A charge of drugged driving carries the same severe penalties as a drunk driving charge. You can be charged with drugged driving even for legal drugs and drugs that you have a valid prescription for. A conviction can result in you going to jail, suspension of your driver's license, heavy fines, a criminal record, and other problems for you.
Huntsville Drugged Driving Defense Lawyer
The drugged driving defense attorneys at The Law Offices Of Segal & Segal will be on your side throughout the entire process. We'll fight for your rights, regardless of your circumstances. We can represent you at all stages of your case and for the administrative matters that might stem from your drugged driving arrest, such as a driver's license suspension. If you took a drug test, we can dispute the results. We will seek to get your charges reduced or dismissed. Call us today at (256) 533-4529 or send an online message for a free consultation to discuss your drugged driving charges.
At The Law Offices Of Segal & Segal, we are experienced criminal defense lawyers who know the criminal courts. Sandra Segal has served as a prosecutor in the Huntsville City Attorney's Office, and Andrew Segal has experience as a prosecutor for the Alabama Attorney General and the Madison County District Attorney. We know how prosecutors work, and can put that knowledge to work for you. We practice with integrity, honoring our profession. For this reason we get respect from judges, jurors and even prosecutors. Our experience and reputation can mean a lot when we negotiate with prosecutors to reduce or dismiss your charges.
We are proud to represent clients throughout the Huntsville-Decatur area, including Madison, Limestone, Morgan, Marshall and Jackson Counties.
Drugged Driving in Alabama
In Alabama, you can be arrested for and charged with drugged driving under Ala. Code Ann. § 32-5a-191(a) if you are driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or controlled substances to the point that you are incapable of driving safely. This includes not only illegal drugs such as marijuana, ecstasy, heroin, or cocaine but also legal over-the-counter drugs and drugs that you have a doctor's prescription for such as Xanax and Vicodin (hyrocodone). Usage of any controlled substance or drug which impairs mental or physical faculties can result in a charge of drugged driving.
Actual physical control of a vehicle does include driving; however, you can also be considered in actual physical control of a vehicle even if you are not driving in some circumstances. If a prescription makes you drowsy and you decide to park the car along the road and take a nap, it is possible to be arrested for drugged driving even if you are not actually driving the car while under the effects of the drug.
Police in Alabama often set up roadblocks to stop drivers and question them, while checking for signs of impairment. For example, police may set up a roadblock outside a concert or festival where they suspect drug use is prevalent, and stop drivers headed to or from the event. If you turn around and drive away to avoid the checkpoint, police can use this as a reason to pull you over.
While police can force you to take a blood-alcohol test if they suspect you are drunk, they are not allowed to force you to take a drug test without a court order unless there was a serious physical injury or death resulting from the accident. Ala. Code Ann. § 32-5-200(a) allows law enforcement to demand a blood test for amphetamines, opiates, or cannabis if the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the driver was under the influence of such a controlled substance. Serious physical injury means a physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.
If you refuse a drug test under these circumstances, your driver's license will be suspended for two years, even if you are never convicted of drugged driving. If you are unconscious or otherwise unable to refuse consent, police are allowed take a drug test. Even if you refuse the test, police may still get a court order to force you to submit to a drug test, and they can almost always obtain this court order on very short notice. The fact that you refused a blood test will also be used by the prosecution, which will claim that you refused the drug test because you knew it would turn up large amounts of drugs in your system.
Whether you encounter police after an accident, at a roadblock checkpoint, or after being pulled over for an ordinary traffic violation, police will be looking for signs of drug impairment such as:
- Disorientation or confusion
- Altered time and space perception
- Paranoia or anxiety
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Nausea or vomiting
- Diminished reflexes
If you are driving while under the influence of drugs or controlled substances, you may also face charges for reckless driving and traffic citations in addition to your charge for drugged driving.
Penalties for Drugged Driving in Alabama
The penalties that come with a conviction for drugged DUI in Alabama are the same severe penalties as those for a conviction of a DUI after drinking alcohol. If you have prior DUI convictions, these will count as prior offenses for determining your punishment, even if this is your first drugged driving conviction involving controlled substances.
