At least five people were injured earlier this month when a charter bus traveling from Gwinnett County to the Masters Tournament overturned on Interstate 20. According to reports, the bus began to veer off the highway when the bus driver, a 61-year-old Gwinnett County man, overcorrected and caused the bus to flip. When police arrived on the scene, he was promptly arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Chemical testing later showed that the driver was under the influence of prescription medication at the time of the crash.
Drug-Related DUI in Georgia
In Georgia, it is illegal to drive or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Alcohol-related DUIs can be based on a driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or an officer's assessment that it is “less safe” for the driver to operate a vehicle. Drug-related DUIs, on the other hand, are simply based on an officer's belief that a driver has consumed drugs that have made it “less safe” for them to drive.
When is Driving Less Safe?
Georgia law specifically states that you can be arrested and charged for DUI if, after consuming drugs and/or alcohol, it is “less safe” for you to operate a motor vehicle. When does it become less safe for someone to drive after consuming drugs? Since “less safe” is a subjective assessment, and not specifically defined by law, the answer will vary from case to case.
In other words, whether or not driving is less safe is up to the discretion of the arresting officer. In order to make this assessment, an officer will analyze a driver's physical, mental, and emotional state. Indicators that a driver may be under the influence, and therefore less safe to drive, include:
- Inability to maintain a lane while driving
- Causing an accident
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Not yielding to other vehicles or pedestrians
- Inability to maintain eye contact
- Slurred speech and difficulty communicating clearly
- Failing field sobriety tests, and/or
- Hostility or clearly noticeable changes in mood.
If the officer suspects that a driver is under the influence of drugs, an arrest for DUI can be made. Of course, in order to support any DUI charges, the state will have to present evidence to back up the officer's suspicion that a driver was under the influence.
DUI and Prescription Medication
The Gwinnett County driver was reportedly under the influence of lawfully-prescribed prescription medication at the time of the accident. Georgia DUI law does not make a distinction between illicit and legal drugs. The only thing that matters is if you are (1) driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle, (2) while under the influence of a drug, (3) to the extent that it is less safe for you to drive. The fact that the drug was prescribed to the driver is irrelevant.
Contesting DUI Charges in Gwinnett County
Are you facing criminal charges for DUI in Gwinnett County? The consequences of a conviction can be severe. If this is your first DUI offense, the penalty can include 12 months in jail, $1,000 in fines, and the loss of your license for a minimum of one year.
Hiring a Gwinnett County DUI attorney to handle your defense will help you secure the best possible outcome. Call us today to set up a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you fight your DUI.