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Can the use of legal drugs lead to a DUI?
Many people fail to understand that it is entirely possible to receive a charge for driving under the influence even when they are not drinking alcohol. And while it is true that methods of determining intoxication levels in offenders is easier to do by measuring blood alcohol content, it's important to understand that driving under the influence of legal drugs can also result in a DUI charge in the wrong situation. Legal prescription drugs are not noticeable by smell on a person most of the time, but many are still powerful intoxicants that should not be taken before driving.
One of the easiest ways to receive a charge for driving under the influence of prescription drugs is by being involved in an accident, especially when you need medical attention. A blood analysis is commonly done at any emergency room, and any kind of intoxicant could easily be determined.
However, the police cannot request the medical facility to check for any substances other than alcohol without a warrant from a judge. The potential for receiving a DUI is clearly present when you are in an accident and under the influence of any controlled substance, even with a legal prescription.
Individuals who are prescribed daily anti-depressants and narcotic pain medication usually have a significant amount of the active ingredient in their system at all times. Depression medications are basically saturation-level drugs, which means that the user is potentially vulnerable to an intoxicated driving charge at any time.
Luckily, courts are not always quite as serious about charging those particular individuals unless they are obviously abusing the substances. It is also important to remember that the drug latency period, often called half-life, lasts the same length of time as the active strength period.
The fact that warrants are necessary and chemical levels can be difficult to determine means that prosecuting an individual for driving under the influence of legal substances, whether they are over-the-counter or prescription, can be frustrating for a prosecutor. Even if an arresting officer testifies that the driver was impaired, there is really very little discreet measurable evidence for the court to act on.
Having an experienced and effective DUI or criminal defense attorney can mean the difference between a conviction and a reduced or dropped charge. Again, the case can depend on extenuating circumstances when others are involved, but the obvious documentation is not always present as in an alcohol-related charge for intoxicated driving. The potential for an illegal search and seizure defense is also often present, especially when medications are found in the vehicle and not necessarily in their proper container.
One of the first statements that a charged individual will make is that the medication is legal and prescribed by a doctor, unless it is bought as a legal product at a pharmacy or other retail store. Many physicians will often recommend medications that do not require prescriptions, such as certain sleep aids. These products are also sedatives and are clearly marked (on the bottle) that driving is not recommended when using the substances. Doctors are not responsible for those who take a drug while driving, even when the patient takes the substance in high doses to combat pain or anxiety.
It is never a good idea to plead guilty immediately to a charge of driving under the influence of controlled substances, especially when the substance was prescribed by a doctor for a valid diagnosed medical condition. While it is still possible to be convicted of driving under the influence in egregious cases, the potential for an experienced criminal defense attorney to settle the case with the court is much better than when being charged with DUI involving measurable alcohol content levels.