Driving Under The Influence of Drugs in Georgia (DUI Drugs)

Person driving a car - Georgia Drug DUI Lawyer

Driving under the influence violations include driving under the influence of drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol. However, merely having drugs in your system, whether legal or illegal, detected through blood or urine tests, is not irrefutable proof of a vehicular crime.

Have you been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs? 

Your future ability to drive a car or truck in Georgia is dependent on retaining a Walton County DUI defense lawyer who understands the complexities of drug testing, what drug testing actually reveals, and most importantly, what drug testing cannot prove.

Michael Fulcher Law offers you experienced and skilled Georgia drug DUI defense lawyer provided by a former prosecutor who knows all the players—the police, the prosecutors, and the judges. This is your life and your future. Call or email now for a free consultation with Michael Fulcher Law.

What Does the Georgia Law Say About DUI Drugs?

Driving under the influence covers driving while impaired by alcohol and by drugs, whether legal or illegal. Although Georgia DUI statutes have specific blood alcohol levels that provide evidence of intoxication—0.02 for young drivers under the age of 21; 0.08 for drivers over 21; and 0.04 for commercial truck drivers—there are no such specifics for drugs found through blood and urine tests. Let’s take a look at the Georgia statute and how a conviction for DUI drugs is much harder for prosecutors when the driver is represented by an experienced and skilled Georgia DUI defense lawyer.

Georgia’s DUI Statute, O.C.G.A. sec. 40-6-391 covers driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. What constitutes DUI drugs is not based on measurable specifics, as is alcohol. Instead, the statute speaks of whether the driving is less safe due to the use of drugs.

  • A person shall not drive while under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.
  • A person shall not drive under the influence of a combination of substances (i.e., drugs and alcohol) to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.
  • A person cannot be under the influence of prescription drugs, even if a drug or drugs are prescribed legally. However, in order to uphold a conviction, the State must prove that such legally prescribed medication rendered the individual incapable of driving safely.

What Does a Blood or Urine Test Reveal?

The biggest hurdle the prosecution has to jump is the imperfection of blood and urine tests. These tests, which are administered at the police station or hospital, either by consent or under the authority of a warrant, merely measure whether there were any drugs in the driver’s system.

The tests can identify the presence of drugs and name them. However, they do not measure the current amount of drugs and whether the drugs were still active and capable of causing intoxication. A joint smoked last week, or a pill taken last night, will show up in the blood and urine tests, but whether their psychoactive ingredients were still operating is not revealed by these tests.

Police Must Rely on Subjective Observations and Imperfect Testing to Prove DUI Drugs

Police officers must, therefore, rely on observations and so called, indicators of impairment, to determine whether the driver was operating a vehicle in a less safe manner. This is inherently subjective and vulnerable to multiple defense strategies.

At the time of a vehicle stop, the police officer first relies on observations of how the car or truck was being driven. Did the driver do any of the following?

  • Engage in unpredictable acceleration or braking
  • Swerve across any traffic lanes or driving down the white line
  • Engage in unsafe maneuvers, like lane changing without signaling or without any visible reason
  • Appear distracted, unaware of other cars and trucks
  • Drive much slower than surrounding traffic

These observations are the reasons commonly given by police for stopping a vehicle suspected of DUI Drugs.

Once stopped, you are only under an obligation to produce your license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. Although you need to obey the directions of the police, you are entitled to remain silent and not to answer any further questions. You might be asked to perform a variety of field sobriety tests. 

You can refuse to take these tests, although that refusal will likely result in your immediate arrest. A field sobriety evaluation is voluntary. To refuse the field sobriety test is not considered a DUI refusal.

There are several types of field sobriety evaluations: a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test, a Walk and Turn, and the One-Leg Stand test. In addition, officers might ask you to recite the alphabet, stand with your feet close together while tipping your head skyward, count the number of fingers the officer has raised, close your eyes and touch a finger to your nose, or count backwards. These tests are quite subjective. Different officers interpret a driver’s performance differently.

For example, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN) measures involuntary eye movements which become jerky when a person has consumed alcohol or central nervous system depressants, which include opioids, sedatives, and other “downers.”

To administer the HGN Test, the police officer must perform a medical evaluation to screen for medical disorders that might also cause these jerky eye movements. To screen, the police must ask very specific questions about your health and medical history. Again, you are under no legal obligation to cooperate. Refusing to answer these questions is not considered DUI Refusal, meaning that you will not automatically lose your driving privileges, but you might be immediately arrested and taken to the station.

