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All sorts of people can receive DUIs based on prescription medication. The most common ones tend to be Xanax, Zoloft, or Ambien. It’s possible to be impaired by over-the-counter medications. There is one product that is sold over-the-counter that can show up in your system and that’s Methamphetamine.
We do tend to see older people who have prescription medication DUIs simply because they are more likely to be taking medication legally. On occasions, we will see people that are abusing prescription medication that they are taking illegally, but they do not have the benefit of having the defense that they were taking their medication prescribed and taking it as prescribed. Regardless, probably about 5 percent of DUI cases concern medications in some way.
There are plenty of people who may admit to the police officers or may know that if their blood were to be tested that it would show the presence of legal or illegal drugs or medications. However, because the prosecutors can test the blood for alcohol and it is cheaper and quicker to test for alcohol, if the prosecutors find a high enough blood alcohol content, they won’t usually test them for drugs or medications.
From a defense counsel’s perspective, if we are going to have to deal with a DUI case, we would much rather deal with it as a DUI alcohol case rather than a DUI drug or DUI medication case. We don’t usually challenge the prosecutor or question why they did not test for drugs or medications. The presence of drugs or medications in a person’s system does not help their case. It only hurts them, so it’s not something that we want to test for ourselves or challenge the prosecutor and ask them to test it.
Unfortunately prescription medication DUIs are treated the exact same way as illegal drug DUIs. Both of those are different from an alcohol DUI because alcohol DUIs can be aggravated depending on the level of alcohol in the person’s system, and with an alcohol DUI, your license is likely to be suspended for 90 days with the ability to get a restricted license for the last 60 of those 90 days. You will also likely be required to have an ignition interlock device. With a drug or medication DUI, your license would be revoked for one year with no ability to get any sort of restricted license, but it is possible to prevent an ignition interlock device.
Arizona law has specified a defense if a person is taking their prescription medication and is taking it as prescribed. It’s not simply that it was prescribed to you– you have to take it as prescribed, you have to take the proper dosage, and realistically if it says, “Do not consume with alcohol,” you need to follow those instructions. If you’re taking it with alcohol, technically you are not taking it as prescribed. It is a defense to the medication being present in your system while driving.
When someone is charged with a DUI, they’re going to be charged with one count for being impaired by their medication, and they’re going to be charged with a second count alleging that they simply had the medication present in their system while driving. Having a prescription and taking it as prescribed is a defense to simply having it in their system while driving. However, it is not a defense to the first count of driving while impaired, which is why those cases tend to go to trial more often than not. Usually the only issue is whether they were impaired by the medication or for some other reason.
Unfortunately, it is common. I’ve represented quite a few people who are in their 70s, 80s, even 90s that they’ve never been in trouble with the law before, but all-of-a-sudden they get a DUI because they were taking a medication. There is no diversion class in Arizona.
There is no real alternative to a DUI charge, with the exception of possibly being able to negotiate it down to a reckless driving, possibly attempted DUI, possibly aggressive driving, or convincing a prosecutor to dismiss the case, but all of those alternatives are quite rare, which is why most of these cases do go to trial and let the jury decide whether they believe that the person was impaired to the slightest degree by the use of prescription medications and whether the prosecutor has proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
For more information on Prescription Medication Related DUI Case, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (480) 442-8343 today.