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What's in a name? As to impaired driving charges, not much

The language of Virginia law when it comes to driving under the influence of anything is pretty straightforward. If you operate any motor vehicle under the influence of any intoxicating substance, you can be arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

That might translate into DUI or DWI, driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired, in everyday language. In the commonwealth, they mean the same thing. As such, whether authorities suspect you of being impaired due to alcohol, marijuana, a prescription drug or any other substance, your freedom could be in jeopardy. It doesn't even matter if the vehicle you were driving at the time was a riding lawnmower.

Anyone who has ever had to take a driver's license exam likely knows that the legal limit for alcohol in the blood is 0.08 percent. That standard is one that can be indicated by breath testing devices and confirmed through blood tests, and the assumption is that someone with a blood alcohol content level of that level or higher is impaired, even if they might not appear to be.

The standard for establishing impairment isn't as clear when it comes to other intoxicants. For example, there is no widely accepted chemical test in use by officers in the field to confirm impairment. There is also no consensus on how much THC – the substance that delivers a marijuana high – it takes to be a danger behind the wheel.

What is certain is that police will make arrests based on their observations and prosecutors will press a case if they are confident they can convict. If you happen to be on the receiving end of such action, the consequences of a conviction can be serious and long lasting. With an experienced attorney at your side, you can be equally confident that you understand your rights and options.

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