Getting Arrested for DUI Because of Medications


Some people erroneously think that the only way a person can be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) is if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is equal or greater than .08%.  However, many people have been arrested and prosecuted because they were driving under the influence of medication.  This does not refer to just illegal drugs such as marijuana or heroin.  Indeed, people that have a legitimate prescription for pain killers or other medication have been found guilty of DUI.  Even people that are taking simple over the counter medication have suffered the same plight.



Drugs and Their Labels


Several prescription medications as well as generic over the counter items have explicit labels that direct the user to avoid driving or using heavy equipment while taking the medicine.  This is often due to the side effect of drowsiness that is caused by the medicine. 


There are quite a few other medications that have additional side affects.  Some of these drugs can alter a person's judgment, create tremors, reduce muscle strength, impair coordination and even create confusion in the user.  Some drugs even speed up the absorption rate of alcohol into the bloodstream, leading to a higher state of intoxication.


Here is a list of medications that have proven side affects that lead to impaired driving.


  • Sleeping pills such as Sonata, Ambien and Halcion
  • Stimulants
  • Sedatives
  • Prescribed narcotic like Codeine or medicine containing amounts of Codeine
  • Prescribed pain medicine such as Duragesic, Vicodin and Oxycontin
  • Common over the counter liquid like NyQuil or TheraFlu
  • Allergy pills such as Benadryl
  • Medication to treat diabetes like Amaryl, Insulin and Glucotrol



How Officers Prove DUI Due to Legal Drugs


Officers and their attorneys are required to persuade a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that a person was driving in an unsafe manner due to the use of a legal drug.  This may be accomplished by using a number of different pieces of evidence.


One method is a new quantitative blood test.  This test identifies the amount of drugs in a person's body.  Officers and medical experts attempt to show that the amount was unsafe and led to the person's impaired driving.


Field sobriety tests are a favorite tool used by officers.  These tests supposedly show that a person's reflexes, motor skills and reactions are all hindered by some outside influence.


Some states, such as Florida, have instituted new training for their officers.  Select officers are becoming certified drug recognition experts.  Their training is designed to allow officers to detect the signs of a person that is impaired by drug use.



Defending Against a DUI Due to Legal Drugs


There are several ways in which a DUI attorney can construct a defense against a DUI claim stemming from legal drug usage.  The attorney and defendant will need to collect quite a bit of items in order to provide proof for their claims.


First and foremost is to challenge any field sobriety test that was used.  Defense attorneys have proven in many cases that the field sobriety test is not a definitive method for proving a person's impairment.  Some people are not physically able to complete the tests due to physical limits or even handicaps.


Another defense strategy involves using the list of known side affects of the medication.  After reviewing the medicine's side affects, the lawyer can argue that this particular medication does not have any side affects such as drowsiness, mental impairment or other factors that would affect a person's ability to drive. If these side affects are a part of the medication, it might be argued that the medication had significant time to wear off before the DUI arrest.  This will require the person to prove when the medication was consumed.


In the case of over the counter medication, it is possible to use ignorance as a defense. Not all side affects are known or listed on every over the counter medication.  If a person followed the instructions for dosage and read the side affects, noting that there is no warning against driving while taking the medication, it is possible to convince a judge or jury that the defendant simply did not know.


By Richard Jacobs

Share |