Drugged Driving, or Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID), is just as widespread a problem as drunk driving is in Minnesota. In fact, DUID can be a much BIGGER problem than driving under the influence of alcohol. Drugs can affect a person’s perception, attention, balance, reaction time, and other abilities to drive a motor vehicle. Since driving under the influence of drugs is a broad topic, we decided to break it up into three parts. Part one outlines the facts surrounding drugged driving and the main types of drugs being used. Part two will detail the black letter of the law for DUID, including criminal and civil penalties. In conclusion, part three will discuss litigating DUID cases, including affirmative defenses, retesting blood and urine samples, and expert testimony.
The statistics for DUID are alarming. For weekend nighttime drivers, driving under the influence of drugs happens seven times more frequently than driving illegally under the influence of alcohol. Seven times more frequently than alcohol! One survey estimates that approximately 10.5 million people operated a motor vehicle under the influence of illicit (illegal) drugs in 2009. That is more than the entire population of New York City driving around under the influence of illicit drugs over a one year period. (Statistics taken from druggeddriving.org; mnsafedriving.com; and drugabuse.gov)
Also, one third of all drivers killed in a motor vehicle crash in 2009 tested positive for drugs according to a national study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Drivers seriously injured had marijuana present in their system 26.9% of the time, cocaine 11.6% of the time, and methamphetamines or amphetamines 5.6% of the time according to mnsafedriving.com.
Marijuana, or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is the most frequent psychoactive substance, next to alcohol, present in a person’s body when either arrested for a driving offense or involved in a fatal car crash according to the NHTSA. In one study, approximately 13.5 % of adolescents reported driving under the influence of marijuana at least three times. Marijuana affects a person’s ability to pay attention, concentrate, and react to situations on the road. Additionally, being under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana has worse effects on driving than either drug on its own.
Generally, after exposure to marijuana, it takes at least four hours for THC to appear in a urine test according to the NHTSA. Urine tests detecting THC will generally indicate use within the past one to three days, but for more chronic users, THC can be present in a urine sample for more than five weeks.
Cocaine is a Schedule II controlled substance under Minnesota law. Approximately 8 to 23% of DUIs and car crashes include a driver with cocaine or metabolites in their system according to the NHTSA. While marijuana slows down a person’s cognitive functions, cocaine speeds them up, which is why aggressive driving behavior is a common occurrence for people testing positive for cocaine.
Urine test results may detect low doses of cocaine or its metabolites within a few hours of use and the substances may stay in a person’s system for two to four days according to the NHTSA. For chronic users, cocaine or its metabolites may be present in a urine test for up to ten days.
Methamphetamines and amphetamines are also Schedule II controlled substances under Minnesota law. Methamphetamines (meth) affect a person’s coordination, ability to pay attention, and can cause a person to be restless according to the NHTSA. Like cocaine, meth users are more prone to aggressive style driving as well as speeding and swerving. In low doses, amphetamines, including Adderall, Desoxyn, and Benzedrine may have few effects to a person’s cognitive functions. In higher doses, however, amphetamines are more likely to produce aggressive style driving behaviors similar to drivers under the influence of meth or cocaine. Urine test results usually detect methamphetamines and amphetamines within one to four days of use and up to a week for chronic users according to the NHTSA.
Hazardous Substances & Prescription Drugs
Hazardous substances are toxic, flammable, combustible, or other chemicals and substances regulated by OSHA that are not being used by qualified researchers or medical professionals according to Minnesota law. The availability of hazardous substances is vast and dangerous because many common household items can quickly become transferred into a substance used to get high.
Prescription drugs often come with warnings against driving a motor vehicle or heavy machinery. Prescription drugs without such warnings, however, can also cause impairment in drivers when those drugs are abused. Also, the mixture of prescription drugs can cause side effects that impair a person’s ability to drive. Researchers have had a difficult time finding concrete statistical data on the use of prescription drugs in drugged driving; because of the high use of prescription drugs whether it is with or without a prescription. For further reading on this topic, access Drugged Driving Research: A White Paper prepared by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
In part two of this series, we will examine the laws, including criminal and civil penalties, involved in driving under the influence of drugs. DUID is serious crime that experienced Minnesota Criminal Lawyers are trained to handle. If you would like a free consultation, please contact a Minneapolis DWI Lawyer at the Kans Law Firm, LLC.