Prescription & Illegal Drugs
Interviewer: Are most DUIs that you see, related to alcohol?
Brett Hollett: Yeah. I would say the majority of them are related to alcohol. We do see a lot of what they write as combined substances, meaning the people either admit to taking or the officer finds some illegal or valid prescription medication and they’ve also been drinking. The officer may charge them with driving under a combined influence. Like I said, it doesn’t have to be some kind of illegal drug that they are using. It can be a valid prescription they got from their own doctor but they happened to mix alcohol with it, and they can even charge those when your BAC is under 0.08%.
Interviewer: You see cases like that sometimes?
Brett Hollett: Yeah, absolutely.
Interviewer: What about for illegal drugs? Is that common or is that pretty rare?
Brett Hollett: I think it’s less common but, again, if the officer finds evidence of marijuana use or other drug use coupled with evidence of alcohol, they would charge you under the combined influence. It’s much rarer to see an officer charge someone with a controlled substance DUI.
Interviewer: Do you have experience in handling drug cases? Are they easier or harder to defend?
Brett Hollett: They are not necessarily harder to defend. We’ve had a lot of experience with the drug cases. They can be more technical to defend. The State’s case is going to be based on drugs and how they interact with that individual. A lot of times, an officer won’t have collected a blood or a urine sample and all they will have is some partial admission from the client of using some kind of drug and/or alcohol. The breath test is not going to show the amount of drugs in the system. They’ll only have the client’s admission. Based on that admission, they may not go through the trouble to go to a hospital and have a blood draw done. This can be problematic for the prosecution.
Interviewer: Alabama probably does more breath testing. They don’t do much blood testing?
Brett Hollett: Yeah. Blood testing is pretty rare and the only time you would get blood testing is if you’re taken to the hospital or paramedics are on the scene. Most people aren’t taken to the hospital unless they specifically request to go, if they are involved in an accident or if their BAC is extremely high.
Interviewer: If you were pulled over and they breath test you and everything, and you blow below the 0.08%, will they let you go or do they tend to charge you anyway? Is there a different kind of DUI they will charge you for if you’re below 0.08%?
Brett Hollett: That really depends on the officer. I guess it depends on how close you are, but the answer is, yes, they could still charge you. They still have the ability to charge you even if you blow under a 0.08%.
Interviewer: I’ve heard that for drivers under 21 there is a difference about alcohol standards and then, under 18 is still a different one. What are they?
Brett Hollett: In Alabama, it’s just under 21. If you are under 21, you can’t have a BAC result above a 0.02%. There are also different standards for drivers with a commercial driver’s license. The limit for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is 0.04%. Additionally, anybody who drives a school bus or daycare van would be subject to the 0.02% BAC limit.
Interviewer: Have you dealt with a lot of underage or CDL cases?
Brett Hollett: We have.
Interviewer: Are there commercial cases more difficult to defend or is there just more at stake because they can lose their commercial driver’s license?
Brett Hollett: They’re not necessarily harder to defend but there definitely is more at stake. There is a lot more at stake. Their livelihood is at stake and they are also facing a longer suspension time on their driver’s license. They’re actually going to be disqualified if they’re found guilty of the DUI. There’s definitely a lot more riding on a commercial driver’s license DUI than there is on just a normal driver’s license DUI.
Interviewer: I guess people affected would be airline pilots, truck drivers, school bus drivers – those people that travel with people.
Brett Hollett: Yeah, mainly what we mostly see is the 18-wheeler truck drivers. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realize that if you have a CDL designation and you are stopped or pulled over while driving your personal vehicle they could still charge you under the CDL DUI designation and you would be facing harsher penalties, even though you’re not driving your work vehicle.
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