Most people are aware of the fact that they can be arrested for driving on an illegal drug, however, most people are shocked to find out that they can be arrested for driving under the influence of a lawfully-prescribed medication.
If you have been charged with a prescription medication DUI, you need to take this matter seriously. It is not a defense to simply tell the judge that you are prescribed these medications. You need an experienced DUI attorney who will fight for you. Your future, your reputation, and your freedom are on the line, don't fight this charge on your own.
DUIs arise from a wide range of medications, including:
- Over-the-counter medications
- Cold and allergy medications
- Other valid prescriptions
- Any medicines that cause drowsiness
Police officers use their own discretion when assessing impairment from a prescription drug. They often make an assumption based on assumption or "instinct". These assumptions are frequently not based on fact, which means they could lead to the arrest of a completely innocent individual.
More and more I am seeing people arrested for DUI based upon prescription medications. Over 70% of Americans take at least one prescription medication. Police are using this to their advantage. If they pull someone over for DUI and find that the person is not over the legal limit for alcohol, they create a reason to perform a blood draw and charge the individual with DUI based upon prescription medications. If it turns out there is no medication in the individuals blood, no skin off their teeth, however, just playing the odds, it turns out that many times there is a prescription medication found in the blood test.
Prescription Drug DUI charges rest heavily on assumptions and judgment calls made by an arresting officer. This means that by crafting a strong defense, you can effectively fight these charges.
Drug Recognition Experts
A Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) is a law enforcement officer trained to identify people whose driving is impaired by drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol. The 12 step procedure they follow is called a Drug Influence Evaluation (DIE), to determine which category of drugs is causing the driver to be impaired.
If a DRE determines that a driver is impaired, they will look for indications of the drugs by the common perceivable effects the drugs have on the human body. There are seven categories of classifications a DRE is looking for, including: Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants, CNS Stimulants, Dissociative Anesthetics, Cannabis, Hallucinogens, Inhalants, and Narcotics.
A DIE involves the following 12 steps (for a detailed description: DECP.org)
- Breath Alcohol Test: If the arresting officer reviews breath alcohol test and determines it does not explain the level of impairment they are perceiving, the officer requests a DRE evaluation.
- Interview of the Arresting Officer
- Preliminary Examination and First Pulse
- Eye Examinations
- Divided Attention Psychophysical Tests
- Vital Signs and Second Pulse
- Dark Room Examinations
- Examination for Muscle Tone
- Check for Injection Sites and Third Pulse
- Subject's Statements and Other Observations
- Analysis and Opinions of the Evaluator
- Toxicological Examination : After completing the evaluation, the DRE normally requests a urine, blood and/or saliva sample from the subject for a toxicology lab analysis.
Truthfully, the "expert" part of Drug Recognition Expert is a misnomer, these are people who are trained to fill out a chart based upon what they see. The chart is supposed to tell them what substance is present. The DIE is a guess! It is subjective and easily manipulated. DREs are not doctors, they have not nurses - in fact, they have little to no medical training at all. The DIE is nowhere near 100% accurate and there are many ways to challenge the DRE's testimony.
The true purposes of the DIE is to establish probable cause to perform a blood or urine analysis.
Presently, drug testing labs do not have the ability to identify drugs in an individual's system accurately enough to determine whether or not an individual was driving while actually under the influence. This means that DUI charges involving drugs can often be made more on speculation, rather than hard facts and evidence.
Unlike DUI cases involving alcohol, there is no BAC limit that allows officers to gauge a person's impairment. In fact, even if a blood test indicates a high level of a certain prescription drug is in the person's system, this does not necessarily mean that the person was impaired while driving. To begin with, different drugs affect the human body differently, so an individual's level of impairment depends on:
- The type of drug they have taken.
- The quantity they have taken.
- The time they took it.
- The tolerance level they have to that drug.
Of course the blood test is going to test positive for the prescription drug you are properly prescribed and take at your doctor's direction, it would be odd if you didn't test positive for this prescription drug. However, just because you test positive does not mean you are impaired by the prescription medication.
Additionally, some drugs are detectable in blood tests long after the effects of the drug have worn off. The classic example of this is marijuana, which remains in the body for up to a month since the last use. Even if you test positive for a prescription medication or drug, a positive test does not prove you were impaired at the time you were driving the motor vehicle.
I see people plead guilty to DUI all the time even though they do not believe they are guilty. They assume that they can not win because their blood test came back positive for a prescription medication. Do not fall into this trap!