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Although the terms DUI and drunken driving are often used interchangeably, most people know that the "I" in DUI can represent being intoxicated by alcohol or drugs.
Most people, that is, except Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, apparently. Bell was recently cited for marijuana possession during a traffic stop. According to the criminal complaint in that case, Bell told an officer, "I didn't know you could get a DUI for being high" before admitting that he had recently smoked marijuana and had a small amount in his possession, reports Pittsburgh's WPXI-TV.
Although Bell wasn't cited for DUI, why might his incriminating statement still come back to haunt him?
Luckily for Bell, he was cited for possession of marijuana and not DUI. (According to WPXI, Bell told the officer: "I smoked two hours ago. I'm not high anymore. I'm perfectly fine.") Under Pennsylvania's drug laws, possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
However, Bell is also bound by the National Football League's Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. Under NFL rules, A player convicted of a violation of law "relating to use, possession, acquisition, sale, or distribution of substances of abuse other than alcohol" may be subject to a four-game suspension.
Generally, a driver can be cited for DUI for driving under the influence of any substance that impairs his ability to safely operate a vehicle. This includes not only illegal or restricted drugs like marijuana and methamphetamine, but also prescription drugs.
With drugs, measuring the level of impairment can be more difficult than with alcohol. To solve this problem, some states, including Pennsylvania, have passed so-called per se DUI laws, in which drivers found to have any or a minimal amount of drugs in their system may be charged with DUI.
Although Bell may be facing an expensive and embarrassing suspension, he could have faced far more serious legal penalties had he been charged with a drugged driving DUI. And if he didn't know before, he certainly knows now: Driving high can, and will, get you a DUI.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.