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Defense Strategies in Maryland DUI Drug Cases

There is almost no difference between the arrest in a drug DUI and an alcohol-related DUI. The arrest is going to play out nearly the same, other than the fact that with a DUI drug citation there is usually a drug possession case attached. If the officer pulls you over and finds drugs in your possession, they’re going to charge you with possession of drugs and they’re going to charge you with DUI for the drugs. From the DUI perspective, it plays out exactly the same, other than that there is no number, there is no breath test. There is no such thing as a “drug per se” case. The state has to worry more about proving individual impairment, rather than just saying that the person blew a .09 so they are guilty of DUI per se. It’s a tougher case for the state to make.

Drug DUI Case: What to Expect

The process plays out procedurally just like every other DUI. They will have a first court date.

One big difference will probably come into play with the driver’s license implications. There is no driving under the influence of drugs per se statute like there is with alcohol, where if an individual blows a .08, that triggers certain driver’s license consequences. There is no equivalent limit for drugs. That means that if an individual agrees to a blood test for drugs and it comes back positive, there is not going to be an immediate license consequence like there would be for alcohol.

If an individual refuses to take a test, that can trigger the same license consequences that a refusal for alcohol would trigger.  On the criminal side, it will be exactly the same. The individual has a date initially in district court. They may or may not have a right to a jury trial, depending on which violations were charged. An attorney will handle the case very similarly in the sense that they’ll investigate and negotiate with the State’s Attorney. If they can’t reach an agreement, then they’ll take the case to trial.

A Drug DUI Lawyer Can Help

The first question that any good lawyer asks is whether they can get the client out of the charge. Meaning, can they beat the case by either taking it to trial or by showing the State’s Attorney what a weak case it is and convincing them not to process it? The next question that the lawyer asks is whether they can mitigate the amount of trouble the client is in if it goes to court. That comes down to trying to get the case in front of the best judge to hear those facts and then the presentation of mitigation and advice on the appropriate level of mitigation for any given case.

Defense Strategies in DUI Drug Cases

Driving under the influence of drugs cases are a lot more defensible. Frequently, there is no chemical test for a driving under the influence of drugs case, either through unavailability of the test, or inability to admit the test from chain of custody or from an expert with the ability to explain what the test means.

That means that most drug cases play out like refusal cases, where the officer or the state will try to show impairment through driving behavior, demeanor, field sobriety tests, and potentially the testimony of the DRE. Those cases are a lot more winnable with good field sobriety tests, or no field sobriety tests and a stop for something other than bad driving.

The ideal stops are stops for equipment violations, like a tag light or a headlight, and then good field sobriety tests and no admissions. A good defense lawyer should be able to get the individual out of that case.

There are all of the same issues that you see in a run-of-the-mill DUI stop. We look at if there was arguable reason to stop the vehicle, or sufficient probable cause to actually effectuate an arrest.

The big issue with drug cases is level of impairment. It is more difficult for the state to prove that somebody was actually high at the time based on observations, particularly with the case out of Carroll County that challenges the drug recognition experts.

The DRE was the answer to the lack of the per se law up until very recently, and is still in some jurisdictions. The Carroll County Circuit Court isn’t binding on anyone except Carroll County, although I’ve had some success arguing to exclude DREs in Howard County because they are a sister county.

Level of Impairment in DUI Drug Cases

Whether you are dealing with illicit substances or prescription drugs or over-the-counter medication, you fight them on the impairment.

The state will try to prove impairment with driving behavior, so a defense would be if the officer pulled the individual over for a tag light and there was no bad driving. If an individual is pulled over for driving the wrong way down the highway with their lights off, that’s a charge you want to beat, whether it’s drugs or alcohol.

Most judges are going to look at that driving behavior and say that there is some level of impairment behind it. In the former of those, the drug case is going to be much tougher to make because there was no bad driving, and that’s one of the primary things the state uses to show impairment.

They could also use the driver’s demeanor when contacted by the officer, slurred speech, blood shot eyes, difficulty retrieving paperwork when asked, etc. Finally, there are the field sobriety tests, which are tests of divided attention, balancing, coordination, and ability to remember and follow a long list of directions, all of which the state is going to try to use as evidence to prove impairment.