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Kratom & DUI

Question: I wasn't drinking or even using illegal drugs but I got into an accident and I got arrested for DUI. I wrecked my car, the thing is totaled. I was driving home after going out with some friends and I lost control of my car and I hit a tree.

I was chewing on some kratom leaves and I had some tea with kratom in it. But no drinking or illegal drugs. I don't do that. It was the first time I used it and I caught a huge buzz, which pretty much knocked me out while I was driving. I felt so tired, so relaxed.

My friend got the kratom from his girlfriend who spent some time in Thailand and brought it back to Atlanta. My friend goes to Georgia State University and I go to Georgia Tech. Since we were home for the holidays we thought we'd try some. It's getting popular with our friends at school. Everyone says it's legal.

I think I just did too much of the stuff and I shouldn't have driven home, I should have slept at his apartment. But I wanted to get home, so I drove.

The cops asked me if I had anything to drink and I said no. They asked if I'd been taking drugs and I said no. They asked for a blood test and I said no. But they got a warrant and made me take the blood test.

I need to know if I'm considered DUI if I wasn't drinking and if they'll find the kratom in my system, which I think is legal. I don't want a DUI and I wasn't even drinking or doing drugs like pot, cocaine or meth.

H.B. in Forsyth County, GA

Answer: Kratom is becoming increasingly popular in Georgia, as well as throughout the United States. As DUI attorneys, we have gotten a few questions about kratom possession and DUI.

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa korth) is a tropical tree indigenous to Southeast Asia, places like Thailand (where it's called "ketum"), Malaysia, and Myanmar. Kratom leaves are often chewed, made into tea or smoked. Many people have used kratom to treat opiate addiction, only to then become addicted to kratom. Its popularity as a recreational drug is spreading.

And with kratom's increasingly high-profile, it is being used by people who just want to experiment with a new, inexpensive "high." Its streetnames include Thang, Biak, Thom, Ketum and Kakuam.

Although it is not a controlled substance (as of yet) and it is legal in the vast majority of states (so far), it is being profiled in national publications and on the internet as an addictive and dangerous substance. The federal government and states are feeling pressure to act and make the drug illegal.

As for your case, you can be charged and convicted of DUI even if you have had nothing to drink. And you can be convicted of DUI for just using prescription drugs, if they make you a less safe driver. If you ingest anything that makes you a "less safe" driver, even if it is not illegal, you can get a DUI. So you can get a DUI if the police find that you were using kratom.

The next question is whether they will find out that you used it. They actually might not. It is unlikely your blood test will involve searching for kratom. So if the blood test comes back negative for alcohol and other, more commonplace drugs, you may very well win your DUI case because of a lack of evidence.

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