Did You Know That You Can Get a DWI Without Drinking Alcohol?

Most of us think of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Impaired (DWI) as traffic charges for drinking and driving. Both these terms can be used interchangeably in North Carolina, but did you know that you can get a DUI/DWI for driving while doing drugs? It’s true, and an experienced DWI lawyer can help you out if you find yourself being charged with a “drugged driving” offense.


As If DUIs, DWIs, and Even BUIs Weren’t Enough to Worry About!

If you live in Charlotte or any other city in North Carolina, you can get a DUI for being high or otherwise under the influence of drugs while driving. Anyone who drives while taking a Schedule 1 drug (North Carolina General Statute 90-89) can be charged with the offense of Driving While Impaired. Typical DWI cases involve the results of a breathalyzer to determine the amount of alcohol in a driver’s bloodstream. But when it comes to drug use, there aren’t any tests that can measure the level of “impairment.”

Back in the 70s, the federal government adopted a program to determine the level of impairment of drivers under the influence of drugs. The program relies on an investigation from a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). The program has been used across the United States for decades, but many drivers are unaware that they can be convicted of DWI without ever taking a single sip of alcohol. Here’s how the program works from start to finish:

  1. A breath alcohol test (breathalyzer) is conducted to test for the concentration of alcohol. If there is no evidence, the DRE proceeds with step 2.
  2. The arresting officer is interviewed regarding any evidence of drug use.
  3. A preliminary examination and “first pulse” measurement is conducted to determine if the drug use symptoms are illness or injury related.
  4. The DRE conducts an eye examination to determine if, and what class of, drugs are involved.
  5. Divided attention psycho-physical tests are conducted. These are kind of like sobriety tests for alcohol intoxication.

(If you’re thinking “I think I might need a good attorney.” at this point then thank you for paying attention! Read on…)

  1. Vital signs are measured along with a “second pulse” test. Like the eye examination, this step helps the DRE determine what kind of drugs may be evident.
  2. Next, dark room examinations are conducted to examine pupil responses along with observing oral and nasal cavities.
  3. A muscle tone examination is up next. Because certain drugs can affect the firmness of muscle tissue, this test can help identify specific drugs.
  4. The DRE now checks for evidence of injection marks and takes the driver’s pulse a third time.

(Nope, still not done.)

  1. The driver is read their Miranda rights, and statements are requested.
  2. Based on the results of the above steps, the DRE determines whether the driver is impaired along with a determination of the most likely drug.
  3. (Whew!) In the final stage, the DRE requests a toxicology report on the driver’s saliva, urine, and blood.

Makes a driving and drinking charge seem pretty tame, doesn’t it? So now you know. Smoke some pot and drive, and you could be looking at going through a regime that could put your last physical to shame. But. A lot could go wrong with all those sophisticated tests, and that provides plenty of opportunities for a successful defense.

If you have been charged with “drugged driving,” DWI, or any other traffic ticket, you need a seasoned attorney like the experienced lawyers at the Jason Reece Law Firm. Call, email, or just stop by. We’re here when you need us.