Let’s look at a topic that doesn’t receive enough attention in Indiana—DUIs that don’t revolve around alcohol. It might surprise you to learn that you can be charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated even if you haven’t been drinking. How does this work? The important thing to remember is that there are many ways for a person to become impaired.

What Counts as Intoxication?

Drunkenness is just one form of intoxication, so let’s start this where it starts. Indiana defines intoxicated as being under the influence of:

so that there is an impaired condition of thought and action and the loss of normal control of a person’s faculties. This is a very expansive definition.

The Not-So-Obvious Causes of DUIs

Illegal drugs: The most straightforward Indiana DUI scenario without alcohol involves illegal drugs. Whether we’re talking about cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, or anything else, driving under the influence of an illegal substance can result in a DUI charge. In this scenario, you don’t even need to be intoxicated.

Under Indiana law, it’s a Class C misdemeanor to operate a vehicle with a controlled substance listed in schedule I or schedule II of Indiana Code section 35-48-2 or its metabolite in your blood. This means even a trace indication of past recreational drug use can be held against you for DUI purposes. A Class C misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine, and there’s always room for the consequences to get more serious.

Prescription medications: Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. Even prescription medications can lead to DUI charges when they aren’t taken as directed. Consider a situation where someone is coming off of surgery and has a valid prescription for painkillers. If this person is stopped by the police and later charged with a DUI based on their use of a controlled substance, there is a statutory defense available to them: It is not illegal to consume a controlled substance in accordance with a valid prescription or order of a practitioner who was acting in the course of the practitioner’s professional practice.

The Element of Endangerment

So far, we’ve only been talking about Class C misdemeanors, but it’s pretty easy for things to get worse. If the State includes the element of endangerment—and this can mean you were endangering yourself—you’ll be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. This carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

If you have a prior DUI conviction in the last seven years or a passenger in the vehicle under the age of 18, Level 6 felony charges can be filed against you. A Level 6 felony carries a maximum penalty of two and a half years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

What About Marijuana?

Cannabis can complicate matters because it stays in your system so much longer than most other substances. If you smoked a joint a week ago and you’re pulled over tonight, a test might well show trace amounts of marijuana in your system. Believe it or not, Indiana offers a statutory defense for a marijuana DUI. Unfortunately, it’s very narrow, and it’s only available in cases resulting serious injury or death. Cases like that involve a mandatory blood draw, and if this blood draw reveals marijuana in your system, you have a defense if:

  • someone else caused the crash; and
  • you were not intoxicated at the time of the collision.

In other words, you can still be on the hook for a marijuana DUI even if someone else caused the crash. You need to be able to show that you were sober and it wasn’t your fault.

Make the Right Call

The Marc Lopez Law Firm handles Indiana DUI cases every day. If you or someone you love is facing DUI charges—with or without alcohol—you need to consult with an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. Give us a call at 317-632-3642 and remember—always plead the 5th!

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