DUI charges are often related to driving under the influence of alcohol and illegal substances. However, many people take legal drugs (because of health conditions) and they probably wonder if they can get a DUI charge for driving while taking legally prescribed drugs?
The answer is yes, you can get charged for driving under the influence of prescription drugs. This is because there are two types of DUI charges – “impairment” and “per se”.
If you were charged for DUI even though you were taking prescribed drugs, make sure to seek help from a skilled Oregon DUI lawyer.
Per Se and Impairment Charges
To get a DUI charge, you must be driving and be intoxicated or under the influence.
These two requirements lead to two types of DUI charges – per se and impairment. There is a difference between both.
- Per Se Dui Charge – It’s based upon the concentration of a substance in the driver’s blood. It means the driver’s blood alcohol count is .08 or higher (the legal limit in most states). Some states set blood concentration limits such as cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine. If your BAC (or other substance concentration) is above the state’s legal limit (no matter if you’re visibly impaired or not) you’ll get a DUI charge. If you get a per se DUI you don’t need to prove impairment if you’re over a legally established limit.
- Impairment DUI Charge – It’s illegal to drive a vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence. Being “under the influence” refers more to alcohol than illegal drugs. It can be applied to any substance that can cause impairment in a driver (prescribed or over-the-counter medications).
If the officer believes that you’re driving while impaired, they can ask you to do a sobriety test. If you fail on the test, it will be used as evidence for your impairment. If the test shows clean results, but you still appear impaired, you can still be charged with a DUI.
What Is Impairment?
Many substances can cause impairment. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, impairment is any state where an individual drives differently and not safe than they normally would. The NTHSA states that over-the-counter medicines can also cause impairment which can result in a DUI charge.
These are the most common sign of impairment:
- Extreme levels of drowsiness
- Decreased hand-eye coordination and reaction time
According to the NHTSA, if you feel different after taking a medication, you will drive differently.
Read the labels on the medications and if it advises you not to operate vehicles or heavy machinery, then don’t do that. It could prevent you from getting a DUI charge, and it could save yours and the lives of others.
Measuring and Proving Impairment
An Impairment DUI doesn’t rely on the form of BAC testing. The criteria for proving impairment consists of field sobriety test and other signs of intoxications such as these:
- Slurred speech
- Erratic driving
- Unusual behavior
- Red, glazed, or droopy eyes
- Inability to focus or recall details
Some of these signs may also be a part of a field sobriety test. Although every state has a different level of impairment that leads to a DUI charge, it’s universally true that in every state you will be considered impaired no matter if it was caused by a prescribed drug or driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.
Prescription Drugs and Substance Abuse
Many people have health conditions that require taking medicine. However, it’s not uncommon that drugs can be abused. Signs of prescription drug abuse such as the upper mentioned (weird driving, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes) can lead to a DUI charge.
Even if the drug isn’t affecting the driving when taken as prescribed, if abused may lead to dangerous impaired driving.
If you suspect that you or a loved one has an issue with drugs or alcohol, seek help; contact a treatment center where you can get help and prevent risky behavior.
In case you were already pulled over by an officer and got tested for the level of a substance in your blood, or were involved in a DUI accident, it’s time to seek legal help.
In such cases, you can expect to face DUI charges and other charges in case someone else gets injured or killed in the accident.
Having a skilled DUI attorney will be of great help. Our team at Trilogy Law group is here to answer all your questions. Schedule your first free case evaluation today.