Driving while impaired is a serious offense with potentially fatal consequences. However, many people don’t consider the risks associated with driving under the influence of prescription medication.
Can you be charged for operating a motor vehicle after taking certain medications?
The answer to this question isn’t as simple as one might think. In this article, we will explore the potential legal implications of being caught behind the wheel while on prescription medicines and how you can get help if you’re facing charges.
What Is DWI?
DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated, which occurs when someone drives with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. It’s illegal in all states and has serious consequences if convicted.
However, intoxication isn’t limited to just alcohol. An individual can also be impaired from taking certain drugs, such as prescription medications. Knowing what types of prescription medication could affect an individual’s ability to drive safely is essential for anyone who takes them regularly.
Understanding Prescription Medication and DWI
You can be charged with a DWI for using prescription medications even though you were using them according to instructions from your healthcare provider. If law enforcement suspects impairment caused by any substance—legal or otherwise—the person could be arrested.
The reality is prescription medications can impair your ability to drive. Certain types of medication can cause drowsiness and confusion that affects the driver’s judgment and reaction time.
Common prescription drugs that can lead to DWI include:
- Narcotics like opioids, codeine, morphine, methadone etc.
- Stimulants such as amphetamines and Ritalin
- Benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, and Ativan
- Sleep aids like Ambien and Lunesta
- Antihistamines, including Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton
These medications may not be illegal on their own, but they do have side effects that can affect a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Even if you’re taking them for medical reasons or following doctor’s orders, it doesn’t mean it won’t impact your driving skills.
How Are Prescription Drugs Detected?
Although prescription drugs do not appear on a breathalyzer test, as a Missouri road user, you agree to test by blood, urine, or saliva if you are pulled over for a DWI.
These tests can detect the presence of certain drugs in your system for hours, days, or even weeks after taking them.
To help officers identify drug-impaired motorists, the Missouri Highway Patrol has established a team of Drug Recognition Experts (DREs). These officers have had specialized training to spot the visual signs of drug impairment in drivers, such as eye movements, color and dilation, behavior and movement, and other cues.
Legal Consequences of DWI from Prescription Medication
Driving under the influence of prescription medication can be a serious offense in Missouri. The state’s laws regarding DWI from prescription medication are similar to those for alcohol-related DWI.
Consequences for this kind of driving include:
- License suspension or revocation
- Possible jail time
In some circumstances, such as when an injury or death is involved, more severe punishments may be handed out.
If you are charged with DWI involving prescription medication in Missouri, it’s essential to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the ins and outs of DWI laws and regulations related to prescription drugs. They can help you understand your rights, build a defense strategy, and work towards a positive outcome in your case.
How Are Prescription Medication-related DWI Cases Different From Alcohol-related DWI Cases?
When it comes to being charged with driving under the influence of prescription medication, there are a few key differences from alcohol-related DWI cases.
For instance, while intoxication levels may be measured similarly in both types of cases—through field sobriety tests or chemical testing is done at an arrest site—the law often treats these drugs differently than alcohol when it comes to determining guilt.
Here’s what you should know about how these two scenarios compare:
- Medication-related DWI cases may involve a wider variety of drugs, including both prescription and non-prescription medications, while alcohol-related DWI cases are limited to alcohol
- Medication-related DWI cases often involve a greater amount of evidence to prove impairment, such as blood tests or physical signs, while alcohol-related DWI cases are generally easier to establish, as breathalyzer tests are typically used
- The potential punishments may be greater in a medication-related DWI case, as the prescribed substance may be considered a controlled substance
Despite the differences between the two, if you have been charged with a DWI, you need a strong defense. Contact Rose Legal Services today to protect your freedom.