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How does Virginia handle drugged driving charges?

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Virginia prosecutors can file driving while impaired (DWI) charges against people who drive after drinking too much alcohol. Both obvious impairment at the wheel and an elevated blood alcohol concentration (BAC) could justify a DWI charge in Virginia.

Sometimes, state prosecutors bring charges against people not due to alcohol but instead other mind-altering substances. Police officers can arrest people who drive while they are under the influence of drugs, and prosecutors can bring charges against those motorists.

Drugged driving is a DWI offense

People sometimes think that there are separate criminal statutes for drugged driving as opposed to drunk driving. However, Virginia prosecutes both types of offenses using the same statute. A DWI offense can involve either alcohol or drugs. Still, there are a variety of factors that make drugged driving cases noticeably different from drunk driving cases in the Virginia criminal courts.

There is no set limit for drugged driving

Some drunk driving cases involve obviously poor driving. A motorist might get arrested at the scene of a crash or after their unusual conduct on the road draws the attention of a police officer. Even those who drive like everyone else could face charges if they fail chemical tests because they have a BAC over the legal limit. No such limit exists for drugged driving cases. Either the admission that someone recently consumed drugs or a failed chemical test could be sufficient reason to pursue a drugged driving charge against a motorist.

Both legal and illegal drugs can lead to charges

Most people understand the idea that driving after using a dangerous and prohibited drug is a crime. Fewer people realize that the state can prosecute them for prescription medication that they take legally. Even certain over-the-counter medications, including cold medicine and sleep aids, could lead to impaired driving charges in Virginia. The penalties possible are effectively the same regardless of whether the state accuses someone of using a legal drug or an illegal one.

Although the penalties and charges are largely the same in drugged driving and drunk driving cases in Virginia, the circumstances leading to someone’s arrest and the way the state builds a case can be vastly different in those two different scenarios. Making sense of Virginia’s sometimes confusing DWI statutes can help people choose the best way to respond after a recent arrest.