Can I Get a DWI Without Drinking Alcohol?

Charlotte DWI Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Is there more than one way for police to charge a person with DWI?”


We  have all heard of a driving under influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI). Additionally, most associate both a DUI and a DWI with drinking too much alcohol and getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. In North Carolina, DUIs and DWIs are often thought of as the same thing and used interchangeably. Did you know that is it not just alcohol that can result in a DUI or DWI charge? Driving under the influence of drugs can also result in a DWI or DUI charge.


Parked-car-Charlotte-Waxhaw-Lake-Norman-DWI-DUI-Attorney-300x225“Drugged” Driving


In any city or county in North Carolina, a driver can receive a DUI/DWI if they are driving under the influence of an impairing subject. This includes “simply” smoking marijuana to have a Schedule 1 drug in the system. While the laws are written to charge drivers operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, testing how impaired a driver is due to drugs can be difficult. In a typical DUI/DWI stop or conviction, an officer usually conducts a breathalyzer test to determine the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). There is not an equivalent test to a breathalyzer test that is administered road side to determine how impaired a driver is because of drugs.


Testing for Drugged Driving


Drugged driving is not a new concept and law enforcement have been seeking ways to test the level of impairment for many years. In the 1970s, a program was developed that relied on investigations by a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). This program has been used all across the United States, but many drivers are unaware of it. Law enforcement was faced with the conundrum of knowing a driver was impaired, but not with alcohol. The program consists of various steps that are followed when there is suspicious of drugged driving:


  • A breathalyzer test is administered. If the breathalyzer test does not find alcohol in the driver’s system, the DRE program continues.
  • The officer making the arrest is interviewed about suspected drug use of the driver.
  • A preliminary exam is conducted and a “first pulse” test is conducted.
  • An eye examination is conducted to determine what types of drugs are involved.
  • Psycho-physical tests are conducted.
  • Vital signs of the driver are taken. A “second pulse” test is taken.
  • Pupil responses are measured in a dark room.
  • The driver’s muscle tone is examined.
  • Injection marks or other signs of drug injections are looked for.The driver’s pulse is taken for the third time.
  • The driver is read their Miranda Rights. Law enforcement request a statement from the driver.
  • The DRE makes a determination based on the preceding steps whether the driver is impaired and with what drug.
  • A toxicology report is ordered that tests the drivers saliva, urine, and blood to confirm the impairment.


If you have been charged with drugged driving, the criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are here to help you. Our experienced attorneys know that this is a difficult time and work tirelessly to present the best defense possible given the circumstances. Contact us today. If you find yourself facing criminal charges and need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney in or around Charlotte, Lake Norman, or our new office in Monroe (by appointment only until 2019), please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.








The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.





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