As DUID attorneys, we know that most of us assume that if we do not drink or use illegal drugs, we can’t get arrested for DUI or DUID (driving under the influence of drugs). That is usually safe to assume, but if a doctor has prescribed drugs for you, you can’t abstain from your medicine like abstaining from alcohol.
Prescribed drugs are almost always necessary drugs. And while your prescriptions may be legal and doctor-approved, those drugs may impair your ability to drive safely. If you drive while using certain drugs, you risk being charged with driving under the influence of drugs.
WHAT DRUGS ARE LINKED TO DUID?
Driving under the influence of drugs is a rising concern and a genuine threat to the safety of anyone who is traveling on California’s streets and highways.
Many older people need their prescription drugs, and as the population ages, older drivers in California are more frequently facing DUID charges. Many prescription drugs – and many over-the-counter drugs – can severely impair a user’s capacity for driving safely.
Commonly-prescribed medicines that will impair your ability to drive safely include Demerol, Vicodin, Oxycontin, and Dolophine. These drugs slow your reaction times, reflexes, and thought processes. Never operate machinery or a motor vehicle while using any of these drugs.
WHAT ABOUT OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDICINES?
Even over-the-counter products like decongestants and sleep aids can impair your ability to drive safely. If someone drives while using almost any kind of drug or medicine, there is the potential for a DUID charge – as well as the potential for a serious accident, severe injuries, and fatalities.
Driving a motor vehicle with a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) level at 0.08 percent or higher is against the law in California. A patrol officer can measure a driver’s intoxication level with a hand-held breathalyzer device and make a DUI arrest on the spot based on that measurement.
WHY ARE DUID CASES OFTEN MORE COMPLICATED THAN DUI CASES?
However, if a law enforcement officer suspects that a motorist is impaired not by alcohol but by prescription or over-the-counter drugs, it’s much harder to measure that motorist’s “level” of intoxication or impairment.
Marijuana poses a slightly different problem for police officers and prosecutors, because its active ingredient (“THC” – tetrahydrocannabinol) may remain in someone’s blood or urine for up to four or more weeks – long after any sense of being “high” has faded away.
There is still no reliable method for measuring a marijuana user’s actual “impairment level” at any particular moment.
WHAT IS A DRE?
Many California police agencies use Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), officers who are trained to determine if drivers are impaired by illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs. In fact, DRE programs were first developed here in Los Angeles in the 1970s.
DREs consider a motorist’s behavior, eye movements, and other signs of intoxication. Different medicines affect motorists differently, but drugs that impair the ability to drive are considered as dangerous as alcohol under California law. These are the most dangerous legal drugs for drivers:
– Antidepressants may cause impairment comparable to alcohol impairment.
– Antihistamines interfere with coordination and slow your reaction times.
– Decongestants may cause dizziness, drowsiness, and anxiety.
– Hydrocodone’s effect is comparable to morphine or codeine.
– Medical marijuana is treated just like other prescription drugs.
– Sleeping pills can cause a driver to be impaired – even the next morning.
– Valium in a ten-milligram dosage is comparable to a BAC level of 0.10 percent.
WHAT BASIC PRECAUTIONS SHOULD PRESCRIPTION USERS TAKE?
If you drive, and if your doctor has prescribed medications for you, discuss your concerns and ask the doctor if the drugs will affect your ability to drive safely. Always read the instructions and warnings that accompany your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.
If you’re charged with driving under the influence of drugs in California, the case will be similar in almost every way to a DUI prosecution. Take advantage of your right to remain silent. Insist politely on your right to have your lawyer present for any questioning.
The statutory penalties for DUID convictions in California are essentially the same as the penalties for a DUI conviction. First violations are usually charged as misdemeanors if there are no injuries and if no property is damaged.
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE PENALTIES FOR DUI AND DUID CONVICTIONS?
The possible sentence for even a first DUI or DUID conviction in this state includes up to six months in jail, up to five years on probation, a $1,000 fine, and a six-month driver’s license suspension.
Depending on the details of the case, a DUID offender might also be ordered into mandatory drug treatment or drug education classes. Second and subsequent DUI and DUID convictions, as you might expect, are penalized more harshly.
Anyone who faces a DUID or a driving under the influence charge in southern California must seek – as soon as possible after an arrest – the sound legal advice and aggressive defense representation that an experienced Los Angeles DUI attorney will provide.
HOW WILL THE BEST DUI DEFENSE LAW FIRMS HELP YOU?
If you are charged with DUI or with DUID, a good Los Angeles DUI attorney will challenge the state’s evidence against you. Your lawyer’s first move – in most cases – will be a motion to have the evidence against you suppressed or a motion to have the charge against you dismissed.
If a DUID charge cannot be dismissed, and if you are convinced that you are not guilty, you should insist on a jury trial, and your attorney will explain to a jury why you should be found not guilty. In every case, a good DUI attorney will fight aggressively for justice on a client’s behalf.
However, if the state’s evidence of a defendant’s guilt is strong, and if the state’s case against a defendant is persuasive, a DUI lawyer may recommend accepting a plea deal, and the choice to accept or reject such a deal is the defendant’s alone.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER?
Here’s what you need to remember about prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and driving:
If you drive and you are using any prescription or over-the-counter medicine, talk with your doctor about the effect of the medicine on your ability to drive safely.
If you are charged with DUI or DUID in Southern California, immediately contact an experienced L.A. County DUI defense lawyer. That is your right.