As a criminal offense, driving while impaired (DWI) has long-lasting repercussions. Apart from the fines, license suspensions, and jail time, convicted rivers also get a criminal record.
DWI offenses are usually associated with alcohol. However, North Carolina’s laws also apply to impaired driving caused by drugs.
What’s a drug-related DWI?
According to state rules, a person commits DWI if they operate any vehicle on any state highway or street while under the influence of an impairing substance or while having an alcohol concentration of .08% or more.
The “impairing substance” mentioned can be alcohol, an illegal controlled substance, a prescription medication or even an over-the-counter drug. As long as the substance can cause intoxication or impair a person’s ability to drive a vehicle safely, it can lead to DWI charges.
How is drug impairment measured?
As mentioned earlier, a driver can face charges for driving under the influence of alcohol if their alcohol concentration level is at least .08%. But it’s a lot less straightforward to measure drug-based impairment.
Instead of measuring against a standardized legal limit, law enforcement uses the following methods to decide if a driver is sufficiently impaired by drugs:
- Field sobriety tests: These tests can include tasks like walking in a straight line or standing on one leg.
- Drug recognition experts (DREs): Specially trained officers who can recognize signs of drug impairment.
- Chemical tests: Blood or urine tests can be used to detect the presence of drugs.
The presence of drugs in a driver’s system isn’t enough to prove intoxication, so an officer will have to use a combination of testing methods to decide whether to charge the driver.
The penalties for drugged driving
The penalties for drugged driving in North Carolina are similar to those for driving under the influence of alcohol. They include:
- Jail time
- License suspension
- Required substance abuse assessment and treatment
The exact amounts for each penalty depend on the number of prior offenses the driver may have. Certain aggravating factors can also enhance penalties, such as drugged driving with a suspended license or with a child passenger under 18.
Navigating a DWI charge, especially when it involves drugs, can be complex. If you’re facing charges, consider seeking legal assistance to understand your rights and explore your defense options.