DC DUI Drug Traffic Stops

If you have been pulled over and suspected of driving under the influence of drugs, here is what you need to know about your legal rights according to a DC DUI drug lawyer. To learn more or discuss whether your search was conducted legally, call today and schedule a free consultation.

Drug DUI Traffic Stops Post-Legalization

The DC legislators, when they were enacting the DC law legalizing marijuana, were very specific in the law to make sure that there was no confusion as to whether or not they could still make arrests because a person was under the influence of marijuana while they were driving. So in the DC laws they specifically stated that just because private possession of marijuana for personal use is now legal the DC police can still investigate whether or not a person was driving while impaired by marijuana.

DC police officers can still look for that impairment when they’re making traffic stops. But marijuana has the inherent characteristic of being difficult to prove since the standardized field sobriety test that police officers conduct for alcohol cases don’t frequently give you the same results if a person has recently smoked marijuana.

As an example the horizontal gaze Nystagmus test is completely ineffective for investigating marijuana cases. Also marijuana often doesn’t have the same impairing effect as alcohol or certain other drugs; some people can be very high functioning after smoking marijuana and experience no diminishment of their driving abilities.

Even though the DC legislature made it clear that driving under the influence of marijuana is still illegal police officers have always had a difficult time in conducting investigations and gathering of the clues they need in order to be able to convict someone of that crime.

Do You Have To Consent To A Vehicle Search During A DUI Stop?

You never have to consent to a vehicle search under any circumstances. The only time that the police can search a vehicle during a stop without a warrant is if they have probable cause to believe that there may be contraband or illegal substances in the car. So if they approach your car and they see an open bottle of alcohol anywhere in your car or they see a red plastic solo cup in your front seat that suggests that there may be alcohol in that cup then they might have the ability to be able to search your car without your consent.

Being stopped for a DUI in and of itself, however, does not grant the police the ability to search your car without your consent. But if police officers ask you whether or not you would consent to a search of your car, you are never required to consent to that search.

If you do consent to the search, you have essentially waived almost all ability to be able to challenge the results of that search later on. Consenting to the search will not make the police go easy on you, even though the officers may try to convince you otherwise.  Consenting to searches is a waiver of your 4th amendment rights in almost every situation.

Evidence and DUI Drug Traffic Stops

Proving that someone was under the influence of a drug depends on the type of drug that is being suspected. In the situation where officers believe that a person might be under the influence of PCP or a very strong drug such as heroin, then sometimes the evidence can be very clear just from looking at the person.

If a person is catatonic in the driver’s seat of a car and has got into a traffic accident and the person has the distinctive and overwhelming smell of PCP then that is going to be a fairly straightforward case for the prosecution to be able to prove even without field sobriety tests or without a specific urine test or blood test because the evidence overwhelmingly points towards that person being under the influence of PCP.

Some other drugs may not be quite as obvious. Some drugs have very subtle symptoms or very subtle physical characteristics that may not be readily apparent because they don’t have a smell, and they do not have the effect of making a person completely comatose. So sometimes drugs like powder cocaine will not have the same visible effects that something like PCP will, and if a person does not submit or declines to submit to a urine or blood test then the evidence that someone who had recently consumed certain drugs was actually driving under the influence of that drug may not be as strong.