Drunk driving is illegal, and so is drugged driving. And if you think that the “drugged” in drugged driving only refers to illicit ones like cocaine, crystal meth, and heroin, you would be surprised by what the law has to say about that.
Drugged driving laws, which all US states have, cover prescription drugs as well. Even when what’s found in your system are traces of painkillers, antidepressants, and other types of legally prescribed medications, you can get arrested and charged with driving under the influence of drugs or DUID. And just like a regular DUI, the consequences of a DUID are just as serious, and you will need to hire a DUI drug lawyer.
Here are some more facts about prescription drugs and drugged driving that you need to know.
Side effects of prescribed drugs get you in trouble.
If you’re suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, then you’re likely taking maintenance medications prescribed by your doctor. The problem with such drugs, however, is that they do have varying side effects. The same can be said of painkillers, especially ones that fall under the category of opioids, whose effects are similar to what you get from heroin.
Some of the most common side effects of prescription drugs include blurry vision, difficulty concentrating, drowsiness, nausea, and dizziness. When a person who takes prescription drugs experiences any of them while behind the wheel, it could lead to an accident that could put lives in danger.
Your prescription isn’t a pass in some states.
Waving your actual written prescription in the face of a police officer who stops you on suspicion of DUID is not going to save you, at least in states like Arizona, Delaware, and Kansas. As far as their DUID laws are concerned, legal entitlement to use a drug is not an acceptable defense.
It’s even tougher in Arizona, home to some of the strictest DUI laws in the United States. Drugged driving is inherently illegal there, as it has a per se prohibition against it in place. Painkilling opioids and anti-anxiety benzodiazepines are also categorized there as prohibited drugs, and if police officers there have reasonable suspicion that you are impaired by such drugs, they can readily arrest and charge you with DUID.
Police won’t distinguish between alcohol and drugs.
The most important thing for police officers is to determine if the driver is impaired. In most states, police won’t really distinguish between alcohol, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter or OTC medications. All they will do is ascertain if a driver they pulled over on suspicion of DUI is, indeed, impaired, and they will arrest that driver, regardless of the substance that caused that impairment.
To find out if a driver is impaired, police officers will typically administer field sobriety tests or FSTs, which are subjective at best. It will then be up to the police officers to decide whether the driver passes those tests or not. If arrested, then whether the charge is a DUI or a DUID will depend on more tests to be administered after the arrest.
Taking prescription drugs doesn’t mean no more driving, ever.
Even if you’re taking prescription drugs regularly, you can still drive, as long as you take steps that they won’t impair you when you’re driving.
Your physician will play a crucial role in ensuring you won’t be impaired when taking drugs your medical condition requires. Your doctor’s actions will include adjusting your dosage, the number of times you take them in a day, and changing the prescription altogether to one with few to no side effects. With such tweaks, there is a reduced risk of impairment, and you would be able to drive safely.
Should you find yourself arrested for drugged driving, keep in mind that you are going to need a DUI attorney to represent you to make sure you get the best possible results.