If you didn’t think it was possible to get charged with DUI while using prescription drugs, think again. Remember, “DUI” stands for driving under the influence. It does not specify the nature of the influence. Alcohol is just one of several substances that can impair a driver to the point of being considered under the influence. Prescription medications and even over-the-counter drugs can cause impairment that could lead to a DUI charge.
It is not surprising that with the meteoric rise in prescriptions for drugs that can cause impairment (notably oxycontin and other opioids), prescription drug DUI is fast becoming a problem in Georgia. In fact, over the past 10 years, the number of Americans using at least one prescription drug has increased by 10 percent. The number using at least two prescription drugs has increased by 20 percent. Most shocking, however, is that the number of individuals using five or more prescription drugs at the same time has exploded by 70 percent.
The more drugs a person is taking, even if prescribed, the better chance the person has to be considered impaired while driving. Many drugs—particularly opioids—cause drowsiness or sluggishness, which can be especially marked in individuals just starting on drug therapy. There’s a reason why pill bottles routinely carry the warning to be careful when driving or operating heavy machinery on a particular medication. The standard remains whether you can be a safe driver while using the medication, not whether the medication was validly prescribed or even taken exactly as directed.
All an officer needs to be able to pull you over is “reasonable suspicion” that you are impaired and Georgia boasts of 250 officers who are “experts” in drug recognition through specialized training. The officer may inquire about any prescription medications you are taking and depending upon your answer – which should always be truthful but not to the point of oversharing – the officer may determine that you are possibly impaired by drugs and ask if you are willing to submit to a blood test. Unlike with alcohol, there is currently no breath test for drugs. Chances are very good that if the officer believes you are impaired based upon your answers and their observations, you will be arrested and taken to jail.
Of course, making a DUI charge with prescription drug use stick is another story. It is crucial to get an attorney who is familiar with prescription drug DUI charges in Georgia as soon as possible to look into every issue with the arrest starting with the determination of impairment by the arresting officer. Since there is no immediate objective test available for drugs like there is for alcohol, it is possible to challenge the impairment determination from the start. Even if the blood test comes back positive for prescription drugs, it is possible to argue about whether the drug was at a therapeutic level or truly excessive.
DUI is expensive and can wreak havoc on one’s life from license suspension to revocation of occupational licenses due even to the arrest. If you’ve been arrested for prescription drug DUI in Georgia, one of your first calls should be the attorneys at Savannah DUI. We understand prescription drug DUI and know how to use the available defenses to you. Call us at (912) 221-4441 today!