“Don’t drink and drive” is a common notion. In fact, when most people hear about someone who is arrested for a DUI the first thought is they must have been drinking and driving. But drivers can be arrested for driving under the influence of a variety of substances, including illegal narcotics, stimulants, over-the-counter medications, and legal prescriptions. Recently on our DUI forum a user asked, “How can I be arrested for DUI if I was not intoxicated from alcohol? I was taking a medication prescribed by my doctor?”
What is a DUI?
Driving under the influence is the inability to operate a motorized vehicle under the influence of any substance which causes a mental or physical impairment which makes it unsafe to operate the vehicle, including drugs. State statutes vary, but most states will define a “drug” as any type of substance which can affect the body’s systems (nervous system, brain, or muscles) to such a degree that the driver is unable to operate a car in a cautious and prudent manner, with reasonable care, in possession of all of their faculties.
Is my medication safe?
So how do you know if your medication is safe for driving? First, talk to your doctor and ask about any of the side-effects which could impair your driving. Next, review the warning and side-effects which come with the medication. This is true for both prescription and non-prescription medications.
So, for example, if you are taking Xanax or Alprazolam this is classified as a schedule IV controlled substance and is used to treat panic attacks and depression. This medication specifically says not to take it with alcohol. It also notes that it can cause drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, memory problems, and trouble concentrating, all side-effects which are likely to impair your driving ability.
What about Ambien? Ambien is another very popular drug many users take to battle insomnia. It is also a schedule IV controlled substance and has side-effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, a confusion, and ataxia. This medication specifically states that it should not be taken while you are engaged in any activity which “requires you to be awake and alert.” Medications also have warnings about using them in combination with other drugs or alcohol which can increase their potency.
DUI for medications
DUI laws have changed over the last several years making it simpler for officers to identify, arrest, and prosecute drug impaired driving cases. In fact, many states have specific hired drug recognition experts (DRE) or specific DUI field testing to identify drivers under the influence of drugs.
Officers can charge drivers with DUID if they suspect they have sufficient evidence to prove they were under the influence of drugs. Consider also, even if you have a doctor’s prescription this may not be an affirmative defense, especially if you have been given warnings about the dangers of driving while taking the medication.
Talk to a DUI lawyer
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