Driving Under the Influence of Drugs in Colorado
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs, or DUID, is prohibited by the same DUI statute that is used for alcohol related cases. In Colorado, the penalties - and your criminal record - are the same, regardless of whether your case is based on drugs or alcohol. Colorado law defines that a driver is under the influence of drugs when the drugs have affected the driver
“to a degree that the person is substantially incapable, either mentally or physically, or both mentally and physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.”
There is no charge of “DUI Per Se” for drugs. This is because the per se statute refers only to alcohol, specifically a Blood Alcohol Content greater that 0.08. There are no references in the statute to the content of drugs in the driver’s blood. Therefore, the statute is not applicable.
You can also be charged with Driving Under the Influence for having a combination of drugs and alcohol in your system. For example, even if you took a breath test, and your BAC was below 0.08, the District Attorney could nonetheless argue to the jury that you were legally under the influence due to the combined effect of both the alcohol and the drug(s).
If you are arrested for DUID, the officer will likely ask you to submit to a blood or urine test (since the breath test only measures alcohol content). Blood or urine tests that turn up positive are not conclusive evidence that the driver was under the influence. This is because the drug’s presence in the blood could have been a result of taking the drug days or even weeks before the person was driving. In cases where the police found no drugs in the vehicle, the prosecutor could face serious problems proving the case against you. In DUID cases, it is common to have an expert toxicologist testify on your behalf that the mere presence of the drug(s) in your blood does not indicate that you were experiencing any psychoactive effects while you were driving. In addition, the toxicologist will explain to the jury that a given blood level of the drug will have very different effects on different people, due to the fact that tolerances to the drug vary. There is also no way to correlate a specific blood level of a drug with specific impairment effects.
As with alcohol related cases, the prosecutor’s evidence in your DUID case will include the officer’s testimony about things like your demeanor, performance on the roadside tests, mistakes that you made while driving, incriminating statements, and so on. Often, however, the arresting officer is not a trained “DRE” or Drug Recognition Expert. Your lawyer may be able to discredit the officer’s testimony against you, or even prevent him from testifying about matters that require special expertise in the drug recognition field.
The charge of DUID does not require that you be under the influence of illegal drugs. Even prescription or over-the-counter drugs that can cause impairment can be the basis for the charge against you.