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How do police test for drugged driving?

Virginia has laws against DUI and drugged driving. For example, the DMV website states, "Also similar to driving under the influence of booze, those who drive high on drugs could get a DUI." The section goes on to say, "Law enforcement officers across Virginia are specially trained to recognize drugged drivers."

However, how exactly do these officers recognize drugged driving? Are there special tests like there are for alcohol?

The general process

First things first: Police officers still need a good reason to pull a driver over. Maybe the police officer reports that the driver is weaving dangerously in and out of traffic or operating erratically. Officers then usually try to administer preliminary breath tests, field sobriety tests and the like. If they still suspect someone of DUI or drugged driving after this point, they may take him or her to the police station for an official DUI test.

You may pass the test, meaning you are under the 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration limit, perhaps even with no alcohol in your system. Police then call in a drug recognition expert. The DRE evaluates you, normally for about an hour, and is well-versed in recognizing if you may be under the influence of drugs and even what category of drugs might be affecting you.

The rationale

Police do not typically deploy drug tests in the way they do DUI tests because drug tests are not reliable. Even a relatively common drug, marijuana, does not have a widespread, universally accepted and court-accepted test.

What might this mean for you?

DUI tests have their pitfalls and are not always administered properly. That said, they can serve as a legitimate reason among others to charge a driver with DUI. It gets more troubling when an officer suspects drugs instead of alcohol, and a charge ensues. The evidence becomes more circumstantial, so there may be more vulnerable points in the state's case for a defense lawyer to attack. Remember that no matter what, you have the right to remain silent when police pull you over, and talking to police can later hurt your case.

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Leesburg, VA 20176

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