Can You Be Charged with DUI for Drugs in Georgia?

Can You Be Charged with DUI for Drugs in Georgia?
Person taking a chance of being convicted of DUI by using drugs while driving

A lot of people think that you can only be arrested for drinking and driving. They don’t realize that they can also be arrested for something called DUI drugs. This is when the police can confirm or suspect that you’re driving while under the influence or drugs.

It doesn’t matter whether the drugs or legal or illegal. If the drugs make it unsafe for you to drive, you’re now allowed to drive. For example, even if your doctor prescribes you Xanax for anxiety, that doesn’t mean you can drive while using it. This drug is known to make people groggy and it affects your motor skills and concentration.

The same is obviously true for illegal drugs. If you’re using marijuana or heroin, it can affect your ability to drive. The same is true for other illegal drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine.

The Georgia criminal statutes specifically outline three (3) situations where you can be arrested and charged with DUI Drugs:

  • You cannot drive while under the influence of any drug to the extent that it makes it unsafe for you to drive
  • You can’t drive under the influence of a combination of drugs and alcohol if that makes it unsafe for you to drive
  • You’re not allowed to drive under the influence of any prescribed medication if that medication makes you incapable of driving safely

If you’ve been charged with DUI drugs in Atlanta, you should contact a DUI defense lawyer in Georgia.

How Do Officers Test or Detect Someone Under the Influence of Drugs?

Just as with drinking and driving, there are certain ways police officers can test to see if someone is under the influence of drugs. However, it’s a lot harder to confirm that someone is under the influence of drugs. A blood test is really the best way to do that.

Cops typically rely on both their powers of observation and a field sobriety test (FST) to determine if someone’s under the influence of drugs. A combination of these factors will be used when deciding whether to arrest someone for DUI drugs.

Law enforcement has a lot of discretion in these situations. Since someone driving under the influence of drugs is so dangerous to the public, cops have a lot of leeway. As you can imagine, this means Atlanta DUI lawyers have more ways to challenge charges of DUI drugs than they do with DUI for alcohol.

What is a Field Sobriety Test (FST)?

Picture of an officer conducting a field sobriety test

The field sobriety test used in Georgia for DUI drugs is the same as for DUI alcohol. The police officer is testing to see if your motor skills, coordination and cognitive abilities seem to be impaired.

Some of the tests used to detect if someone is under the influence of drugs include:

  • Walk and turn – You’ll be asked to walk about ten paces in one direction. Then you’ll have to pivot, turn around, and return to your starting point. If you stagger or are otherwise unable to walk a straight line, the officer may conclude you’re impaired.
  • One Leg Stand – You’ll be asked to stand on one leg and count. You won’t know ahead of time how long you’ll have to do this. Usually, if the officer sees you struggling with the test, they’ll ask you to hold the position longer. If it appears you’re not impaired, this part of the test will be over rather quickly.
  • Gaze Nystagmus Test – The officer will ask you to look at an object, such as a penlight or mini-flashlight. They’ll ask you to follow the object left to right. If you’re unable to do this without also moving your head, they’ll conclude that you may be impaired.
  • Alphabet Test – Although this test isn’t used as often as they make you think in the movies, it’s still a valid test. You’ll be asked to recite part of the alphabet. Rather than start with A or, as commonly believed, start with Z and go backwards, the cop will ask you to start in the middle. They may ask you to recite the alphabet from the letter “F” until the end. They’ll also tell you that you’re not allowed to ”sing” the alphabet.
  • Finger Count – You may be asked to touch your finger to the tip of your nose and count. This requires a lot of coordination since you’re doing a few things at the same time. Often times, you’ll be asked to tilt your head backwards while you’re doing this.

If you fail the FST, you’ll be arrested and charged with DUI drugs.

Contact an Experienced DUI Lawyer in Atlanta

If you’re arrested for DUI drugs in Atlanta, you need to contact a skilled DUI lawyer at Howard & Arca. They can review your case and see if the field sobriety test was administered fairly. They also work with the prosecutor to get your charges reduced or dismissed.

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