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How serious is a driving under the influence of drugs charge?

When one thinks of driving under the influence, the term is typically applied to drinking and driving. But as the United States slowly starts to accept marijuana consumption, either for medicinal purposes or in some states, recreational purposes, it is important to understand and recognize that the term is also applicable to drug use, and the same penalties and laws apply to someone driving high as someone driving drunk.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, as many as 10 million Americans drove while under the influence of drugs in 2010, and that was before the legalization of marijuana. In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 18 percent of drivers involved in a fatal accident were under the influence of illegal drugs.

Although there are various road sobriety tests that can be done, as well as a breathalyzer test to determine one's blood alcohol content for drunk drivers, testing for drug use is far more difficult. While there are law officers trained in determining drug use, called Drug Recognition Experts, they may not always be on hand when someone is pulled over under the suspicion of driving while under the influence of drugs. Some states have what are called "per se" laws, which make it illegal to operate a vehicle with any amount of drugs that could be detected.

With the difficulties law officials have in many states in determining one's level of drug use, it can be easier, in some cases for a criminal defense attorney to fight the charges. If you have been charged with driving under the influence, you may want to speak with a law professional to determine the best way to proceed to protect your freedom and your future.

Source: FindLaw, "Driving Under the Influence of Drugs," accessed on Jan. 17, 2016

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