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How do They Test for Drug Impairment at a DUI Stop?

Posted by Christopher Martens | Aug 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

DUI checkpoint stops, also called sobriety checkpoints, are points on a road where police officers stop cars arbitrarily to check for driving under the influence. When you are driving under the influence of alcohol, there are numerous sign an officer can look for that would indicate you had been drinking. However, if you were under the impairment of a recreational or prescription drug, it may be harder for them to quickly assess your state of impairment and what you are impaired by. This does not mean you can get away with driving under the influence of drugs, also called drugged driving; many officers have been trained to assess impairment from a variety of substances at a DUI checkpoint. Unlike with alcohol, an officer might not detect what drug you were taking by smelling your breath or looking for slurred speech. They may also struggle with identifying how impaired you are and if your impairment warrants a DUI arrest. Officers may look for other signs you have been driving while impaired, such as evidence of drugs in the car or on your person or unusual mannerisms commonly seen in people who have been doing drugs. On top of brief observations of your appearance and behavior, drug tests can be given to confirm or deny that you were driving while impaired. New drug tests that test swabs from your cheek cells can detect the presence of drugs in your system in a matter of minutes.

Keep in mind the standard California DUI laws when being stopped at a checkpoint for any reason. Until you are arrested, you have the right to refuse to submit to a blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, test or a drug test. However, if you do refuse the test, your license can be suspended for one year, even if you are later found to have not been driving while impaired at all. You can still be arrested without test results, based off of probable cause. If the officer finds other signs you may be driving under the influence, this may be enough to arrest you. At this point, you have to submit to a drug or BAC test, or both. Unfortunately, while those drinking and driving have to exceed a certain legal limit before they can be conclusively proven to have committed a DUI defense, those who have been taking drugs can be found guilty of a DUI at any substance level. This isn't always fair; some drugs can stay in your system in trace amounts in your blood for days after any affect has worn off. For this reason, drugged driving charges can be complex to defense. Contact an experienced DUI defense attorney if you are facing drugged driving charges. The prosecution must prove you were driving while under the influence of some substance however it can be hard to prove you were actually under the influence at the time you were driving. Speak to an attorney about the circumstances of your case to explore any potential defense options you have.

DUI checkpoints are operated according to a strict set of guidelines and procedures the officer must follow to be in adherence with the law. An arbitrary traffic stop lies on the boarder of violating your right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, under the fourth amendment. The state of California has ruled DUI checkpoints so greatly outweigh the costs of violating your rights that they are legally permissible, as long as they follow these guidelines. The cost of DUIs to California taxpayers is great, so the checkpoints are considered as a way to keep roads safer and to save resources. Because the stop is arbitrary, however, that means that regardless of whether your driving appeared to be impaired, you could still be stopped and assessed for a DUI. In some ways, DUI checkpoints can make it easier for law enforcement to find those who are driving while under the influence of drugs. Some drugs may not affect your driving at all so without being stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you could have never been stopped. In any case, be aware of your rights at DUI checkpoints and speak to an attorney if you have been arrested for drugged driving.

Are you in the Visalia or Tulare area and facing DUI charges for drugged driving? At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we are experienced in DUI and drug defense and can provide tenacious representation through out your case. Criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens has successfully represented clients in Fresno, Tulare and Kings Counties and can strategize a solid defense for your case. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your case.

About the Author

Christopher Martens

Bio Visalia and Bakersfield criminal defense attorney who has dedicated his life to helping those who have been accused of crimes or injured due to the negligence of others.


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