Can I be arrested for a DUI after taking prescription medications?


Prescription Drug DUI

DUI? I am prescribed this medication.

Can you be arrested for a DUI for driving after taking a prescription medication?  Everyone knows the risk of drinking alcohol and driving. Few realize the potential for being arrested for driving after taking legally prescribed medications.  Approximately 15% of the DUI cases that come into my office are prescription drug DUIs.

Just to be clear, I am not talking just about driving after abusing prescription medications.  What I am speaking about here is operating a motor vehicle while taking prescription medication.  It is not a defense to a DUI that you were taking the medication as prescribed.

Drugs That Impair

There are many drugs that, when taken as prescribed, can cause you to be legally impaired.  Tranquilizers like Vicodin, Narcotic Pain Pills like Oxycotin, Sleep Medicines like Ambien and Seroquel, Antidepressants, Anti-anxiety Medications like Xanax, Cough Medicines like NyQuil, Antihistamines, Decongestants, and many other medications can impair your ability to drive, and be a basis to charge you with a DUI.

Prescription Drug DUI Investigation

If you are on prescription drugs when the police stop you, they may investigate you for a DUI.  The police officer is likely to investigate you first for a traditional alcohol DUI. He will begin by performing the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.  These are the normal tests that they show on TV shows, like COPS; the Walk and Turn test, the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, and the One Leg Stand test.  The Officer then has you blow into a breath alcohol device.  After you blow zeros, he will begin his investigation into other possible substances causing your perceived impairment.  He is likely to call in a “Drug Recognition Expert”.  The Drug Recognition Expert will conduct a battery of tests to try to approximate what type of medications or other drugs you may be on.  Finally, he will then either have you submit a urine sample or draw your blood.

The officer will send your blood or urine to a lab. Within 4-8 weeks you will get a result back indicating the types of drugs that you have taken.  The Drug Recognition Expert will hope that his prediction of what medications you had taken will be the ones that end up coming back on the lab results.

Drugs in Blood. Proof of Impairment?

Part of the problem with prescription drug DUI cases is that just because you have a medicine come back in your blood does not necessarily mean you took it recently.  For example, you may have taken Ambien the night before to help you sleep.  Ambien could still be detected in your blood and urine the next day, even though you are no longer under the influence of that medication.

If you think about it, this is quite alarming.  If you are taking a medicine that impairs your ability to drive, an officer could arrest you even if you do not drive while under the influence of it. The officer could charge you with a DUI based on a test that is picking up traces of the medication you took yesterday.  The Drug Recognition Expert exists to deal with this problem.  He is there to address the fact that having drugs in your blood does not mean you are under the influence.  If he guesses what you are on before seeing the results it lends credibility to their case.

If the police have charged you with a DUI based on prescription medications, call an attorney today to discuss your options.  Prescription drug DUI cases are entirely defensible, and often difficult for the State of Idaho to prove.  If you are on prescription medications that have the potential of impairing your driving, be careful, you may end up with a DUI.

Boise, Idaho Criminal Defense Attorney

Craig Atkinson is the lead attorney at Atkinson Law Office,
Boise DUI and Criminal Attorneys. It is located at 1087 W River St #290, Boise, ID 83702. You can call him anytime at 208.571.0627.

Ask Craig to review your case.

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