Driving under the influence of drugs is a crime much like alcohol. The penalties for each crime are the same. However, drugged driving is much more difficult to prove. This does not mean that it is legal to get behind the wheel while under the influence of any drug including prescription pills. This article will examine everything you need to know about driving under the influence of drugs in Massachusetts.
Driving Under the Influence of Any Drug
Massachusetts considers anyone under the influence of a drug impaired. Therefore, no matter the drug that you are on, the police can bring criminal charges against you. For instance, just because you have a prescription, this doesn’t mean it’s ok to drive while taking your medication. Many prescription narcotics come with a warning about operating large machinery. The police don’t care if you buy drugs on the street corner or obtain them legally through your doctor. If the police suspect you of driving under the influence of drugs they will arrest you.
You may be wondering about marijuana. Massachusetts voters have legalized recreational marijuana. However, the legalization of recreational marijuana doesn’t mean it is now legal to drive under the influence of marijuana. The police treat marijuana just like any other drug.
Testing For Drugged Driving
Alcohol impairment has become increasingly easier to test for in recent decades. With the invention of tools such as the portable breathalyzer, police officer’s can confirm their suspicions with relative ease. However, drugged driving is much more difficult to test for. Our nation has plenty of experience with alcohol. Therefore, the testing methods have been refined over the years. Drugs are a different story. Drugged driving is a relatively new problem, and there are very few solutions or tests available.
With more states legalizing both recreational and medical marijuana, there is a strong push toward finding a solution for testing for marijuana impairment. Because marijuana is fat soluble, it transfers into fatty tissue in your body. Also, marijuana stays in your system longer. Alcohol, on the other hand, disperses through the water in your body. This makes alcohol easy to test for in your urine and on your breath.
Recent developments in drugged driving testing have produced mouth swabs. The police swab the inside of a driver’s mouth and put the sample into a machine. The machine tests for seven drugs including marijuana, cocaine, opiates, methamphetamine, amphetamine, methadone and benzodiazepines. However, this machine does not test for the level of the substance, just its presence. Therefore, the driver will still be given a blood test to determine if they are currently under the influence.
Other Testing Methods
Police departments across the country are attempting to train their officers to spot the signs of driving under the influence of drugs. They call these officer’s “drug recognition experts.” The officers participate in a month long training course. They are taught signs and symptoms of driving under the influence of drugs. However, these signs are open to human interpretation. There are numerous cases across the country where drug recognition experts have wrongfully arrested an individual for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. In other words, the system is far from perfect.
Penalties For Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
Massachusetts treats drugged driving the same as alcohol impaired driving. Therefore, the penalties for each are the same. However, the court is more likely to require a person facing drugged drivings charges to participate in a substance abuse class. The penalties for drugged driving are as follows:
- First Offense: The maximum penalty for a first offense is a one-year suspension of driving privileges, 30 months of house arrest, and a fine of $5,000. Additionally, the court can sentence an individual to participate in substance abuse classes.
- Second Offense: A second conviction within five years will result in a jail sentence between 30 days and 30 months, a fine up to $10,000, and suspension of your driving privileges for two years.
- Third Offense: The penalty for a third conviction is a 180 day to five-year prison sentence, a fine up to $15,000, and an eight-year license suspension. A third or subsequent conviction will result in felony charges as well.
- Fourth Offense: A fourth conviction will result in a prison sentence between two and five years, a fine up to $25,000, and a ten-year license suspension.
- Fifth Offense: The prison term for a fifth offense is the same as a fourth offense. However, the maximum fine increases to $50,000 and the license suspension is for life.
Given the high stakes of a drugged driving conviction and the inability of the police to prove a strong case, you will want to hire an attorney. An experienced DUI attorney could help you poke holes in the case against you and formulate the best defense possible. Contact Rory Munns today for a free consultation.