In the state of Minnesota, both drunk driving and drugged driving are illegal and can lead to DWI arrest. Drunk driving is when a person drives a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, while drugged driving is when a driver is under the influence of any controlled substance that impairs his or her driving skills.
Controlled substances listed in Schedules I and II can either be prescribed drugs or illegal drugs. Even if the drugs that cause a driver’s impairment were prescribed legally to treat certain conditions or diseases, Minnesota treats a drugged driving offense as seriously as it treats any drunk driving offense.
Driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) is generally more difficult to prove compared to drunk driving, since the presence of a controlled substance in a driver’s body is hard to determine at the time of driving. Alcohol leaves the body quickly after it has been ingested, making it easier to determine the driver’s level of impairment when driving, while many controlled substances remain in a person’s system for days or even weeks after taking them. This makes it hard for law enforcement officers to determine a driver’s level of impairment. For this reason, Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) are employed to help determine if a driver is driving under the influence of a controlled substance through certain behavioral and bodily indications that suggest impairment.
Can the law enforcement accurately detect drivers impaired with drugs? Can the lab’s quantitative and qualitative analysis effectively determine drivers’ impairment levels? Let’s take a look at the internal report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Major problems encountered in processing DUID cases through the criminal justice system
In drunk driving cases, a clear understanding has developed over the past 5 decades when it comes to the relationship between increasing BAC and impairment, and the tolerance to the alcohol’s effects have been well characterized. The limitations it places on expert testimony are also consistent and are generally accepted by toxicologists.
However, the same can’t be said for DUID cases, as there’s no clear correlation between BAC and impairment for many kinds of drugs. In drugged driving, the amount of research conducted is significantly more limited. In a case of a driver suspected of being impaired by recreational drugs, researchers can’t administer the doses of drugs taken by regular users for ethical reasons.
This is also true in cases wherein a combination of different drugs or the combination of drug and alcohol is used, since the interaction of the combination of these substances is not well understood. There are also drugs such as narcotics and stimulants that significantly vary in effects in the acute phase from the withdrawal phase, even when the concentrations are the same.
The limitations of the research carried out to determine drugged driving are a challenge, but authorities must not stop researching on this neglected issue. The effort should gain the support of drug companies, laboratories, funding agencies and universities.
Due to these limitations, the typical approaches to drunk driving may not be the optimum approach to be used for drugged driving. To effectively deal with DUID, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that there should be alternatives to standard DUI approaches, such as drug per se statutes, particularly for illegal drugs.
Law on drugged driving in Minnesota
Minnesota has a zero tolerance for drugged driving. State law stipulates, under Minnesota Statutes Annotated Section 169A.20, that it’s a crime for any individual to operate, drive or be in physical control of any motor vehicle when there’s any amount of controlled substance (stated in Schedule I or II) in the body, except for marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols. In such offense, it’s not necessary for a driver to be impaired.
Minnesota is among the 15 states that have per se drugged driving laws. The main purpose of the drug per se laws is to help the authorities’ avoid the difficulties of proving that a driver was impaired, making the driver’s ability to drive irrelevant. A drugged driver may face criminal charges by simply having drugs in the system. This makes the drugged driver easier to arrest, prosecute and convict, even if he was actually not impaired when driving.
Charged with DUID in Minnesota?
While drugs are not related to alcohol, they may affect your driving ability in the same way that alcoholic beverages do. Whether you have taken illicit or prescription drugs, as long as they affect your driving ability, you may be charged with DWI. Drug testing can be in the form of a urine test or blood test. The results of the test, along with the report of the arresting officer, will be used as evidence against you during prosecution.
While these results are strong evidence against you, there are defenses that an experienced Minnesota DWI and criminal defense attorney can use to help you with your case. Drugged driving is serious crime that competent Minnesota Criminal Lawyers are trained to handle. For a free consultation, contact a Minnesota DWI Lawyer at the Kans Law Firm, LLC today.