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Home Blog Drug-Based Impairment: The Other DUI

When you hear the words “driving under the influence,” do you immediately think of alcohol?  If you are like most people, you probably do.  Alcohol-based DUIs are by far the most common type, but the law does not specify that driving under the influence must be connected to alcohol.  You can actually be charged with impaired driving for any substance that is in your body, including drugs.

Alcohol vs. Drugs:  Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2010, 10,228 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes and more than 1.4 million people were arrested for DUIs involving either alcohol or drugs.  Alcohol accounts for about 31 percent of all driving deaths, but surprisingly marijuana and narcotics such as cocaine account for about 18 percent of all vehicle deaths.  When marijuana or cocaine use is present, it is often accompanied by alcohol use, so these numbers are not exclusive.

This means that in 2010, at least 3171 people died in DUI accidents and about 1841 of them involved drugs other than alcohol in some manner.  This number also includes people who died in crashes due to the misuse of prescription medication.

The Dilemma of the Drug-Based DUI

While it is easy to see that drugs and alcohol can cause serious problems for drivers and others on the road, what is less clear is the exact role that blood tests play in identifying the use of drugs other than alcohol.  While it is obviously desirable to identify impaired drivers, current blood testing is focused on alcohol abuse and not on identifying the level of use of other drugs.

In fact, marijuana legalization advocates have been putting tremendous pressure on the state government to address this issue.  While Arizona has legalized medical marijuana, the people who are legally using the drug can still be pulled over for DUI and found guilty even if they smoked up to a month in the past.  This is because marijuana metabolites stay in the blood stream for a long time, unlike alcohol which is metabolized quickly.

Ultimately, test results for marijuana and other drugs are questionable at best.  If you are charged with a drug-based DUI, it is very important that you protect your rights and seek sound legal advice.  Alex Lane is ready to help you if you have been charged with DUI based on marijuana or other drug use.


If you have been charged with a DUI, drug charge, sex crime or any serious criminal offense, let an experienced defense team fight for you. Schedule a consultation with one of our partners today. Call (480) 562-3482 or send an email.