Can You Get Arrested for Driving While High?

Posted on by Defensive Driving | in Defensive Driving Tips

You know that you can get arrested for drinking and driving. It is something you should never do and you are well aware of the possible consequences. But what about taking prescription drugs and then driving? Or smoking pot or using illicit drugs before driving? Are those just as bad? The easy answer is yes. You can be arrested for driving with any substance in your system that causes your ability to drive to decrease. And the punishment is just as severe as if you drive drunk.

But how do they know how much I’ve had?

This is where it gets tricky. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the laws in each state are different for this very reason. It is very difficult to measure just how much of a particular drug is in your system. Even if they could tell how much you have taken, there is not an agreed upon amount of these drugs that is known to cause impairment. With alcohol, it is known that a .08% blood alcohol content is the magic amount that makes it so you should not be driving. Since this figure doesn’t exist for drugs, it is up to the discretion of the police officer if you should be arrested or not.

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What do the cops base their decision on?

Cops are looking for any form of impaired driving. They look for slow drivers, drivers that are swerving, and drivers that are doing anything out of the ordinary. If you get pulled over, you will be tested for alcohol use. If you have not been drinking, you will probably pass the Breathalyzer test; however, the field sobriety test is a different story. If you cannot pass this test, it doesn’t matter if you have alcohol in your system, it will be clear that there is something awry. Once you are arrested and taken back to the police station, you will be tested for other substances in your system. You can’t hide from a blood or urine test.

What can I do?

Obviously, if scientists can’t determine how much of a particular substance makes you unable to drive, you can’t determine this either. The best rule of thumb is to simply not drive after taking any illicit drug or smoking marijuana.

What about my prescription medications?

This is where it gets tricky. The first thing to do is look at the bottle your medication came in. If it can affect your driving, there will be a sticker saying something to the effect of, “Use caution while operating heavy machinery.” (Yes, a car is heavy machinery.) If it does, you need to take the medication for a few days before attempting to drive so you can be clear how it affects you. If it makes you drowsy or inattentive in any way, you are better off not driving. If you do feel safe to drive, always use extra precautions and drive defensively. And when in doubt, stay away from the wheel. Nowhere you are going is worth your life.

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