In Missouri, you could be arrested for driving under the influence of any substance, not just alcohol. The penalties for driving drunk and driving high are the same, as are the charges. In theory, this is a good, reasonable law. After all, you wouldn’t want someone behind the wheel while they’re dozing off on heroin.
Unfortunately, this law also allows for police to cast a wide net. If they believe that any substance impaired your driving, they can use this as evidence to justify an arrest. In theory, they could claim that a strong cup of coffee impaired your ability to drive.
Driving under the influence of something other than alcohol is often referred to as a DUID, “driving under the influence of drugs.” It’s much harder to build a case against someone who is high, but the police attempt to anyway. Here are some flimsy methods the cops will use to accuse you of driving while high.
Testing someone’s blood alcohol level (BAC) is much easier than testing for narcotics. A simple blood draw, correctly performed, can reveal the percentage of alcohol floating in your system.
Testing for narcotics is much more difficult. First of all, there are no concrete ways to tell exactly how much is in your system or how affected you are by the substance. Police can rely on trace amounts of a substance to accuse you of driving while high. This means that, even if someone took drugs days ago, they could be accused of a DUID while they were completely sober.
The next problem is the incompleteness of a drug test. There are many drugs on the streets, and cops have no way to test for them all. You could be on legally prescribed drugs, drugs that do not traditionally impair their users, and still be accused of driving high.
This leads to the next problem of a DUID, the authorities’ assumptions.
Police Must Rely on Their Intuition
As we’ve stated, the police can’t account for all drugs when testing. They can, however, use their assessment alone to warrant an arrest. Image someone is swerving, speeding, and making risky lane changes. At best, the police could charge this person with reckless driving. This is still a harsh accusation, and its punishments are severe, but it doesn’t have the same impact as a DUID charge.
Now imagine this same scenario, but the driver happens to tell the police that he’s drinking kava tea. (Kava, if you are unaware, is a sedative tea that heavily relaxes the drinker.) In this case, the cops could assume that the driver’s behavior is the result of the tea and charge them with a DUI. With or without testing, if the cop believes you were high, they can use this belief against you.
Any time you are pulled over by the police, remain silent. There may be some standard questions you should answer, such as your name, but anything else is not the police’s business. Don’t tell them where you’re coming from or where you’re going. If they ask, “how much have you had to drink?” or, “are you on any medication?” stay tight-lipped. Don’t give them any reason to assume you are under the influence, and you may be able to avoid a DUID accusation.
An individual’s assumptions are, of course, a weak justification for an arrest. Your attorney may find it easy to create doubt in this case, which could allow you to retain your freedom.
DUID Penalties in Missouri
In our state, punishments for a DUID conviction are steep and lasting. As someone faces more accusations, the penalties become more severe.
For a first offense, the accused can face up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,000. Moreover, they could have their license suspended for 30 days with another 60-day restricted license after.
Convicted a second time, someone could go to jail for one year, and fines can go up to $2,000. They could lose their license for one to five years, depending on how long it’s been since their last conviction. When they are allowed to drive again, they must use IID (ignition interlock device) for six months.
For three or more offenses, there is a sharp rise in penalties. One could be in jail for as much as four years with fines as high as $10,000. They could even lose thier license for the next ten years. Even if they are allowed to drive, they must use an IID for six months.
Defenses Against a DUID Charge
Discredit the Evidence
As we’ve said, there is an inherent weakness in many DUID accusations. If the charge is based on a cop’s beliefs alone, those assumptions can be easily fought.
The testing, too, can be debunked. If there were only trace amounts of a drug in your system, that is not solid proof that you drove while high. Because there are no tests that can detect every drug, they can bring back nothing at all. It’s difficult to make such an allegation with no hard science to back it up.
Furthermore, the testing itself can be challenged. Only a certified phlebotomist should do a blood draw, and those samples must be stored properly. If your attorney finds evidence of an improper drawing or poor storage, this already spurious evidence could be invalidated in court.
Explain Your Behavior
Often, the police have little more than your behavior to use as evidence in a DUID case. Several things could resemble intoxication to the outside observer. People with certain illnesses, such as diabetes or chronic sinus problems, can often appear listless or disconnected. Simple fatigue could read as inebriation to the police. Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong at all. Some people simply have eccentric personalities and are often accused of being high when they aren’t. With no other evidence against you, your behavior can be an honest, credible defense in court.
If you’ve been accused of a DUI or DUID, you do not have to take these accusations lying down. Contact us for a free consultation, and we may be able to help defend you. Our number is (636) 400-1177, and you can reach us online.