21 Sep 23

DUI on Prescription Drugs

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Last Updated on: 22nd September 2023, 04:43 am


DUI on Prescription Drugs

Driving under the influence (DUI) of prescription drugs is a serious offense that can lead to criminal charges, just like driving drunk. Many folks don’t realize that taking prescription meds can impair your driving and lead to a DUI, even if you have a valid prescription. Let’s take a closer look at how prescription drugs can affect your driving, what defenses you may have, and the legal implications of a prescription drug DUI.

How Prescription Drugs Affect Driving

Lots of prescription and over-the-counter meds can impact your driving ability, coordination, and judgment. Some major types of medicines that may lead to impairment include:

  • Pain relievers – Opiates like Vicodin or Oxycontin can cause drowsiness and slow reaction times.
  • Anti-anxiety meds – Xanax, Valium, and other tranquilizers may impair coordination.
  • Sleep aids – Ambien and other sleep meds can make you drowsy behind the wheel.
  • ADHD drugs – Adderall and Ritalin can cause agitation, risk-taking, and impaired focus.
  • Antidepressants – Some depression meds like Prozac may cause drowsiness.

Even over-the-counter allergy and cold medicines like Benadryl can impair driving ability. The more medications you combine, the greater the impairment – so taking multiple prescriptions or mixing meds with alcohol is especially dangerous.

Proving Prescription Drug DUI

For police and prosecutors to prove a prescription drug DUI, they need evidence showing:

  • You were driving a vehicle
  • You were impaired by prescription medications
  • Your driving ability was noticeably affected

Police may first notice signs of impairment like swerving, delayed reactions, or poor coordination. They may then conduct field sobriety tests, which can show the physical effects of medications on your balance and mental state.

A blood or urine test may be done to identify specific prescription drugs in your system. However, the presence of prescription meds alone does not prove impairment – the prosecution must show your driving was actually affected. An expert witness may testify about how the drugs likely impacted your driving ability.

DUI Prescription Drug Defenses

It’s not illegal to drive after taking prescription medications (unless specifically prohibited by your doctor). Having a valid prescription is NOT an automatic defense against a prescription drug DUI. However, there are some possible defenses including:

  • You weren’t actually impaired – the drugs did not affect your driving.
  • The blood or urine test was unreliable or contaminated.
  • The traffic stop and field sobriety testing were improperly conducted.
  • You took the medication as directed and were unaware it could impair driving.

An experienced DUI lawyer can evaluate if any defenses apply in your case. Some states also have exemptions if you took the medication according to your prescription.

Penalties for Prescription Drug DUI

The penalties for driving under the influence of prescription drugs are similar to alcohol DUI penalties. They include:

  • Jail time – Prescription drug DUI may carry up to 6 months in jail.
  • Fines – You may have to pay fines up to $1000 or more.
  • License suspension – Your license may be suspended for several months.
  • Ignition interlock – You may need to install a breathalyzer device in your vehicle.
  • Probation – You may have to complete probation and DUI classes.
  • Community service – You may be ordered to complete community service hours.

Penalties increase for repeat DUIs or if you caused an accident while driving impaired. Your auto insurance rates will also likely increase significantly after a prescription drug DUI.

Avoiding Prescription Drug DUI

To avoid unintentionally driving under the influence of medications:

  • Read warning labels about driving before taking any new medications.
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about potential driving impairment.
  • Start with a low dose when first taking a new medication.
  • Avoid mixing medications or combining with alcohol.
  • Ask about alternatives if your meds could impair driving.
  • Have someone else drive until you know how a new medication affects you.

Being proactive and informed about any medications you take can help prevent a prescription drug DUI charge. But if you are arrested, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced DUI attorney to protect your rights. With proper legal help, many prescription drug DUI cases can be successfully challenged or mitigated.


DUI and Prescription Drugs: How It Affects DUI Cases [1]

Can You Get a DUI While Using Prescription Drugs? [2]

Can I Get a DUI If I’m Taking Prescription Medication? [3]

DUI Because of Prescription Drugs [4]

Driving Under the Influence of Prescription Drugs Defense Attorney Florida [5]