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Drugged Driving Charges and Criminal Lawyers in Brainerd, MN

by | Nov 2, 2021 | Criminal Defense, DWI, Firm News

In many parts of Minnesota, impairing drugs are easier to obtain than alcohol. Two neighboring states, Michigan and Illinois, have legalized recreational marijuana, including marijuana edibles. Prescription drug use is widespread, and behaviors like pill sharing and abuse are all too common. Furthermore, many of the drugs available at corner pharmacies, such as NyQuil and Sominex, could impair drivers and are therefore illegal in this context.

DUI convictions have significant consequences. The state often relies on flimsy circumstantial proof in drugged driving cases. Our Brainerd, MN criminal lawyers know how to challenge this proof. direct and collateral consequences. Even for a first offense, defendants face extended court supervision and drivers’ license suspension, along with other penalties. Indirect consequences include sky-high auto insurance rates, adverse effects on family court parenting time disputes, and possible employment consequences.

Since the consequences are so severe and it’s so easy to fall into the drugged driving pit, aggressive representation from a criminal lawyer in Brainerd, MN is essential. By attacking the state’s evidence, which is usually circumstantial, an attorney can reduce or eliminate these aforementioned consequences.

What Is Drugged Driving in Brainerd, MN?

Drugged driving is similar to DUI/DWI charges in Brainerd, Minnesota. If you’re pulled over while impaired by illegal or prescription drugs, an enforcement officer may charge you with drugged driving.

Driving while under the influence of drugs is illegal because it puts yourself and others at risk. Injuring someone while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be a felony, and a court can revoke your driving privileges. And if drunk or drugged driving results in a fatality, you could receive a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Here’s what else you need to know about Minnesota’s drunk and drugged driving laws.

Drugged Driving Definitions

Minnesota law classifies drugged driving as “driving under the influence.” What does that mean? Any time you drive while under the influence of a controlled substance, a hazardous substance, or any amount of a Schedule I or II substance means you’re under the influence.

Controlled substances are any drugs or compounds listed in Minnesota’s Controlled Substances Act. For example, opioids and hallucinogens are controlled substances in Minnesota.

The term “hazardous substances” usually applies to legal products people inhale to get high. For example, nitrous oxide is a legal product that some people use to get high. If you drive while under the influence of nitrous oxide, an officer could issue you a DUI/DWI.

Finally, Schedule I and II drugs include the following:

  • Hallucinogens (Heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy)
  • Opiates (Methadone, Oxycodone, Morphine, Codeine, and Meth)
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana

Minnesota’s Zero Tolerance law (which we’ll talk more about next) does make an exception for driving while under the influence of marijuana.

What Does the Law Say?

The Gopher State’s drugged driving law is rather complex. Largely because there are so many drugs which could seriously impair drivers, there are basically two ways for the state to bring DUI-drug charges:

  • Under the Influence: Almost all DUI-drug prosecutions involve this part of the law. It’s illegal to drive under the influence of an intoxicating substance. That could be almost anything in your medicine cabinet, and many of the things in your kitchen pantry. However, the defendant must know that the substance is potentially impairing. That provision, along with the circumstantial nature of the proof, gives criminal lawyers in Brainerd, MN an opening.
  • Zero Tolerance: It’s also illegal to drive with even a trace amount of a Schedule I or Schedule II substance in one’s body. Most street drugs, like heroin and LSD, are Schedule I drugs. Most prescription drugs, like Vicodin and Oxycontin, are Schedule II drugs. Marijuana is also a Schedule I drug, but it’s specifically exempted from this part of the law. Peace officers rarely order urine or blood tests in drugged driving cases. That’s the only way to establish specific drug use beyond a reasonable doubt.

Minnesota also has a refusal-to-submit law. If officers demand a blood or urine sample and the defendant refuses to provide one, the defendant could be charged with a separate criminal offense. That’s on top of any administrative drivers’ license suspension.

Under Birchfield v. North Dakota, peace officers must obtain search warrants before they extract blood or urine samples. Officers rarely bother with such warrants, except on no-refusal weekends and other heightened enforcement periods.

Drugged Driving Conviction Consequences

Minnesota enforces hefty fines and even jail time for drugged driving offenders. However, the exact penalty depends on whether you’ve received a previous drugged driving conviction and how many.

