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Does driving while on drugs count as "drunk driving?"

When choosing to take to Massachusetts streets while under the influence of mind-altering substances, you may wonder if you can avoid any DUI charges if you are under the influence of not alcohol, but marijuana or other drugs. Because marijuana and narcotic drugs may not show up on a breathalyzer test, it can be confusing to know whether or not you can be charged for driving while under their influence. So does driving while on drugs count as "drunk driving?"

While you may not be intoxicated on liquor, you are still intoxicated by a substance that alters your perceptions and ability to operate a motor vehicle, so the answer is yes. Massachusetts law lists marijuana, narcotic drugs, stimulants and depressive drugs as substances that can incur a DUI penalty if you operate a vehicle under their influence. You can even be fined and penalized for operating under the influence of inhaled glue vapors.

The reason for this has less to do with the classification of the substance and more to do with their effects. Any substance that dulls your cognition, affects your perceptions or impedes your motor control and responses can cause you to present a danger to yourself and others when behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. This can even include prescription medications, as many prescription medications have a powerful effect on your body and mind. While these substances may not be detectable by a breathalyzer, an officer may still use field sobriety tests to determine if you are under the influence and should be detained.

This is an informational post only and does not stand in for actionable legal advice.

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