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Susan Williams

9 Questions About Driving Under the Influence of Drugs in SC

Just as you can run into legal issues if you enjoy one too many beers before hitting the road, you can get into serious trouble with the law if you operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs, whether the drugs are prescription, or nonprescription.

You can end up with a DUI even if you blow a 0.0 on the breathalyzer, or even if you refuse the breathalyzer. There are several ways you can end up facing charges if you drive under the influence of drugs in South Carolina drug-related DUI. Maybe you smoked some pot with friends, or perhaps you’re taking a prescription narcotic for your back pain. You may have even taken Xanax that a friend gave you, or that you actually even have your own prescription for. Drinking is not the only way to be impaired while driving and get a DUI.

Whatever the circumstances, or the drug, you can land yourself in a world of legal hurt if you choose to drive after use.

The Basics

Whether you’re wanting to know how to avoid this charge or if you’ve already been charged and are trying to decide what to do next, learning more about drug-related DUI’s and what it means to you is a smart decision.

You might not have even known that operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs is illegal. You hear the slogan “Don’t drink and drive” all the time, but you don’t hear people talking about doing drugs and driving very often.

The rules of driving under the influence of drugs are very similar to those of driving under the influence of alcohol. There actually isn’t a completely separate charge for Driving Under the Influence (drug related). It is handled under the DUI laws.

10 Common Questions About Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

Since the substance impacting your ability to drive is drugs and not alcohol, there are some common questions you should know the answers to if you want to better protect yourself from this charge.Below are some common questions and the answers to them. If you or someone you know has been charged with this crime, keep reading!

If you don’t see your question listed below, contact me. We can discuss your situation and how I can help.

1. Does the SC DUI Law apply to drugs?

Yes. Even though most people think that the SC DUI law is just about alcohol, the law really applies to drugs, too. This law says that it’s illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs or any combination of the two, if the drug or alcohol has an impact on your ability to drive.

2. Is a breathalyzer test used in driving under the influence of drugs cases?

No. You will probably be asked to take a blood or urine test, both of which can measure the level of any drug in your system.

3. Do I have to submit to a drug test after being pulled over for drug-related Driving Under the Influence?

No, but there are consequences to refusing.

Just like a law enforcement officer who suspects that you’re drunk will ask you to take a breathalyzer test, a police officer who thinks you’re under the influence of drugs may ask you to take a breath, blood or urine test.

You do have the right to refuse the test. If you refuse to take the test, your license is automatically suspended. However, you may qualify for a Temporary Alcohol License, depending on your eligibility.

The reason your driver’s license is automatically suspended is because of South Carolina’s Implied Consent Law. The Implied Consent Law considers a driver’s license a privilege, not a right. This law basically says that if you have your license and are driving on the roads in SC, you automatically agree to take a DUI screening test if asked by a law enforcement officer. Refusing to take the test is actually breaking the contract you made when you received your license.

4. What drugs are prohibited by driving under the influence of drugs laws?

There is a long list of drugs that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) says are capable of “causing impairment.” This list is not an all inclusive list.

There are plenty of combinations of legal and illegal substances that can impair you ability to drive. To simplify things, any substance that impairs your ability to drive can land you a DUI.

5. What if I have a prescription for the drug that caused my driving under the influence charge?

When it comes to a DUI drug-related charge, it doesn’t matter whether you have a prescription for the drug. You don’t even have to have been abusing the medication. Even if you took the drug exactly as your doctor prescribed, you can receive a DUI if law enforcement determines the drug impaired your driving abilities. In many cases, prescriptions come with warnings not to operate motor vehicles while taking the drug.

You are responsible if the drug you took impairs your ability to drive. You are also responsible if the drug you took, combined with other drugs or alcohol impairs your ability to drive. Voluntary Intoxication (whether it be drugs or alcohol) is not a defense to DUI in SC.

6. What’s the “legal limit” in SC when it comes to drugs and driving under the influence charges?

This is where driving under the influence of drugs is different from a typical alcohol-related DUI. When it comes to drugs, there is no set “legal limit.” It is up to the law enforcement officer who stops you to decide whether or not to arrest you because you seem impaired.

If the police officer decides that you are impaired, you may be required to take a blood, urine or breath test. If that test comes back showing that you have drugs (prescription, non-prescription, legal, or illegal) in your system you may get charged with Driving Under the Influence.

A law enforcement officer can also ask you to perform some Field Sobriety Tests as they relate to detecting whether your ability to drive is impaired by the substances. You have the right to refuse those tests.

7. What happens after a charge for Driving Under the Influence of drugs in SC?

The process is very similar to what would happen if you were charged with a typical alcohol-related DUI.

If your driver’s license was suspended, you have a limited time frame after your arrest to request an administrative law hearing. If you win this hearing, you’ll get your license back. If you lose, your license will remain suspended.

You’ll deal with your DUI charge in a separate, criminal court.

8. What happens after a conviction for DUI of drugs in SC?

If you’re found guilty of driving while under the influence of drugs, you could face a number of penalties. These include fines, jail time and a longer driver’s license suspension.

Along with these more common consequences, DUI convictions may result in:

  • The South Carolina Alcohol and Drug Safety Program (ADSAP): You may be required to attend classes at an education and treatment program for people convicted of DUI and similar offenses.
  • Extra SR-22 Insurance: You may be required to get a special type of additional insurance before you can get your license back. You will also have to pay for your insurance company to send an official letter to the court, saying that you have this special insurance.
  • Car insurance rate increases: Even if you are not required to add SR-22 insurance, your insurance rates may go up. Whether or not your rate increases—and by how much—depends on your insurance company.

9. Are DUI of drugs convictions considered “prior convictions” for future charges?

This depends on what you’re charged with in the future. A DUI of drugs conviction does count as a prior conviction if you’re charged with another DUI (alcohol or drug related) within 10 years. A DUI conviction “counts” on your prior record whether the DUI was for drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two.

The amount of time between convictions does make a difference. For DUIs, there is a 10-year look back period. This means that if you had a DUI conviction within the last 10 years, it will count as a prior conviction. However, if the conviction was more than 10 years ago, it won’t count as a prior conviction.

What to do next?

If you’ve found yourself facing a DUI of drugs charge, what you do next may make a major difference. These charges, just like typical alcohol-related DUI charges, can be very serious. If you’re convicted, you could face financial penalties, car insurance rate hikes, and/or jail time. You could even experience other negative effects, like losing your job or not getting accepted to the college you want to attend.

While you can’t change what happened, you may be able to minimize the impact your drug-related DUI will have on your future. Having an experienced lawyer on your side can make all the difference. Don’t go it alone. Be smart, be safe and be supported. 

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Copyright 2019 Susan E. Williams, Summerville, SC, All Rights Reserved.