When it comes to drinking and driving, the law is clearly defined. But driving under the influence of drugs? Well, that's where things get a little hazy. Testing for drugs is more difficult than breathing into a tube, and the laws vary significantly in each state. Read on to learn about how states target drugged driving.
types of state DUID laws
All 50 states and D.C. have laws against drugged driving, and in all states but California, Hawaii, and New York, driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) is treated as the same offense as driving under the influence of alcohol. The only problem is that unlike alcohol, drugs aren't easily tested for — they come in all shapes and sizes, and it's difficult for lawmakers to keep up.
Though DUID laws are different across the country, states will generally prosecute drivers based on one or more of the following criteria:
The most common state laws regarding DUIDs state that to get a conviction, prosecutors have to show that a driver was "impaired" by a given substance when behind the wheel. These states don't necessarily set a legal blood limit. They generally leave the definition of "impaired" up to the discretion of law enforcement and prosecutors.
Another version of DUID law, this makes it illegal for drug addicts or habitual users to drive at all. As is the case with most DUID laws, the terms "drug addict" and "habitual user" can be hard to define.
California does make allowances for addicts who are participating in drug-treatment programs.
Impairment and incapacitation may sound similar, but there's a key difference. With incapacitation laws, prosecutors have to go one step further by proving that a driver is incapable of driving safely — not just impaired. To convict, the prosecution has to prove not only that the driver was intoxicated but that the effects of the drug actually rendered them unable to drive safely.
Per se (zero tolerance)
"Per se" translates as "in itself" — meaning that having any trace of drugs in your system while driving is in itself a crime, even if those drugs aren't on active duty in your brain. Nineteen states have some form of per se or zero-tolerance drugged driving laws, though regulations vary.
states with per se DUID laws (as of 2015)
Here are the states that have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drugged driving:
- North Carolina2
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota2
Note: Drugged driving laws are quite complex. Most per se states also have intoxication or under-the-influence laws, and some states have multiple laws that fall into several categories.
There are a few things DUID penalties have in common no matter what state you're in: offenders are generally looking at jail time, license suspension, and heavy fines.
California, for instance, requires a minimum of 4 days in jail, with fines ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, with penalties increasing drastically for subsequent DUIDs.
And that's not even including the heavy impact a DUID can have on a driver's insurance rates. Just like DUIs caused by alcohol, DUIDs are a big red flag on a driving record and tend to result in insurance premium increases since they indicate a tendency of unsafe driving.
The best way to keep your insurance rates low is to stay safe on the road. Driving on drugs (even legal ones) can have disastrous consequences, so make sure you know how you'll be affected before you get behind the wheel.
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