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What is a Prescription Drug DUI?

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In most states, including Florida, driving under the influence of any substance that impairs your normal abilities is illegal. This includes alcohol, illicit drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and prescription drugs. Even if an individual has a prescription for their medication, knowingly driving under the influence of a drug that impairs their ability to see, walk, hear, talk, judge distances, drive an automobile, or act in emergency situations is against the law.

Most commonly, prescription drug DUI cases involve medicines like Xanax, Oxycontin, and Valium. These prescription drugs have the potential to cause slow reaction times, fatigue, slurred speech, and confusion, which all make for dangerous driving conditions. Even if an individual has a valid prescription for the medication they are on, they can still be charged with a DUI.

How Are Prescription Drug DUI Arrests Evaluated?

Prescription drug DUIs can be more difficult to evaluate than other DUIs. For instance, when someone is suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, officers can give them a breathalyzer test to evaluate their blood alcohol content (BAC). If they exceed the legal limit, this evidence can be used against them in court.

On the other hand, prescription drug DUIs cannot be evaluated with a breathalyzer test on the scene. Therefore, officers must utilize other tests like:

  • DUI urine test
  • DUI blood test
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
  • Muscle tone tests
  • Observations of injection sites
  • Psychophysical tests for attention

Field sobriety tests are also used to determine if a driver was under the influence when pulled over. Typically, if these tests are inconclusive, officers will order blood or urine tests to determine whether drugs are present in an individual’s system.

Why Are Prescription Drug DUI Cases So Complex?

Alcohol DUI cases are fairly straightforward: when an officer pulls someone over for possible drinking, a simple breathalyzer test shows precisely how much alcohol is in their system at the time. Unfortunately, no such test can show the type or amount of drugs in someone’s system quickly, so officers must rely on blood or urine tests. These tests must be administered at the police station, meaning time passes between the arrest and the actual test. This can cause results to be inconclusive.

Similarly, the active ingredients in many prescription drugs may show up differently in blood and urine testing. It can be challenging to determine whether the substance in someone’s blood or urine was active or inactive at the time of the test, leading to more confusion.

Finally, everyone reacts differently to different substances. The amount of prescription drugs one person takes might barely affect them, while the same amount could render another person unable to operate a vehicle. These variables can make it difficult to determine when someone is “over the limit.”

What Are the Most Common Defenses Against a Prescription Drug DUI Charge?

Prescription drug DUI cases are complicated, and prosecutors often have difficulty proving beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual is guilty. This can open up many potential defense strategies for alleged perpetrators to use. Hiring a DUI attorney with experience in prescription drug cases is essential to defend yourself and reduce or remove the penalties against you.

If you are being charged with a prescription drug DUI, potential defenses include:

  • Adverse drug reaction. If you take prescription drugs without knowing their effect on you, you may be able to claim ignorance.
  • Insufficient evidence. If prosecutors do not present enough evidence to convict you, your case may be dismissed.
  • Lack of quantitative impairment. Impairment is hard to rank when it comes to prescription drugs, which could work in your favor.
  • Mistakes by law enforcement. If police officers make a mistake when arresting or testing you, any evidence against you may be inadmissible.

Should I Hire a Defense Attorney?

While many assume that prescription drug DUIs are not viable in court, the truth is that many people face severe penalties for driving under the influence of prescription drugs.

If you have been charged with a prescription drug DUI, hiring a criminal defense attorney is essential. Our team of experienced lawyers will review the evidence against you and build a strong case in your defense to remove or reduce the charges you are facing. Call The Defense Group today at 407-743-8430 or contact us online for more information.

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