Drugged Driving in Maryland
Driving under the influence in Maryland means more than just drunk driving. You can also be stopped and arrested for driving under the influence of drugs if your driving was impaired. This includes both illegal substances as well as prescription drugs and even over-the-counter medications. The law in this area is in many ways more complicated than a drunk driving arrest, so you will definitely want to have your case reviewed by an attorney who is well-versed in Maryland DUI laws.
Maryland Laws on Drugged Driving
Maryland’s DUI statute can be found at Section 21-902 of the Maryland Code. This law makes it illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or while impaired by alcohol. In other words, if you blow a .08% blood alcohol content (BAC) on a Breathalyzer or Alcotest, you are considered driving under the influence per se, and you can be charged with DUI even if your driving was not impaired, but you can also be charged for DUI with less than .08% BAC if your driving was actually impaired. Both instances raise legal and factual questions that can be challenged in court. For instance, if your driving was not impaired, did the police have probable cause to pull you over and test you in the first place? If the police determined that you were impaired, was this decision based on objective, provable evidence or on unreliable, subjective determinations like some field sobriety tests or a preliminary breath test?
The next part of the law concerns drugged driving. Since there is no law regarding a threshold level of “blood drug content” and DUI per se like there is for alcohol, there must be some determination that you were actually impaired. In the case of a controlled dangerous substance defined under Maryland law 5-101, like marijuana or cocaine, the prosecutor must show that you were impaired. If the drug in question was a prescription drug or over-the-counter medicine, it must be shown that you were so impaired that you could not drive a vehicle safely.
Drugged Driving Defenses
In the case of a prescription medicine or other drug which is not illegal per se, you may have a defense if you were unaware that taking the drug would make you incapable of safely driving a vehicle. This situation can also arise when you have taken a combination of medicines, or medicine and alcohol, that impaired your driving, when either of the substances taken alone would not have done so, and you didn’t know that the combination was dangerous.
Another important point to consider is how the police determined that you were impaired and that they had probable cause to require you to take a drug test. Field tests that measure your balance, agility, concentration and other characteristics are notoriously subjective and can be difficult to pass even if you have not ingested any alcohol or drugs. For instance, you may have a physical or mental condition that keeps you from performing well, or you may be sick or tired at the time. These tests are designed for you to fail and to give the police probable cause to demand a chemical test of your blood, breath or urine.
In order for a law enforcement officer to decide that you are impaired due to drugs, that person should have valid qualifications as a drug recognition expert. If the officer is not so qualified, the basis for establishing probable cause may not be there, and your attorney may be able to have your case dismissed.