Alcohol is not the only substance that South Carolina motorists should avoid before driving a passenger vehicle. Drivers caught with illegal drugs in their systems like cocaine or marijuana could also face charges.
A motorist who is guilty of driving while under the influence of illicit substances is subject to similar penalties as DUI. According to statistics from the National Traffic Safety Administration, the number of drivers with drugs in their systems is rising. However, some drivers face arrest for impaired driving when they are not guilty of the offense.
Defining impaired driving
Law enforcement efforts should focus on drivers who pose a threat to other motorists after using drugs, but many arrests for impaired driving happens for things like traces of a sleeping pill in a driver’s system while on their way to work. These arrests happen even when there is no effect on the driver’s ability to command a vehicle.
Identifying impaired drivers
Traffic enforcement officers receive training at identifying drivers with drugs in their systems. However, mistakes are often made that lead to innocent people spending time in jail. The evidence suggests that one in eight people arrested for drugged driving nationwide is not driving under the influence of drugs.
The main problem with identifying impaired drivers is that much hinges on officer perception. Officers commonly observe the attitude, speech and other discernible characteristics of a driver they stop. The tests an officer can use at the scene of a traffic stop to help them identify impaired drivers include:
- Finger-to-nose test
- Walk-and-turn test
- Modified Romberg balance test
- One-legged stand
There is no doubt that these tests are useful in many cases. However, there are many reasons other than drug use that can cause a driver to perform poorly on field sobriety tests.
Defending against a drug driving charge
Individuals accused of operating a motor vehicle while influenced by drugs or alcohol will need to mount a defense to protect them from potential damage to their livelihood. The services of a criminal defense attorney may prove useful.