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DUI – Prescription Drugs & Drugged Driving: What Should You Know

When most people think of DUI, they associate it with drinking and driving. However, in all U.S. states, someone can be charged with some form of DUI for operating a vehicle while under the influence or prescription drugs or other controlled substances.

DUI

Operating a vehicle under the influence of prescription drugs can be dangerous, especially when the drugs are mixed with alcohol

This could create a real problem for drivers who do not know that the prescription drugs they are taking could land them in legal trouble – even resulting in jail time in the states with severe DUI penalties. Let’s take a closer look at the drugged driving laws and it would be a good time to hire a DUI lawyer.

What is Driving Under the Influence?

While DUI laws vary from state to state, there is one common factor. It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of an illegal substance, or a legal substance if that substance caused you to be impaired at the time you were driving.

Who is Subject to Conviction?

Anyone operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs is subject to conviction, even if that person has been prescribed the drug in question.

What Are the Penalties?

Individual states will determine what kind of penalty someone could face. In states such as California, even a first-time conviction will result in jail time and license suspension. In most states, the penalties are less severe for first time offenders or those who are only impaired to the slightest degree.

The penalties for driving under the influence of drugs are typically similar to those of an alcohol-related DUI.

The penalties for driving under the influence of drugs are typically similar to those of an alcohol-related DUI

Someone with previous convictions will face harsher penalties and in some cases, could even be charged with a felony offense.

The risk of being accused of a drug-related DUI is much higher for some people. For instance, someone with a chronic condition may have to take certain prescription drugs every day. Most people need a car to take care of all their daily tasks, such as getting to work, shopping and other errands, and may have to drive after taking medication.

Another risk factor is that many people on prescription drugs aren’t aware that they are not allowed to operate a vehicle.

When Should You Speak to an Attorney?

If you are arrested and accused of driving under the influence of drugs, you should contact a skilled attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer who specializes in DUI defense will have close working knowledge of the laws and how evidence is collected.

Prosecutors will always try to convince you to plead guilty, but this is not always the right choice. Your lawyer will help determine the strength of the case against you and negotiate a fair outcome outside of the courtroom, or fight to defend you at trial.

It’s important to know and weigh your legal options and it’s sometimes impossible to do so without the knowledge and guidance of a skilled attorney.

How Do You Protect Your Rights During an Arrest?

Field sobriety tests are a no-win proposition

Most DUI defense lawyers will agree that defendants make their cases harder to win by saying too much to the police at the time of their arrest. It’s important to exercise your Fifth Amendment constitutional right to remain silent. Anything you tell an officer at the time of arrest can be used as evidence against you when your case goes to court.  Also, most people do not know that they can refuse to do field sobriety tests in California.  You can and in most cases you should refuse such tests. They are designed to make you fail.  The police will tell you how well you are doing on these tests, only to turn around and write a report that states you failed.  Field sobriety tests, or FST’s are a no-win proposition.  Implied consent laws in California only require you to take a breath or blood test.

You are most likely not going to talk your way out of a DUI arrest.  Your best course of action is to answer only the questions that the police require you to answer and save your statements until you can speak with a defense lawyer.  You are entitled to ask a police officer if you are required to answer certain questions.  Make clear that you are not refusing to answer questions.

DUI

Even legal prescription drug use can lead to a DUI in all states

The smartest course of action during a DUI arrest is to say as little as possible and contact an attorney as soon as you are cleared to make a phone call. It’s also important to ensure that your attorney is the only person you talk to about the details concerning your case. Prosecutors may try to summon people you know as a witness to question them about what details you may have discussed concerning your case.

About the Author

Andi Saivetz is a blogger who enjoys learning and writing about legal issues.

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5 Comments

  • 97Rodger says:

    In 2010, more than one-quarter (26.2 percent) of drugged drivers in fatal accidents were 50 years of age or older, up from 14.4 percent in 1993 (Brady, 2014).
    Illicit drug use in adults 50 to 59 years of age more than doubled from 3.4 percent in 2002 to 7.2 percent in 2010 (SAMHSA, 2014).
    Nine out of 10 people 65 years of age and older take one or more prescription drugs, and almost 40 percent take five or more (NCHS, 2014).
    Mental decline in older adults can lead to taking a prescription drug more or less often than they should or in the wrong amount. Older adults also may not break down the drug in their system as quickly as younger people. These factors can lead to unintentional intoxication.

  • Mathias says:

    Thanks for the excellent advice, it actually is useful about DUI and driving under the influence of substances.

  • Yolanda says:

    a good roadside test for drug levels in the body does not yet exist
    people are not usually tested for drugs if they are above the legal limit for alcohol because there is already enough evidence for a DUI charge
    many drivers who cause accidents are found to have both drugs and alcohol or more than one drug in their system, making it hard to know which substance had the greater effect

  • Evangeline says:

    Use of illegal drugs or misuse of prescription drugs can make driving a car unsafe—just like driving after drinking alcohol. Drugged driving puts not only the driver but also passengers and others who share the road at risk.

  • township says:

    You should always read all warnings on your prescription.
    Be aware of any warnings specifically advising not to operate heavy machinery or vehicles.
    Never operate a vehicle or machinery on a new medication – be sure you know how your body will react to a medication

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