A person operating a motor vehicle can be arrested for Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs (DWAI Drugs) if they exhibit impairment and alcohol and/or a medical condition are ruled out as the impairing factor(s). It doesn’t matter if the drug causing the impairment is legal, illegal, prescription, or over the counter.
There are seven different drug categories, and each category has its own signs and indicators of impairment with some signs and indicators overlapping between categories. With the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes in NY, we can expect an increase in the number of drug impaired related crashes. Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis and is responsible for causing impairment. Cannabidiol (CBD) is another compound found in cannabis, but CBD does not cause impairment. The method of ingestion and the potency of the THC ingested will determine the duration and the intensity of the “high” felt by the user. The issue is the user will still have their depth perception and judgement impaired even after the “high” has worn off.
Opioids are a common drug of abuse and are responsible for two-thirds of all drug related overdose deaths in the US. Provisional data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics indicate that there were an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the US during the 12-month period ending in April 2021. Opioids will slow a person’s internal clock which means a driver impaired by an opioid will have a slower reaction time which will increase the likelihood of being involved in a crash.
A DWAI drug arrest is the equivalent of a DWI arrest as both are misdemeanors for the first offense. A second arrest for DWI or DWAI drugs within 10 years of a previous conviction will be charged as a felony.