Any Changes Due to The Recent Trend Toward Legalizing Marijuana?

Officers recognize that proving someone was under the influence of marijuana at the time that they were driving is difficult. Marijuana use very often does not exhibit the same signs of impairment that alcohol or other drugs exhibit.

Nonetheless, D.C. legislators were careful to state in the marijuana legalization laws that marijuana legalization does not prevent police officers from investigating and arresting people on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana.

Difficulty Level of Proving a DUID

The ease or difficulty of proving a driver was under the influence of a drug while driving compared to being under the influence of alcohol while driving depends on the type of drug involved. Frequently it is more difficult to prove that someone is under the influence of marijuana than it is to prove they are under the influence of alcohol while driving.

However, certain drugs exhibit very clear and serious signs of impairment. A drug like PCP has obvious signs. The smell is very distinctive. The symptoms of PCP use can also be very distinctive. Even if a person who has recently consumed PCP declines to submit to a urine sample or a blood simple, the symptoms of recent PCP use can make these cases not quite as difficult for the prosecution to prove as it is for them to prove DUI marijuana cases.