This subjectivity undermines the accuracy of the test. Any number of factors can contribute to failing a field sobriety evaluation: an uneven pavement, the time of day, weather conditions, your health, poor vision or hearing, and poor balance. There are no legal consequences attaching to a refusal to perform field sobriety evaluations. However, the results of any field sobriety tests will be noted in the police report and can be used to justify arrest.

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When you need a lawyer after being charged with a DUI or criminal offense or as you explore your options for filing a personal injury claim, look no further than Michael Fulcher Law’s impressive background, and ultra-attentive client service. To learn more about how we can help you achieve the best legal solution possible for your circumstances, call our criminal defense law firm at (706) 438-1555 or contact us online, and schedule your free consultation today.

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What Do You Defend Against a Charge of Drugs DUI?

To be convicted of DUI drugs, the prosecution must prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. It is the role of defense lawyers to question the version of the story told by arresting officers and the prosecutor. A skilled and competent DUI drug defense lawyer will examine the evidence: the police report, the results of any field sobriety, breathalyzer, Intoxilyzer 9000, and blood and urine tests, witness statements, and if there was an accident, the reports on what occurred. Such examination will reveal any weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case against you. Each case is different, depending on the facts and how the evidence was gathered.

Unlike DUI alcohol, DUI for drugs does not require a specific level of drugs in the blood or urine to determine legal impairment. Instead, impairment for DUI drugs relies upon a combination of police officer observation and identifying the drugs in your system through a blood or urine test.

Police can pull over a driver for a variety of driving offenses and vehicle maintenance violations. Once stopped, police can determine intoxication based on how you act and how you respond to the police officer’s requests roadside. In addition to any erratic driving, police will evaluate your ability to drive on several factors:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Slurred or slowed speech
  • Confused responses to questions
  • Any admission of drug or alcohol use
  • Evidence of drugs in your vehicle, including the odor of marijuana

Once arrested, police can order a blood and urine tests to identify the specific drugs that might be in your system as well as blood alcohol levels. In some jurisdictions, blood tests are performed at a local hospital.  If you refuse these tests, you will automatically lose your driver’s license, unless you file for an ALS Hearing within 30 days of your arrest. If you refuse these tests at the station, the police may seek a warrant from the court to force you into providing either blood or urine samples.

Having a valid prescription for any drugs taken is not a defense to a DUI drug charge if the impact of the prescription drug is to make your driving less safe. And the combination of alcohol and drugs, whether over-the-counter, prescription, or illegal, can surely make driving less safe. Georgia prohibits driving while under the influence of two or more substances, not just alcohol, and not just drugs.

What Are The Penalties for DUI Drugs In Monroe, Georgia?

DUI drug charges are usually charged as misdemeanors, with penalties of up to 12 months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. A first conviction will also include 12 months of probation, 40 hours of community service, DUI school, and a clinical drug and alcohol evaluation. In addition, you could face a suspension of your driving privileges.

These penalties cost money. Georgia charges for probation supervision and DUI school. And if your driver’s license is suspended, you have the added cost of finding alternative transportation to school or work. Compounding these charges is the inevitable increase in your automobile insurance premiums.

A second DUI drug conviction within 10 years brings with it a minimum sentence of 72 hours in jail, a $600 minimum fine, probation for 12 months, 30 days of community service, DUI school, and another clinical alcohol and drug evaluation. The license suspension for a second DUI drug offense negates a limited work permit, so even limited driving is forbidden.

A third DUI drug conviction within 5 years carries a mandatory 15-day jail sentence, with fines ranging from $1,000-$5,000, driver’s license revocation for 5 years, and community service for 30 days. Although still treated as a misdemeanor, prosecutors have been known to demand much higher penalties for repeat offenders.

No one should try to navigate a Georgia DUI drug prosecution without representation by skilled and experienced lawyer like Michael Fulcher Law. With 10-years of experience as a prosecutor and public defender before opening a law firm, Michael knows criminal law and all of the players in Greene County and the surrounding areas. If you wait until your court date, you may have already forfeited some of your important rights and driving privileges in the State of Georgia. Don’t wait, call or email Michael Fulcher Law today to schedule a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Yes, having a prescription is not a defense to driving under the influence. Unlike alcohol, a conviction for drug impairment while driving does not require a specific amount of drugs to be present in blood or urine. Prosecution is based on police observation, and blood or urine test results. Although having a prescription might prevent prosecution for possession of dangerous drugs, it cannot prevent prosecution for driving in a less safe manner due to intoxication.