  • 1st Offense: First-time drugged driving offenders may receive up to 90 days in jail, pay up to $1,000 in fines, or both.
  • 2nd Offense: A second drugged driving conviction can earn you up to a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail.
  • 3rd Offense: If you get a third drugged driving conviction, the court will slap you with penalties of up to 1 year in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.
  • 4th Offense: Four DUI/DWIs within 10 years is a felony in Minnesota. A  felony drugged driving conviction can incur up to 7 years in prison, up to a $14,000 fine, or both.
  • 5th Offense or More: A fifth or subsequent drugged driving conviction comes with minimum sentencing. That means a conviction will automatically earn you a minimum of 1 year in jail, lengthy probation sentences, or both.
  • 2nd Felony Offense: If you receive a drugged driving felony and have a criminal vehicular homicide or injury felony on your record, you will receive up to 7 years in prison and/or pay up to $14,000 in fines.

Keep in mind that refusing to take a sobriety test can increase your drugged driving penalties in Minnesota. For example, refusing a sobriety test for your 1st or 2nd drugged driving offense will increase your fine to up to $3,000 and jail time to up to 1 year.

Further, if you refuse to undergo a sobriety test, a court could revoke your driving privileges. This may include having to forfeit your driver’s license, license plates, and even your vehicle.

How Do Brainerd, MN Criminal Lawyers Challenge Drugged Driving Evidence?

You don’t want to pay the price of a drugged driving charge in Brainerd, MN. That’s why you need to find the best criminal lawyers ASAP. A good drugged driving defense attorney will help you understand what you’re up again and fight for the best outcome.

But how exactly will your lawyer challenge your drugged driving charge? We’re talking about three strategies DUI/DWI defense attorneys use next.

Challenging the Initial Pull Over in Brainerd, MN

If you received a drugged driving charge after getting pulled over, your lawyer could challenge the grounds for that initial pullover. In Minnesota, a law officer must collect a minimum standard of evidence before he or she can pull someone over.

An experienced Brainerd criminal lawyer knows the requirements enforcement officers must meet before pulling someone over. Often, officers fail to follow police procedure. Your attorney can then ask for any evidence collected during the initial pullover to be thrown out from your case.

This defense won’t apply if you received a DUI after going through a roadblock or sobriety checkpoint.

Challenging Driving or Physical Control of the Vehicle

You’ve probably heard of cases where someone receives a DUI even though they weren’t driving. Whether the person was asleep behind the wheel or in the passenger seat while in possession of their car keys, officers have the right to issue a drugged driving charge if they’re under the influence and “in control” of the vehicle.

In this case, all your Brainerd criminal lawyer needs to do is prove you weren’t in control of the car at the time of your arrest. He or she may acquire witness testimony to challenge the ruling that you were in control of the vehicle while under the influence of drugs.

Challenging Field Sobriety Test Results

Circumstantial evidence of drug intoxication almost always means the three approved Field Sobriety Tests. Most FSTs are divided attention tests which measure physical dexterity and mental acuity. Scientists claim that intoxicated individuals cannot walk and chew gum at the same time. The three approved FSTs, and some ways to challenge them in court, are:

  • Heel to Toe Walk: Generally, officers force defendants to walk an imaginary line in the dark while wearing something other than athletic shoes. It’s almost impossible for anyone, whether they are intoxicated or not, to successfully complete this test under these conditions.
  • One-Leg Stand: It’s very difficult for anyone with any mobility impairment at all to lift one leg and stand as still as a statute for more than two or three seconds.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: The DUI eye test is the only FST that’s not a divided attention test. Many people have nystagmus, a condition also known as lazy eye. But they do not know they have it, since the symptoms are so mild. So, they will fail this test whether or not they are intoxicated.

Under the Fifth Amendment, defendants have a right to refuse to perform the FSTs. And, their refusal usually cannot be used against them in court.

Can I Expunge a Drugged Driving Conviction?

Partially. Misdemeanor DUI is usually expugnable. There is usually a two or four-year waiting period. And, the defendant must not catch any new charges during the waiting period. Even after expungement, which is really record sealing in Minnesota, the conviction still appears in judicial records and is still on the person’s driving record.

Expungement is not automatic. Some factors in the decision include the nature of the offense, amount of time that has passed, defendant’s rehabilitation efforts, the probation officer’s recommendation, and the defendant’s criminal history.

Rely on an Experienced Attorney

DUI-drug cases are almost as common as DUI-alcohol cases, and the law is very harsh. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal lawyer in Brainerd, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. The sooner you call, the sooner we start fighting for you.

Original article published on May 4, 202 and updated on November 2. 2021.