The vast majority of DUI charges in Virginia involve suspected use of alcohol. However, it is possible to be charged with DUI based solely upon use of drugs (even prescription drugs), if such use impairs the motorist's ability to safely operate their vehicle. The approach that an experienced criminal defense attorney will take in these sorts of cases will vary depending upon the specific facts of the case, but there are certain constants that will apply to every case.
Most people are familiar with the concept of .08 as being the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) for a DUI charge. This standard is uniform across the 50 states, largely by virtue of heavy handed federal policies in the 1970s and 1980s whereby states were denied federal highway funding for failure to institute this standard. There are similar standards in Virginia with respect to certain drug concentrations in a motorist's blood pursuant to Virginia Code 18.2-266. Specifically, any person with a blood concentration of equal to or greater than .02 mg/L of cocaine, .1 mg/L of methamphetamine, .01 mg/L of phencyclidine (angel dust), or .1 mg/L of MDMA (ecstasy or molly) is presumed to be under the influence for purposes of the statute.
That is not to say that one cannot be convicted of DUI if they have consumed a sufficient amount of a drug not specifically listed in the statute. Any motorist who has consumed alcohol and/or drugs "to a degree which impairs his ability to drive or operate any motor vehicle , engine or train safely" may be charged and convicted of DUI.
Drug DUI cases are highly technical, and require a skilled criminal defense attorney. If the Commonwealth is seeking to prove that the individual's blood concentrations exceeded those proscribed by statute, the prosecutor must produce scientific evidence with appropriate foundation and support for that premise. This is not easy to do, as it requires evidence that the blood was properly withdrawn, transported, and tested to be admissible as evidence. Where the Commonwealth is seeking to secure a conviction in cases involving drugs not specifically enumerated, their challenge is even greater. The Commonwealth must prove not only that the motorist consumed some sort of drug contemporaneously with their operation of a motor vehicle; but that such consumption (and not some other factor) had the effect of impairing the safe operation of the motor vehicle.
Courts in Virginia are particularly harsh on those convicted of DUI where drugs are involved. For this reason, it is essential to hire experienced counsel in these cases. If you or someone you love is facing DUI drugs charge, contact us right away. We are ready to help!