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Can you get a DUI for anything other than alcohol? Drugged driving in Maryland.

There are two categories of drugged driving charges in Maryland:

  1. Driving while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance - 21-902(d);

  2. Driving while too far impaired by drugs and or alcohol 21-902(c);

You can be charged with either of these offenses without an official drug test, based solely on the opinion of a police or law enforcement officer in Maryland. Proving these charges in Court is a different story, as the science behind the State's evidence is often subject to challenge.

What is driving while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance?

Driving impaired by a controlled dangerous substance, or drugged driving, is a charge in Maryland similar to driving under the influence of alcohol, or DUI. The maximum penalties for this type of drugged driving is based upon your prior convictions, if you have any:

  • A first offense CDS DUI in Maryland carries a maximum penalty of one year of incarceration, a $1,000 fine, and 12 points on a person's license.

  • A second offense CDS DUI Maryland carries a maximum penalty of two years of incarceration, a $2,000 fine, and 12 points on a person's license.

  • A third CDS DUI in Maryland carries a maximum criminal penalty of five years of incarceration, a $500 fine, and 8 points on a person's license.

What is driving while too far impaired by drugs and/or alcohol

Although this offense sounds much worse, it is the functional equivalent of driving while impaired. A person can technically be impaired from any type of drug, even an over the counter medication. The State doesn't have to prove exactly what drug that a driver was on either. Much like impaired driving from alcohol, impaired driving from alcohol and/or drugs carries the same maximum penalties of driving while impaired by alcohol:

  • A first DWI drugs in Maryland carries a maximum penalty of 60 days of incarceration, a $500 fine, and 8 points on a person's license.

  • A second DWI drugs in Maryland carries a maximum penalty of one year of incarceration, a $500 fine, and 8 points on a person's license.

  • A third DWI drugs in Maryland carries a maximum criminal penalty of five years of incarceration, a $500 fine, and 8 points on a person's license.

What is the difference between Driving while impaired by CDS vs Driving while too far impaired by drugs?

The difference lies in what the State needs to prove. For a driving while impaired by CDS, the State must identify what substance you were impaired by, and that it is a CDS. In a driving while too far impaired by drugs and or alcohol charge, the State does not need to specifically identify the drug you were under the influence of.

How can the State prove I was under the influence of drugs or prescription medications?

The State employs two specific ways to prove drugged driving cases:

1. Drug Recognition Experts

Drug recognition experts are Police Officers who receive special training to "identify" a driver who is under the influence of drugs, including prescription medications, marijuana, and other illegal drugs. Drug Recognition Experts or "DREs" ask suspected drugged drivers to perform additional field sobriety tests, some of which may seem quite confusing. Common examples include the walk and turn test, advanced horizontal gaze and nystagmus testing, the modified rhomburg test, employing a pupilometer, taking a person's pulse, seeing how a person's eyes react to light, and taking their body temperature.

Many of these DRE tests can lead to false positives, and they are voluntary, not mandatory.

2. Blood tests for drugs

In most suspected drugged driving cases, Police officers will ask for voluntary submission to a blood test to rule out, or to prove, the presence of drugs in a person's blood. While blood alcohol content is a more simple science, drugs presence in a person's blood does not automatically mean they are currently feeling the effects. This is especially important in cases involving drugs and prescription medications with long "half lives" like marijuana impaired driving cases. Certain substances will remain in a person's body for weeks, or even months after their active effects have subsided. Drivers testing positive for drugs in a driver's system are often charged with a CDS DUI charge as a result of suspected drugged impaired driving. There is no "legal limit" for drugs in a person's system like there is in an alcohol case. Maryland does not have zero tolerance laws for drugged driving either, the focus is instead on how those drugs effected your driving. Presence of two or more drugs is not un common, especially for drivers who are prescribed medication.

Blood tests for drugs are optional; however, refusal could result in license suspension in the same way that refusal of a breath test for alcohol can.

What is a controlled dangerous substance?

Controlled dangerous substances is the legal name for a wide variety of illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs. Controlled dangerous substances are scheduled in The Maryland Criminal Code, Title 5, Subtitle 4. Some common examples include:

photograph of pills

  • Alprazolam, or Xanax;

  • Oxycodone, or other prescription pain killers;

  • Cocaine;

  • Heroin;

  • Fentanyl;

  • Marijuana;

  • Many other drugs;

Building a Defense

The first step in defending a drugged driving case is to build a defense with an experienced Maryland DUI Lawyer that addresses potential issues that could be present in your case. Some common examples include:

  • Was the stop of your vehicle illegal?

  • Was field sobriety testing properly applied?

  • Was the drug recognition expert employed by the State properly used?

  • Was the officer's opinion about your sobriety reliable?

  • Were you in actual physical control of your vehicle?

Were your driving skills actually impaired by the presence of drugs?

What's going to happen to my driver's license?

If you refuse a blood test based on an officer's suspicion of the presence of drugs that are impairing your ability to drive, then your driver's license may be suspended by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. Further, if you are convicted of a DUI CDS case or DWI drugs case, you may receive points on your license if you do not receive a Probation before Judgement or "PBJ".

Drug use does not automatically make you unsafe to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. Many drugs do not effect cognitive functions or place other drivers at higher risk. Alcohol and drugs are VERY different, despite this, Police Officers treat these cases the same as someone charged with a dui related to alcohol. Maryland's laws aren't simple in drugged driving cases, and there's no established legal limit for any specific controlled dangerous substance.

Marijuana impaired driving

marijuanna plant in handDrivers in Maryland can be charged with Marijuana impaired driving. These cases are extremely hard for the State to prove, as there is no specific marijuana impairment test. DRE's often opine that a person is under the effects of marijuana, but a positive blood test isn't as influential based on how long marijuana remains in the driver's system. Just because a driver tested positive for the presence of marijuana, doesn't make them guilty of marijuana impaired driving.

With the potential legality of Marijuana in Maryland on the near horizon, it will be especially important to retain an attorney who is knowledgable about marijuana's scientific effects on the body, and how to defend a "weed" dui.

Speak with a qualified drug impaired driving attorney

At FrizWoods, our knowledgeable and experienced lawyers take pride in the fact that we are one of Maryland's most accessible criminal defense law firms. Through our 24-hour attorney line, our clients have access to top-notch legal representation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Aggressive criminal defense attorneys Max Frizalone and Luke Woods have a deep understanding of the Maryland criminal law process, and we will use our knowledge and experience to provide you with the most effective legal defense possible in your Maryland criminal case. Drug impaired driving is not an exact science, but you will need an advocate who understands how the state prosecutes drug impaired driving, which is much different than drunken driving. Even if your case involves fatally injured drivers, or fatal crashes, we can help represent you and protect you throughout the Court system.

So, if you are in need of legal representation in your Maryland criminal case, please contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our talented criminal defense attorneys.