New York Civil Rights & Criminal Defense Lawyers

How drugs can complicate DWI charges

Driving while intoxicated, or DWI charges in New York, typically refer to getting behind the wheel with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit. However, DWI can also refer to many substances that can impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle. Driving under the influence of drugs, including prescription drugs, can result in DWI charges.

Measuring drug impairment

While all 50 states have a definitive standard for DWI charges when alcohol is involved, that is not so when it comes to drugs. Various drugs have different effects on cognition while also staying in the body for varying amounts of time. For example, the psychoactive component of marijuana, THC, stays in the bloodstream for four or five weeks, while cocaine leaves the bloodstream within two days. Even though drugs may be detected in a person’s bloodstream, they may not necessarily have operated a vehicle while under the influence of a detected drug. Some law enforcement agencies use specially trained police officers called Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) to determine drug impairment by examining eye movement, behavior and other cues pointing to drug use. Nevertheless, the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that no reliable parameters yet exist to determine how much of an influence drug impairment is in fatal motor vehicle accidents.

DWI charges require an aggressive defense

Any DWI charges require an aggressive defense, as a conviction can seriously disrupt your life. Even though you may have been arrested and charged, arresting officers often make critical errors. Conviction isn’t guaranteed, as law enforcement may have made many mistakes from not having enough training, not following proper protocol or other factors. Field sobriety tests are frequently poor indicators of a driver’s impairment, as medical conditions sometimes cause someone to fail.

Furthermore, if urinalysis or blood tests show that you had drugs in your system when arrested, science still has no reliable way to indicate if those drugs caused impairment when you were stopped. If you can prove that the officer had no probable cause to stop you, the charges could end up being thrown out.




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