In all states, including Georgia, it is more serious to be charged with driving while impaired by marijuana or a controlled substance as to be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. The DUI laws of the state include both categories of offenses. It is also worth noting that if you are convicted of possessing, distributing, or using an illegal, controlled substance or marijuana while operating a motor vehicle at the time you may face driving restrictions.
Charges of DUI Need Not Include Illegal Substances
Even if you have substances other than alcohol in your blood or urine that can impair your ability to drive, you may be charged with DUI even for taking prescribed medications or over-the-counter painkillers, sleeping pills, cough syrup or inhalants.
In addition, Georgia has a specific charge for DUI when the defendant is under the influence of both alcohol and drugs. If the police officer suspects that you have used alcohol and drugs in combination, you will likely face two or more DUI charges. Though the police may have pulled your vehicle over because of your speeding, lane changing, or disobeying other traffic laws, there is always a chance that you will also be evaluated for driving while impaired.
How Law Enforcement Officials Evaluate You in Terms of Drug Use
Police officers are trained to look for signs of drug use in addition to being educated concerning signs of alcohol use. Common indicators they look for if they suspect drug use are:
- Presence of drugs in your vehicle or on your person
- Admissions of drug use
- Bloodshot eyes
- Dilated or constricted pupils
- Slurred or unusual speech
- Erratic driving
- Poor performance of field sobriety tests
- Restlessness or nervousness
- Extreme lethargy
- Irritability, agitation, and/or aggression
- Special “Drug Sobriety Tests” such as the Modified Rhomberg Evaluation, Lack of Convergence, and pupil dilation tests.
If police report that you have provided observable evidence of drug use, if a witness has come forth who has firsthand knowledge that you have used drugs recently, or if you have failed to pass field sobriety tests and/or blood or urine evaluations, your attorney will be presented with a much more difficult task as he or she works hard to dispute the evidence.
DUI Penalties Involving Illegal Drug Use in Georgia
If you are convicted of driving while under the influence of drugs in Georgia, you face potential:
- License suspension with no hardship permits to go to work, school, or other vital needs in your life
- Drug treatment (Risk Reduction) program for which you must pay all associated costs
- 12-months of probation requiring monthly visits to a probation officer and associated fees
- Minimum of 24 hours in jail
- Court fines and surcharges
- Community service with fees for supervision
- License reinstatement fee
- Jail time
Illegal drugs, drugs that have no lawful use, such as heroin or cocaine, subject their users to punishment as “per se” DUI if found in any amount. This means, simply the fact that the drug is in your system, there is a presumption that you are guilty of DUI. For drugs like marijuana and other drugs that can be lawfully prescribed, prosecutors typically have to bring a DUI charge of “Less Safe.”
One of the strictest parts of DUI for drug use in Georgia is that a DUI drug conviction will leave your license suspended for a minimum of 1 year. During this period you will be forbidden to drive, with no exceptions made for work, school, or medical appointments. You should be aware that this punishment is separate from the administrative suspension of your driving privileges that will occur within 45 days of your arrest unless your lawyer appeals it.
Drug DUI Defense Lawyer in North Georgia
Considering the severity of the punishments for DUI while impaired by drugs in Georgia, if you are arrested for this offense you should take it very seriously. It is essential that you engage the services of knowledgeable and savvy DUI defense attorneys like those at Carter/Pilgrim. Having handled thousands of DUI cases in North Georgia, both as prosecutors and defense attorneys, we have a unique perspective and a fine track record of success in defending our clients from DUI drug charges. Contact us today to set up a consultation with an Atlanta drug DUI attorney.