North Carolina's Drugged Driving Law

Learn about the laws and penalties for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) in North Carolina.

North Carolina’s drugged driving law is located at N.C. General Statutes Section 20-138.1. In North Carolina, a person commits the offense of impaired driving “if he drives any vehicle upon any highway, any street, or any public vehicular area within this State while under the influence of an impairing substance; or with any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance, as listed in G.S. 90-89, or its metabolites in his blood or urine.” In addition drivers under 21 are subject to punishment if he has any controlled substance within his or her body, unless the “controlled substance in his body which was lawfully obtained and taken in therapeutically appropriate amounts.” North Carolina has what is known as a per se (also known as a “zero tolerance”) prohibition against drugged driving if the driver, while driving, has any Schedule I controlled substance in his or her body. Other than the per se/zero tolerance rule, an arrest can be triggered by a driver whose driving is actually impaired by drugs. 

What drugs are prohibited?

North Carolina’s drugged driving law is directed at the prohibition of  “controlled substances (as defined by N.C.G.S. Chapter 90), or any other drug or psychoactive substance capable of impairing a person’s physical or mental faculties. A listing of controlled substances regulated by federal law are found at the Drug Enforcement Administration website.

What happens if a driver is convicted of drug impaired driving in North Carolina?

A driver arrested for drugged driving in North Carolina will be charged with driving under the influence and subject to DUI penalties. A conviction for drugged driving will be considered as a prior offense for purposes of calculating punishment regardless of whether a subsequent offense is due to alcohol or drugs. Read more about North Carolina’s DUI laws.

Do North Carolina drivers have to submit to drug testing?

Yes, there is an implied consent rule for blood and urine testing. The refusal to take the test can be admitted into evidence against the driver.

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