It’s no surprise that driving while under the intoxicating effects of drugs is illegal. A question often comes up, however: for how long after using a drug will a motorist be considered to be “under the influence”?
Once someone ingests a drug like cocaine or marijuana, the intoxicating effects wear off after a short time. However, that drug then is broken down by the body in a series of chemical processes. The active ingredient in a drug remains in a person’s system for a certain amount of time, depending on the drug.
When the body breaks down the active ingredient in a drug, there are byproducts called metabolites that are left behind. These metabolites, which register on a blood test, can remain in someone’s system for days or even weeks, depending on the drug and the frequency of use. The common consensus among experts is that most inactive metabolites do not cause intoxication; however, courts are only recently beginning to realize this. A recent case illustrates how one defendant’s conviction was reversed based on inaccurate and misleading jury instructions describing the effects of an inactive metabolite of cocaine.