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Can I Get a DUI Charge When I’m on Prescription Meds?

Idaho state law provides that it is illegal for anyone under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any other intoxicating substance(s) or anyone with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher to drive. The law asserts that it’s illegal to be in actual physical control of a car (be in the driver’s seat while the motor is running) within the state. The prohibited BAC level drops to 0.04% for commercial drivers and 0.02% for persons under 21.

When DUIs are discussed, people often focus on the alcohol aspect forgetting that the law also covers drugs or any other intoxicating substances. Could these “drugs or any other intoxicating substances” also include your prescription meds? The short answer is yes.

There are generally two types of DUIs; per se DUIs which come into play where a person has a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Per se DUI laws also illegalize driving or being in the driver’s seat of a car while it’s on if there is a presence of drugs in your blood. These laws typically apply to illegal drugs like marijuana or cocaine.

On the other hand, we have impairment DUIs. Impairment DUIs look at the effect the substance taken has on the driver rather than what the substance is or the amount in his system. In this case, a driver can be convicted on a DUI charge if he has a BAC level of less than 0.08%. DUI charges for over-the-counter drugs or prescription meds come under impairment DUIs

To get a conviction for an impairment DUI charge, the prosecution would have to prove that the driver was intoxicated by or under the influence of the substance taken according to the parameters set out in the law.

Why Do Legal Drugs Lead to a DUI Charge?

Generally, the law considers drugs which affect your motor skills, alertness, concentration, coordination, and judgment as being as dangerous as alcohol. Certain medications have side effects such as dizziness blurred vision, drowsiness, fainting, inability to concentrate, and nausea, which can affect your ability to drive safely. Certain drugs – even when taken in the correct dosage – can make you space out; that’s why the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises against driving after taking certain drugs such as antihistamines, antidiarrheals, and anti-emetics.

What Are the Penalties?

Generally, a conviction for a DUI caused by legal drugs carries the same penalties as DUIs caused by alcohol or illegal drugs. Other factors such as prior criminal history, the number of DUIs you’ve had in the past ten years, and damages caused by the DUI may, however, affect the final verdict. So, if you’ve been pulled over for an impairment DUI, you could be looking at:

  1. Suspension of your license for one year
  2. Compulsory installation of a state-approved Ignition Interlock Device at your expense
  3. A fine
  4. Possible Jail time

Are There Any Defences?

Idaho State law further provides that the fact that the drug taken was legal and he was legally entitled to take them, i.e., they were prescribed for him by his doctor, is no defense to a DUI charge. What this means is that the drug(s) which caused the impairment, even when it’s a prescription med that has been legally obtained and taken in the right dose, is not a defense to an impairment DUI.

Although legal entitlement to use the drug is not a defense to a prescription med DUI, there are other defenses available. Some defenses to per se DUIs also apply to impairment DUIs. You could argue that:

  1. The police officer had no reasonable cause to stop you
  2. You had a legitimate reason for not doing well on the Field Sobriety Test. The reason could be a disability, age, medical condition, or confusing orders from the police officer.
  3. You were not in “actual physical control” of the car as defined by state law. For instance, you could prove that the car wasn’t running when he arrested you.
  4. You fell short of the legal standard of impairment.

What Should You Do If You’re Charged with a Prescription Meds DUI?

Getting a DUI charge for prescription meds should be an anomaly, but it is as serious a crime as a DUI for alcohol or illegal drugs. If you are charged with driving while impaired by prescription meds you should immediately contact Boise DUI Guy. The law regarding impairment DUIs and the defenses are tricky, so only an experienced Boise DUI attorney can get you a positive outcome.

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