When most people hear the term “driving under the influence (DUI)” they envision someone operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol. Why driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal, it is not the only way you can end up under arrest for DUI. Driving under the influence of a controlled substance can also land you in jail facing serious criminal charges. A Murfreesboro DUI attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains what qualifies as a controlled substance DUI in Tennessee.
What Does It Mean to “Drive Under the Influence?”
We all know that drinking and driving do not mix. We also know that driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.08 percent is considered driving under the influence, subjecting the driver to arrest and prosecution. When a motorist is arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, the driver is asked to submit to a breath test to confirm the presence of alcohol in his/her blood. If the test shows a BAC that is over the limit, that test can be used as evidence at trial to prove that the driver was driving under the influence. Alcohol, however, is not the only substance that can cause a motorist to be legally considered “under the influence.”
Most states, including Tennessee, define driving under the influence to include driving while under the influence of alcohol and other substances. Tennessee Code § 55-10-401, for example, governs the criminal offense of driving under the influence, reading in pertinent part as follows:
It is unlawful for any person to drive or to be in physical control of any automobile or other motor-driven vehicle on any of the public roads and highways of the state, or on any streets or alleys, or while on the premises of any shopping center, trailer park, or apartment house complex, or any other premises that is generally frequented by the public at large, while:
(1) Under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, controlled substance, controlled substance analogue, drug, substance affecting the central nervous system, or combination thereof that impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by depriving the driver of the clearness of mind and control of oneself that the driver would otherwise possess.
Is “Drugged Driving” As Dangerous As Drunk Driving?
According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 20.5 million people aged 16 or older admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol in the past year and 12.6 million drove under the influence of illicit drugs. Just as alcohol can impair a motorist’s ability to safely operate a vehicle, so can both legal and illegal drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana can slow reaction time, impair judgment of time and distance, and decrease coordination. Cocaine or methamphetamine can cause a driver to be aggressive and reckless while prescription medicines, including benzodiazepines and opioids, can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and impair cognitive functioning. One study conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association found that 43.6 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs and over half of those drivers were positive for two or more drugs.
How Is a Controlled Substance DUI Different from an Alcohol DUI?
Legally, the penalties for a controlled substance DUI are the same as those for an alcohol DUI. The primary difference between the two is found in the procedures for collecting and using evidence. A breath test that is used to confirm that a driver is under the influence of alcohol cannot detect the presence of a controlled substance. Consequently, the law enforcement officer that conducts the arrest may request a blood draw to check for the presence of controlled substances. In addition, if drugs (prescription or illegal) are found in the vehicle or on your person, the prosecution may try and use the presence of those drugs to infer that you were driving under the influence.
Contact a Murfreesboro DUI Attorney
If you have been charged with driving under the influence in Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with a Murfreesboro DUI attorney at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.
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