When most people think of an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI), an image of a drunk driver swaying across the road comes to mind. If told the driver was under the influence of drugs or pills, most people envision illegal drugs, like marijuana or cocaine. It is, however, entirely possible that you can be charged with a DUI in the State of Georgia if you are driving under the influence of perfectly legal medication.
Understanding a DUI charge in relation to prescription pills or over the counter medication can be extremely complicated to handle without the help of an experienced Gwinnett County DUI attorney.
What Kinds of Medications Can Cause Impairment?
While this list cannot mention every medication that can cause impairment, some common examples are here for your convenience:
- Ambien (sleep)
- Tramydol (muscle relaxer)
- Adderall (attention deficit)
- Oxycodone (pain)
- Xanax (anxiety).
If you have questions about your medication and whether it can cause impairment, you should speak with your prescribing physician.
What if the Medication is Legally Prescribed?
If you were prescribed a medication legally, you can still be charged with DUI if a police officer finds that you were impaired by that medication. During a roadside stop, law enforcement may put you through field sobriety tests in an effort to determine whether you are driving while impaired. These tests include:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN test)
- Walk and Turn test
- One leg stand test
- Counting or saying the alphabet backwards.
Field sobriety tests are known to be inaccurate and these tests tend to show intoxication when none is present or at a significantly higher degree than is true. Your results can be used against you in court if not successfully challenged. They may also be the justification for a finding of DUI "less safe."
What is DUI Less Safe?
The key determination a law enforcement officer must make is whether your use of a prescription or over-the-counter medication has made you less safe or unable to drive. This is a judgment call by the arresting police officer, and officers are statistically known to make inaccurate findings and assumptions.
The officer need only testify that he or she found you to be impaired by your medication. This method of proof may cause you to be convicted of a DUI when you were not in fact intoxicated.
Defenses to Prescription Drug DUI
Taking medication legally prescribed to you and then driving is not illegal. It is only illegal if you were actually impaired by that medication while driving. Prosecutors try to prove you were intoxicated with inaccurate tests and erroneous observations.
Your attorney can challenge the results of your field sobriety testing and any chemical tests which may have been administered. Remember, just because you took your prescribed medication or an over the counter medication and drove, does not mean that you are guilty of a crime.
Contact a Gwinnett County DUI Attorney
If you have been charged with a prescription drug DUI in the State of Georgia, it does not mean that you are guilty. An experienced Gwinnett County DUI attorney can challenge law enforcement's findings about your case to have your charges reduced or possibly have your entire case dismissed. Contact us today for a free consultation.