It is common knowledge that drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and then choosing to drive a vehicle while intoxicated is illegal behavior. But not everyone knows that taking drugs, whether they be recreational, prescription or over-the-counter medications, and driving can also be illegal. If a law enforcement officer suspects that a motorist is operating a vehicle while impaired by any substance, even if that substance is legal, that officer is generally empowered to pull that motorist over. If that individual’s ability to operate a vehicle safely has been impaired by drug or medication usage, that individual may be charged with drugged driving.
It is worth noting that states generally empower law enforcement officers to either arrest individuals for “driving while impaired” (DWI) or “driving under the influence” (DUI). In both cases, the cause of impairment is not specified. Most often, individuals are charged with DUI or DWI after operating a vehicle while their blood alcohol level is over the legal limit. But motorists may be arrested on DUI or DWI charges while impaired by virtually any substance that has the power to impair judgment, reflexes, perception or any other fundamental biological process required for driving safely.
Practically speaking, this means that operating a vehicle after taking a significant dose of liquid cold medicine on an empty stomach could conceivably result in drugged driving charges. Operating a vehicle at 5:00am after taking sleeping medication at 1:00am could similarly result in drugged driving charges. Even prescription medications can cause you legal trouble if they have the power to impair your driving ability. As a result, it is generally a good idea to seek a physician’s guidance before driving when you begin taking any new medication, especially if you are taking pain killers, mood-altering medications or sleeping pills.
It is also possible to be charged with drugged driving after using marijuana in virtually any form. Even if the state in which you are driving has legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana, you may be arrested if you drive while high. Think of the legal realities of drugged driving in this way: Alcohol is legal to imbibe if you are age 21 or older, however it is still illegal to drive with any significant amount of alcohol in your system. Just because your prescription, over the counter or recreational drugs are legal does not mean that it is legal to drive with an amount in your system that could impair your ability to drive safely.
Legal Assistance Is Available
If you have recently been charged with drugged driving, please consider reaching out to a criminal defense attorney experienced in this area of law. Drugged driving charges are serious and may be met with severe criminal consequences. Working with an experienced attorney may allow you to have the charges against you dropped or reduced, may help you to mitigate any potential consequences you are facing and will allow you to make informed decisions about your legal situation moving forward. A solid legal strategy is necessary in the face of drugged driving charges. Please consider scheduling a consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney, like a DUI lawyer in Salt Lake City, UT, today.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Rasmussen & Miner for their insight into DUI defense.