Legislative Approaches to Increasing Virginia's Conviction Rate for Drug-related DUI

Report No: 92-R27

Published in 1992

About the report:

Beginning on April 1, 1988, a revision of Virginia's law concerning drug-related driving under the influence (DUI) enabled police officers to require a person suspected of driving under the influence of drugs to submit a blood sample to be tested for drug content. However, some judges have been reluctant to pass down a DUI conviction in the absence of an established presumptive or per se concentration of a drug in the blood that indicates impairment. In fact, because of the complex chemical nature of most drugs and their varying effects on individuals, establishing a scientific link between a particular concentration of drugs in the blood and impairment is not possible, at least at this time. This study investigated if there were ways to amend Virginia's laws to facilitate drug-related DUI convictions in the event of a finding of drugs in a suspect's blood. The researchers formulated three options for legislative amendments: two for criminalizing internal possession of drugs regardless of whether a person is driving, thus opening the way for a plea bargain to a reduced charge of drug-related DUI, and one for criminalizing the operation of a motor vehicle with a nonprescribed drug in the blood. An internal possession offense does not seem to be a feasible option for Virginia at this time. However, the researchers recommend that serious, but cautious, consideration be given to proposing that VIrginia's current DUI offense be revised to remove the requirement of showing impairment and permit a positive blood test for a nonprescribed drug to be sufficient evidence for conviction.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  • Robyne R. Lau, Jonathan C. Black, Jack D. Jernigan

Last updated: December 25, 2023

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