Georgia law, your driving privileges are conditioned upon an implied agreement to submit to breath, blood, or urine tests upon request by police. A refusal to take these tests is called a DUI Refusal, and can result in automatic suspension of your driver’s license. To appeal this automatic suspension, you must file a request for an ALS Hearing within 30 days of your arrest. That filing costs $150, a fee that must be paid at the time you file the appeal. Your right to drive depends on a timely appeal, so do not delay, and confer with an experienced DUI drug lawyer immediately.

Due to recent court rulings, a blood test is the most commonly requested test by law enforcement for most DUI arrests. A urine test will reveal drug consumption from many days, even weeks ago, way too distant to cause current driving impairment. A common urine test strip will detect marijuana, amphetamines, narcotics, and barbiturates that might no longer be active in your system. A urine sample sent to a laboratory will reveal even minute traces of drugs taken months ago. Blood samples do not detect drugs taken so far in the past. Both blood and urine test results can be challenged since they might not be evidence of current intoxication.

A first DUI drug misdemeanor conviction:

  • Up to 12 months in jail
  • Up to $1,000 fine
  • 12 months of probation
  • 40 hours community service
  • Clinical drug, and alcohol evaluation
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to 12 months, with limited driving privileges after 6 months

A second DUI drug misdemeanor conviction within 10 years:

  • Minimum jail sentence of 72 hours up to 12 months
  • Minimum fine of $600, with a maximum of $1,000
  • Probation for 12 months
  • 30 days community service
  • DUI school
  • Clinical drug, and alcohol evaluation
  • Driver’s license suspension up to 12 months without a limited work permit

A third DUI drug misdemeanor conviction within 5 years:

  • Mandatory 15-day jail sentence
  • Minimum fine of $1,000, with a maximum of $5,000
  • 30 days community service
  • DUI school
  • 30 days community service
  • Driver’s license suspension up to 5 years

Unlike a straight DUI prosecution, in a DUI drug case there is no specific level of drug use that substantiates a charge of driving under the influence. Blood, and urine tests, given voluntarily or under compulsion of a warrant, only reveal the presence of drugs, not whether they are currently psychoactive.

Because a successful prosecution is based on the police officer’s subjective evaluation of the driver’s behaviors, and these imprecise tests, there are opportunities for an experienced DUI drug criminal defense lawyer to interject reasonable doubt into the prosecutor’s story. Because the consequences of a conviction are drastic—loss of driver’s license, fines, and possible jail time—you should consult with an experienced Georgia criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to secure your rights, and defenses.

When screening to retain a DUI drug defense lawyer, you should ask a series of questions that will reveal the experience, and reputation of the lawyer:

  • How long have you been a DUI defense lawyer?
  • How many DUI drug defense cases have you handled? How many annually?
  • What is considered a “win”?
  • How will you evaluate the strength of the prosecutor’s cases?
  • How important is it that you know the police officer, prosecutor, and judge?
  • What are the likely attorney’s fees, and costs? When are these due?
  • Will my case go to trial, or will you negotiate a plea bargain?
  • What are the likely costs of going to trial?
  • Who handles my case, you or an associate?

Contact a skilled Georgia DUI Drugs defense attorney

If you have been charged with a DUI in the middle Georgia area, including Walton County, contact Michael Fulcher Law for a free consultation and case assessment. With over 17 years of experience as a prosecutor, public defender and private DUI defense attorney, Michael knows criminal law and all the players in Morgan County and the surrounding areas. If you wait until your court date, you may have already forfeited some of your important rights and driving privileges in the State of Georgia. Don’t wait, call (706) 438-1555 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation.

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“Mr. Fulcher has been tremendously helpful with my case. Since hiring him he has consistently returned my calls as quickly as he can. We discussed an ideal outcome, and I set about doing exactly as he said. Following his advice we were able to get a very favorable outcome. He is always quick to answer any questions, and has stayed very engaged with me throughout this ordeal. Michael provides excellent counsel, and I would recommend him to anyone!”

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