Difference Between Alcohol and Drug Related DUI Charges in Virginia

DUI and DUID charges in Virginia are very similar, however there are some important distinctions in how the charges are brought and the cases are proven. For these reasons, it is important to have a Virginia DUID lawyer who knows the unique aspects of Virginia DUID cases, to provide assistance when facing these charges.

Virginia DUID Stops

DUIDs operate in essentially the same way as a typical DUI stop: the officer will ask the individual questions about their consumption of drugs that night, as a opposed to alcohol. Officers will then ask for license and registration. They will then typically ask the individual to step out of the vehicle and to perform some field sobriety tests.

Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are standardized tests that police use on a daily basis to determine whether someone is operating under the influence of drugs or of alcohol. In performing these tests, officers will be looking at the individual’s ability to speak clearly, to follow the conversation, and to articulate thoughts. Officers will also look at physical indicators as well, such as whether the person’s eyes look glassy, bloodshot or overly droopy, or whether they have enlarged pupils or difficulty focusing their eyes.

Field sobriety tests are also designed to assess the physical effect of drugs on things like coordination, the ability to perform simple tasks, and the ability to listen to instructions. Based on an individual’s performance of the tasks, much like a DUI alcohol case, law enforcement will either have sufficient probable cause to arrest them or they will not. If probable cause exists, they will be arrested.

DUID Blood Tests

One main difference that occurs in DUID stop as opposed to a DUI with alcohol stop is that if officers suspect the individual of driving under the influence of drugs, they may take their blood and analyze it with or without the individual’s consent. This is a different from any alcohol test where typically the first thing that officers administer is a breathalyzer test. Because the presence of drugs cannot be detected through a breath test, officers are therefore entitled to take the individual’s blood.

Arrest and Trial

Whether a person is charged with a DUI for drugs or DUI for alcohol, the arrest and trial tend to follow a very similar path for both offenses. In both cases, the arrest involves the police officer pulling the individual over, asking them to get out of the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests. Whether or not they are arrested depends on their performance on those tests. Subsequently, they will be brought back to the police station for booking or, in the event of a drug DUI, straight to a hospital to have their blood drawn for a blood test. Being taken to the hospital after their arrest is one thing that is different between the two types of cases.

After booking, the charged individual will be held in police custody until they are sober, which typically is about ten hours after they have been arrested. Afterwards, they will go before a magistrate who will determine whether or not a bond should be set. If a bond is set, they typically will be released and then they will come back for an arraignment a few days later. If they are held without bond or cannot make the set bond, they will go for arraignment very shortly after they have been arrested. At that point, an attorney will be appointed or they will hire an attorney for a bond motion. They will then have their case set out for trial at arraignment.

For both types of cases, trials are handled in general district court. Both types of cases are investigated and handled essentially in the same way. Typically there will be testimony provided by an officer and, in DUID cases where blood samples are taken, from the nurse who drew the blood and likely an analyst from the Department of Forensic Science. In alcohol DUI cases, nurses and analysts are unlikely to testify because courts in those cases typically admit the results of the Breathalyzer test. After the trial, if the individual is found guilty, the judge will sentence them. Sentencing is more or less the same for both types of DUIs.

Proving the Charges

Every case is different, and there are certainly exceptions, but on average, a typical DUI drug case will be slightly harder for the prosecutor to prove than an alcohol case.  This is for several reasons. First, drugs may not be as easily detected initially because most drugs typically do not have a strong odor like alcohol has. Second, with drugs, the indicators of intoxication are not the same. Third, drugs cannot be revealed by a breath test. Drug DUIs require police to take the accused to get their blood drawn and that involves a hospital, a nurse, and a forensic scientist to come in. The extra aspects involved in a drug DUI make it more difficult for the prosecution, on average, to prove a DUI drugs case than a DUI alcohol case. Again, each case varies on the facts that they present.

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