If this is your first conviction for drugged driving or any type of DUI, the penalties are:
- Up to a year in jail
- $600-$2,100 in fines
- Driver's license suspended for 90 days
If this is your second conviction for drugged driving or any type of DUI within a 5-year period, the penalties are:
- Up to a year in jail (5 day mandatory minimum)
- $1,100-$5,100 in fines
- Driver's license suspended for a year
- Up to 30 days community service
If this is your third conviction for drugged driving or any type of DUI, the penalties are:
- Up to a year in jail (60 day mandatory minimum)
- $2,100-$10,100 in fines
- Driver's license suspended for 3 years
If this is your fourth conviction for drugged driving or any type of DUI, the penalties are:
- Over a year in prison, with the possibility of up to ten years in prison
- $4,100-$10,100 in fines
- Driver's license suspended for 5 years, and you must complete a drug treatment program to get it back
- Felony criminal record, meaning you will be barred from owning guns ever again amongst other sanctions
Other factors can result in additional penalties. For example, Ala. Code Ann. § 32-5a-191(j) states that if anyone over the age of 21 is convicted of drugged driving while a child under the age of 14 was a passenger in the vehicle, the mandatory minimum sentence doubles. If you were in an accident that caused damage to the car or other property of someone else, you will likely be ordered to pay restitution. The judge may suspend your driver's license for an additional period of time depending on the circumstances of your case.
Defenses to a Drugged Driving Charge
Some defenses may be available to fight a charge of drugged driving. Just having some amount of drugs in your system may not be sufficient proof to convict you of drugged driving. Just because you have drugs in the car with you does not mean you were high at the time.
Unlike some other states, Alabama does not have a zero-tolerance law or a set amount where you are automatically guilty of drugged driving if you have that amount of drugs or more in your system. The prosecution must prove that you were under the influence of the drug to the point that your ability to drive safely was affected, basically that you were incapacitated by the drugs.
About half of Americans take prescription medications of some sort, and most are able to drive safely even on days when they take medications. However, it is not a defense to show that you had a prescription for the drug. Ala. Code Ann. § 32-5a-191(d) specifically prohibits using the fact that you were legally entitled to use a controlled substance as a defense against a charge of drugged driving.
If you refused a drug test at the scene of an accident resulting in serious physical injury or death, but were later found to be not at fault in causing the accident, you may be able to get your driver's license suspension time reduced under Ala. Code Ann. § 32-5-200(d).
If you are convicted of drugged driving, even as a 4th offense, you may be able to get your jail or prison sentence suspended by entering a drug addiction program.
Police may have gathered evidence in an unlawful fashion, for example if they stopped you illegally, or if you were on private property instead of a public highway at the time they forced you to give a blood sample for a drug test.
If the evidence was collected illegally, it should not be allowed at trial. In this type of situation, it is very hard for the prosecution to get a conviction if they are not allowed to use this evidence. In general, the prosecution usually needs either a drug test, an admission from you that you took drugs, and/or the presence of drugs in the car to get a conviction.
Resources Related to Drugged Driving in the Huntsville Area
Drugged driving charges are prosecuted by the Madison County District Attorney's office. To contact the Madison County District Attorney's office about an ongoing drugged driving case, you can use their online contact form or:100 North Side Square
Huntsville, Alabama 35801
The Huntsville Police Department conducts patrols and checkpoints to find drugged drivers. Call 9-1-1 if you see an erratic driver on the road. If it is not an emergency,go to the police department website and select the option to Speak Directly with An Officer or File A Police Report about a suspected drugged driver, or call 256.427.7009 or 256.427.7114.
You may also contact the Madison County Sheriff's Office if you suspect a friend or family member may have been arrested for drugged driving:100 Northside Square
Huntsville, Alabama 35801
Administrative Office Hours:
M-F 8:30am – 5:00pm
Phone: (256) 532-3412
Non-Emergency: (256) 722-7181 (24 Hours)
Finding the Best Drugged Driving Attorney in Madison County Alabama
If you've been arrested in or around Huntsville for driving under the influence of a controlled substance, let the Huntsville drugged driving defense lawyers at The Law Offices Of Segal & Segal help you. Even if a drug test showed large amounts of a controlled substance, we can fight the results. We'll seek to reduce the charges to reckless driving or have them dismissed entirely.
If you've been charged with drugged driving anywhere in the Huntsville area, including Decatur, Athens, Madison or Albertville, you can fight the charges, and we can help. Call us today at (256) 533-4529 or send an online message for a free consultation.