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What’s the difference between an alcohol DUI and a drug DUI?

On Behalf of | Dec 18, 2023 | DUI Defense

There are two ways to face driving under the influence (DUI) charges in Pennsylvania. The first is by driving while inebriated due to alcohol, and the second is by driving while under the impairing effects of a controlled substance or drug.

Both offenses are DUI-worthy, but how exactly do they differ? This blog will explore the differences between the two.

Legal limits

One of the biggest differences between an alcohol DUI and a drug DUI is that the former has a set legal limit. A driver may face an alcohol DUI charge if their blood alcohol concentration level is at least .08%.

On the other hand, there aren’t any specified legal limits on the amount of controlled substances that can be found in the driver’s blood. This means that any amount of a Schedule I, II or III substance found in a person’s blood will lead to DUI charges.

Testing for alcohol or substances

Police officers use screening techniques called field sobriety tests to detect the presence of alcohol in drivers. However, because these tests are designed specifically for the detection of alcohol, they may not be as effective for testing the presence of drugs. A breathalyzer test, for instance, can only detect alcohol from a person’s breath, but not substances like marijuana or heroin.

Law enforcement uses blood or urine tests to detect any drug use, but these tests aren’t always reliable. Testing may lead to false positives and false negatives. However, officers, prosecutors or the court may order additional types of testing, such as hair follicle testing, to prove or disprove a case.

The penalties

If a court convicts a person for an alcohol DUI for the first time, the person must undergo up to six months of mandatory probation and attend an alcohol highway safety school. They must also pay a fine of up to $300.

By comparison, a person convicted of drug DUI for the first time faces up to 48 hours of jail time, a requirement to attend a highway safety school and as much as $5,000 in fines. A court may also ask the driver to follow other drug treatment requirements.

Notably, the amount of jail time and fines faced by a person convicted of drug DUI are the same as those convicted of alcohol DUI while causing serious bodily injury or death.

There are clear differences between an alcohol and a drug DUI. If you face either one, consider consulting a legal professional who may be able to explain your circumstances better and protect your rights in court.



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