DUI and Prescription Drugs: How It Affects DUI Cases
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There is a misconception among many people that medication prescribed by a doctor is inherently different from street drugs. However, this belief has contributed to the current epidemic of prescription drug addiction. Simply because a drug is prescribed by a doctor does not make it safe or immune to abuse.
The same issue happens when people take the same prescription medications and decide to get behind the wheel, even if the medication has a warning label to not operate heavy machinery while under the influence of this medication.
In Nevada there is no difference between prescription drug use and alcohol related DUI.
Even if you were prescribed the medication or drugs by a doctor, operating a vehicle including a motorcycle while intoxicated by prescription drugs is just as illegal as driving under the influence of alcohol.
The offense and punishment are the same for both.
Prescription Drugs That Impair Driving
Keeping track of multiple prescription drugs can be challenging, especially for individuals who need to take more than one or two medications every day because there are many available options.
There are some prescription drugs though that may cause a driver to be impaired. These include:
- Sedative-hypnotics drugs: some of these include medications that are considered to be prescription sleep aids like Ambien and Lunesta
- Anti Anxiety:These drugs include anti-depressants like Xanax and Valium
- Narcotic analgesics or painkillers: These include Vicodin, Oxycontin, Hydrocodone and Percocet and other opioids
Most people take prescription medication as prescribed and they can be lifesavers for those who need them. However, they can slow the body’s functions and inhibit a person’s ability to drive safely.
There are some common side effects of prescription medications include:
- Drowsiness and Fatigue
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
- Breathing issues
- Nausea or stomach distress
- Lack of coordination
- Prolonged reaction time
- Delayed Cognition
- Sleeping while driving
Information about medication reactions is usually on the bottle of the medication; however, in some cases the patient is unaware of the side effects. It is always best to consult with your doctor or pharmacist about whether or not a prescription medication is safe while driving.
Over the Counter (OTC) medications may be hazardous to take before driving, such as over the counter sleep aids like Unisom.
Driving under the influence of an OTC is still illegal. Make sure to read all medication labels for side effects before taking any medications.
DUI of Marijuana and Amphetamines in Nevada
It is also illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana or amphetamines. Drivers with too many amphetamine in their blood may be convicted of DUI even if you are driving safely.
Again, having a valid prescription doesn’t matter, you can still be convicted of DUI.
Driving impaired by marijuana is illegal no matter how much marijuana is in the blood system.
Blood Tests for DUI of Prescription Drugs in Nevada
When you get pulled over for suspected DUI or any other traffic violation and the officer suspects DUI they will ask you to take a preliminary breath test and to perform the following field sobriety tests:
- Walk and Turn tests
- One-legged stand test
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus test-follow the lite with your eyes
If a driver passes the preliminary breath test and the field sobriety test, but the officer thinks there is still something not right they might suspect the driver is under the influence of drugs and not alcohol.
A driver can refuse both of these tests, but refusing to take the test can be interpreted as evidence that they have something to hide. A driver will automatically have their driver’s license confiscated if they refuse to take the test.
If you are arrested for DUI for being under the influence of drugs you will be required to submit to a blood test. Under Nevada law, all driver’s arrested for DUI give “implied consent” to submit to a chemical test such as a blood test.
If the driver refuses to take the blood test, officers must get a warrant. Then the officer may use “reasonable force” to restrain the driver to get the blood sample. You may at your own expense choose a phlebotomist of their own choosing to administer the blood test.
Refusing to take the DUI blood test can be used as evidence against you at your trial for DUI.
You will also lose your license for one year for the refusal to take the test.
You can learn more about the entire DUI arrest process here.
Defenses Against Driving Under the Influence of Drugs
There are several defenses against a charge of DUI for prescription drug use. The most common are:
- Defective blood testing equipment or mishandling of blood samples: Blood results cannot be used as evidence if the testing equipment was faulty, or if the samples were contaminated. If the person taking the samples has an expired certificate that might be cause to have the charges against you dropped.
- The driver did not take the medication until after the driver had stopped: Perhaps the driver did not take the medication until after they were pulled over or stopped. Some people take medication to calm down. If the prosecutor cannot demonstrate that the driver was under the influence while driving then the case should be dismissed.
- Lack of probable cause for the traffic stop: Police need probable cause to pull someone over for suspected DUI, like the commission of another traffic violation. If your attorney can demonstrate that the police had no probable cause to arrest you then your case can be thrown out.
It is NOT a defense against prescription drug DUI that:
- The driver had a valid and current prescription for the medication
- The Drugs were FDA approved
- The driver had an unexpected physiological reaction to the drug
Nevada DUI Court
Nevada DUI court is not what it sounds like, it is an intensive rehabilitation program that allows the defendant to avoid lengthy jail sentences. Once the defendant completes the intensive rehab program the DUI conviction may be reduced to a lesser charge.
People facing first or second offense DUI charges may be eligible for the Misdemeanor DUI Court or Moderate Offenders program in Clark County.
People facing Felony DUI or third offense DUI may be eligible for the Felony DUI Court or the Serious Offenders Program in Clark County.
Drug Offense DUI Penalties
The penalties for DUI prescription drug offenses are the same as any other DUI offense.
The penalties include:
- A fine starting at $750 and going up depending on what offense this is
- A jail sentence of 2 days to 6 months that is usually suspended if all other penalties are completed. For third offense DUI jail time is required.
- Nevada DUI school: Classes that must be paid for and taken by the defendant. It doesn’t matter what DUI offense you will be required to take this class.
- Victim impact panel or a MADD class: Mother Against Drunk Driving Panel class
- License revocation: from 6 months to three years depending on the DUI offense
- Insurance premiums going up for a minimum of three years
- Community Service
- Required Ignition interlock device installed in all vehicles to drive to and from work and school
- SR-22 insurance required for three years
What The Defenders Can Do For You
- Investigate your case to determine all facts and circumstances surrounding the incident
- Determine whether there was police error or misconduct, or you are being falsely accused, or the police had probable cause to arrest you at all
- Go over the strengths and weaknesses of your case with you to give you an idea of how your case will stand up in court and how your case will be resolved
- Inform you of all the legal options available to you and what the outcome will be for each
- Offer guidance, support and sound legal advice
Prosecutors have a vast number of resources available to them to find the necessary evidence to convict you. The Defenders know the prosecution’s tactics and can help you counter them aggressively.
We have a number of creative options available to us that can convince the court to dismiss or reduce the charges against you, and we will use every resource we have to vigorously fight for your rights.
We represent clients charged with all types of charges including drug offenses, DUI, white collar crimes, assault cases and all other criminal charges.
Call The Defenders today if you want a team of experts to fight vigorously for you.