Impaired driving is illegal in Delaware, regardless of whether the impairment is the result of ingesting alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances. In fact, Delaware has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the operation of a vehicle after consuming many illicit and recreational drugs.
Read on to find out about the circumstances that can lead to a DUI charge for drugged or high driving and the associated penalties.
Delaware prohibits driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs (DUID) or with any amount of an illicit or recreational drug in the person's system.
A driver is considered under the influence if he or she is less than ordinarily able to exercise clear judgment or due care in driving a vehicle. To detect impairment, the officer will usually use specialized tests to look for symptoms and conditions related to different drugs.
A prosecutor might use these results, along with expert testimony and blood test results to prove a DUI charge at trial.
The fact that a driver was legally allowed to use the drug (such as medical marijuana or prescription drugs) is not a defense to an impaired driving charge.
A driver can also be convicted of a DUID if he or she has any measurable amount of an illicit or recreational drug in his or her system. This list of drugs includes hallucinogens, opioids, benzodioxoles, cannabinoids, and many street drugs.
A person who is using a prescribed drug as prescribed can't be guilty of a zero-tolerance DUID. But prescription drug use can still lead to a DUI based on impairment.
Drugged driving is generally a misdemeanor and the penalties are the same as those for drunk driving.
A first drugged driving offense will result in up to 12 months in jail, a $500 to $1,500 fine, and a one-year license revocation. Some drivers might be eligible ignition interlock device (IID) restricted license, which affords limited driving privileges during the revocation period. The court will also order the offender to submit to a substance abuse evaluation and to follow all recommended treatments. A diversion program is usually available for first offenses.
A second drugged driving offense (within ten years of the first) will result in 60 days to 18 months in jail, $750 to $2,500 in fines, and an 18-month license revocation. A restricted license may be available to the offender after completing 60 days of the revocation. The court can also suspend the required jail time if the offender completes 30 days of community service and the state's DUI treatment program.
A third or subsequent DUI or DUID conviction will be a felony, carrying years of prison, license revocation, and IID restrictions.
At the time of arrest, the officer will likely request the driver submit to a chemical test to determine the concentration of drugs in his or her system. A driver with any amount of drug metabolites will face an administrative license suspension of three to 18 months, depending on the offender's DUI history.
Under Delaware's implied consent law, unlawfully refusing a chemical test will result in license revocation of one to two years, depending on the number of prior offenses.
The consequences of a DUI conviction in Delaware are serious. If you've been arrested for driving under the influence, get in contact with a local DUI lawyer. A qualified attorney can review your case and help you decide on how best to handle your situation.