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DUI Drugs: Effects of Prescription & Over-the-Counter Drugs

By San Diego Attorney on April 30, 2024

Pills are strewn out of a cylindrical container attached to a keyring.

DUI charges for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can include prescription and over-the-counter medications. The key factor is impairment – if a substance affects your ability to drive safely, it can lead to a DUI conviction.

Precedents in San Diego and across the United States have established that legal drug use is not a defense against DUI charges. Still, California has strict penalties for DUI convictions, including jail time, heavy fines, loss of driving privileges, counseling, and mandatory drug and alcohol classes. Drivers face serious prison terms if convicted of a DUI that results in injury or death.

Understanding the reliability of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription DUI tests is crucial in legal proceedings involving personal injury or wrongful termination cases. To protect your freedom, you’ll want to speak with an experienced San Diego DUI attorney right away if you are facing any DUI charges.

OTC and Prescription Drugs May Impair Driving

In the context of DUI cases, evidence that an individual was driving while affected by OTC drugs or prescription drugs can lead to the same legal consequences as driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances.

The effects of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs on driving performance can be serious. Many people assume that if a medication can be purchased without a prescription, it is safe to use under any circumstances, including driving. But OTC medications such as antihistamines, cough syrups, and sleep aids can cause side effects like drowsiness, blurred vision, and slow reaction times, all of which can impair driving ability. That’s why it’s so important to read warning labels on medications regarding the operation of heavy machinery or driving.

Prescription drugs can have a profound effect on a person’s ability to drive safely. Medications prescribed for anxiety, depression, pain, or other conditions often come with side effects like impaired motor skills, dizziness, or sedation. Even when the medication is taken as directed, these side effects can make it dangerous to drive, and you can be considered legally impaired.

Legal Defenses Against DUI Charges for OTCs and Prescription Drugs

Having a skilled criminal defense lawyer is vital when facing a DUI charge. Your criminal defense attorney will identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and present strong counterarguments. Your lawyer’s knowledge of local San Diego court processes and relationships with prosecutors will also play a crucial role in the case’s outcome.

Challenging the validity of field sobriety tests is a common defense strategy in DUI cases. These tests are not always reliable indicators of impairment due to various factors affecting performance, such as nervousness and medical conditions.

Your lawyer will scrutinize how the roadside test was administered, as strict protocols must be followed for the results to be considered valid. Even then, the tests have major limitations.

Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) are law enforcement officers trained to identify drug impairment in drivers. However, the reliability of DRE evaluations is questionable and is frequently a point of contention in DUI cases. Your defense attorneys may question the DRE’s training, the methods used, and the subjective nature of their observations.

Similarly, the testing procedures used by law enforcement to determine OTC and prescription drug impairment are not always accurate and reliable. OTC tests have limited value and should not be viewed as conclusive.

Tests that measure the concentration of prescription drugs in the system also have flaws. Factors such as the individual’s metabolism, the timing of the last dose, and the specific testing method used can all influence results. Unlike blood alcohol content (BAC), there are no set legal standards that firmly correlate findings in a prescription drug impairment test with a legal definition of intoxication.

Face Your Charges with a San Diego DUI Criminal Defense Attorney

A criminal conviction could cost you your freedom, right to own firearms, and professional license. It can also impact custody decisions and negatively affect your immigration status.

James N. Dicks of jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys has over 30 years of legal experience, and he’s been selected to receive the Client Choice Award from AVVO seven times. We will find the best strategy to have the charges against you dismissed or reduced.

Call (760) 630-2000 to schedule your free consultation with our San Diego DUI of drugs defense lawyer today.

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