DUI Drug Stops in Washington, DC

The initial stop for a drug DUI (or DUID) is typically the same as an alcohol-related DUI. For the most part a person is stopped by the police for some kind of traffic violation. Weaving in and out of lanes, passing through stop signs or passing through red lights, speeding, it can be any kind of traffic violation. But with some kind of drugs you may see more erratic driving patterns. So for drugs like PCP you may be more likely to have a police officer stop you because maybe you’re passed out in the front seat or you’ve got into a traffic accident. You see that more frequently with serious drugs like PCP or heroin compared to less serious drugs like marijuana.

Regardless of the drug, however, or the actual circumstance of the stop these types of crimes are often treated severely under DC law. As a result you should try and contact a DC DUI lawyer as soon as you are charged or accused of driving while under the influence of drugs.

Common Substances Seen in Drug DUIs

Most frequently the substances that I see that can result in a DUI arrest outside of alcohol are marijuana, PCP, and very frequently combinations of alcohol and prescription medication like Percocet and Oxycontin. These medications typically have alcohol interaction warnings that when they’re combined with alcohol can severely increase the impact of both on a person’s nervous system.

Drug DUI Stop Investigations

The most common way for a police officer to initially look for evidence of drug use is by smell. Smokable drugs like PCP or crack or marijuana have very distinctive smells and if those odors are present in the car of a person who has been pulled over by the police then that smell alone can give an officer justification to conduct further testing for impairment. Aside from strong chemical or drug odors police officers look to actions consistent with certain drugs like extreme drowsiness, lack of muscle control, and mood swings. These kinds of actions or behaviors if they’re outside of normal behaviors or outside of what someone may expect to see from a person who has been drinking alcohol, can also give a police officer reason to believe that a person may have consumed drugs recently, and can give probable cause to be able to continue with an investigation and make an arrest.

Do Officers Use Field Sobriety Tests For Drug DUI Cases?

In most DUI cases police officers use a series of tests called Standardized Field Sobriety tests to collect evidence against a suspect. And the only three tests that meet the reliability standards are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, the Walk and Turn test, and the One Leg Stand test. The walk and turn and one leg stand test are considered to be divided attention tests. Both of them require the suspect to display balance simultaneously with the ability to follow a number of other instructions. So these two tests can be used for drug and alcohol DUI investigations since most impairing drugs has the effect of inhibiting a person’s ability to be able to do multiple things at the same time and maintain balance. The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test on the other hand looks for involuntary jerking in a suspect’s eyes and is considered reliable only for alcohol and certain kinds of drugs like PCP. But a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test is not going to be considered a reliable test when it comes to marijuana investigations and certain kinds of prescription medications because typically a person doesn’t show Nystagmus when they’ve recently consumed those kinds of drugs.