DWAI Drugs – What does it mean?

An experienced DWI attorney in Rochester, NY can help you with a DWAI Drugs charge. NYS VTL § 1192(4) (DWAI – Drugs) makes it a misdemeanor to operate a motor vehicle on a public highway while under the influence of drugs. Since it is a misdemeanor, a conviction of DWAI Drugs will give the defendant a criminal record. That having been said, there is a fundamental difficulty for prosecutors when trying to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a DWAI Drugs case, and here it is:

How can you tell that a person is under the influence of drugs?

Proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is under the influence of drugs is not easy. Just because somebody is acting strangely does not mean that they are on drugs - they may be experiencing a medical problem. Unlike alcohol, there is no test that can be given roadside to test a person’s blood for the presence of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, Molly, or heroin. In order to know what is in a person’s bloodstream, police need to have that person’s blood drawn and also have a toxicology test performed.

Once police have a toxicology report, they have a second problem: proving that a person was impaired by whatever may be in their blood. For example, let’s suppose that a person smoked marijuana yesterday. They may have THC in their body – it can show up for up to four weeks. Does that mean that the person is impaired and unable to drive for four weeks? Of course not! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a report stating that a typical marijuana high lasts two hours, and that “Most behavioral and physiological effects return to baseline levels within 3-5 hours after drug use….” So, if a person smoked marijuana at noon, are they safe to drive at 8:00 pm? I don’t know. But I do know that even the federal government (again, I’m referring to the report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) says that,

“Marijuana has been shown to impair performance on driving simulator tasks and on open and closed driving courses for up to approximately 3 hours.”

Not three days and not three weeks – just three hours.

The duration of the effect of cocaine is even shorter than marijuana. Cocaine effects only last up to 30 minutes if smoked or injected. It may last up to two hours if ingested orally. The duration of every drug is different; the point is that just because an illegal drug shows up in a defendant’s blood or urine after the defendant was driving, it does not mean that the defendant was under the influence of the drug at the time they were driving.

DWAI Drugs Sentencing

DWAI Drugs has many of the same fines and jail consequences as a Common Law misdemeanor DWI. The biggest difference is that a person convicted of DWAI Drugs is not eligible for the Drinking Driver Program. As a result, they cannot get a conditional license. The effect is that they cannot get around their license revocation – if a court revokes their license for 6 months, they can’t drive – at all – for the entire six months.

An experienced DWI attorney can help you beat a DWAI Drugs charge. Call us at (585) 351-2500.

The attorneys at Jeannie D. Michalski have experience fighting unlawful vehicle stops, fighting drug charges, fighting DWI charges, and fighting DWAI Drugs charges. If you are facing a DWAI Drugs charge in Rochester, Geneseo, Batavia, or anywhere else in the Greater Rochester Area, contact the experienced DWI lawyers at Jeannie D. Michalski, LLP, today. Call (585) 351-2500 for a free criminal consultation. We can help.