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Differences Between Alcohol and Drug Related DUI Charges in Salisbury

There are different ways someone may be arrested and charged for a DUI in Salisbury, Maryland. One if the person is under the influence of alcohol, and the other if the person is under the influence of drugs. Below, a Salisbury Drug DUI lawyer discusses if and how law enforcement officials view alcohol and drug-related DUI charges differently.

How DUI Are Enforced

From a law enforcement officer perspective, there is no difference. Driving while impaired is illegal, whether alcohol or drugs are causing the impairment. The police are going to actively and aggressively investigate in either of those scenarios. If an officer observes behavior that seems to suggest that the driver is under the influence of something, and a preliminary breath test produces either a zero or very low very low alcohol result, then the officer will suspect drugs are causing the impairment and begin testing to find evidence of that.

Proving Impairment

It can be more complicated to prove that a driver was high on drugs versus alcohol. Being able to prove that somebody was intoxicated by alcohol is normally simpler. In those cases, evidence comes from the officer’s observations of the driver.

To prove that somebody was under the influence of some sort of drug requires something more like a toxicology report from a blood sample. Even then, that report would really only show that there was a drug within the person’s system—it wouldn’t necessarily be enough to prevent the person from driving a vehicle safely. This is why it is easier for the state to prove an alcohol-related DUI charge versus a drug DUI charge.

How The Elements of Each Differ

It’s also important to point out that the elements of these two types of charges are a little bit different. To convict a driver of driving while impaired by drugs or drugs and alcohol, the state has to prove the additional element that the defendant cannot drive the vehicle safely. This is different from proving a DUI or DWI, where there doesn’t have to be evidence about how the vehicle was being operated.

In other words, for an alcohol-related DUI, the officer can testify that the driver made a traffic violation, but it doesn’t have to rise to the level of the vehicle being operated unsafely. It could be a stop for speeding or even some sort of equipment repair order, but to convict a defendant of driving while impaired by drugs or drugs and alcohol, there has to be that additional evidence of proving that the vehicle was being driven in an unsafe manner, and there may not be evidence of that. The officer may not have observed any sort of unsafe driving. So that additional element can make it more difficult for the state to prove that the defendant was guilty of driving while impaired by drugs or drugs and alcohol.

Drug DUI Stops v. Standard DUI Stops

A DUI stop for alcohol versus a stop for drugs is very similar. In both situations, the officer will make a stop based on some sort of traffic violation or suspicious behavior. The officer will make observations of the driver and will try and determine whether the driver appears to be under the influence of anything.

He’ll be looking to see if the driver’s eyes are bloodshot and glassy, if the driver is having issues with slurred speech, or if he answers the officer’s questions in an inconsistent or irrational way. The stop is basically conducted the same way whether the officer suspects alcohol or drugs to be influencing the driver.

How The Arrest Process Differs

The arrest  for an alcohol DUI and a drug DUI will have many similarities. They both will probably include evidence of some sort of traffic violation. They both might involve evidence of erratic driving on the part of the driver, and both cases will rely heavily on the testimony of the police officer and what he observed during the standardized field sobriety tests.

Where these types of cases become very different is that for a DUID case, the State has to prove that the vehicle was not being driven safely.  The case will require additional evidence of unsafe driving of the vehicle, and the State must rely on the toxicology examination of the driver’s blood to prove that there were drugs in the driver’s bloodstream. It would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to be convicted of a drug DUI with no blood test toxicology examination that shows the presence of the drug in the driver’s system.

That additional evidence is not required in an alcohol DUI case. Even if they refuse to take the breathalyzer exam, drivers can be convicted solely based on the officer’s testimony regarding his observation of the driver.