When people hear the term driving under the influence (DUI), they usually think of drunk driving. Some might also recall that DUI also applies to driving while under the effects of controlled substances like marijuana.
But DUI charges also apply to drivers who are under the influence of prescription medication. Which over-the-counter drugs can impair drivers, and what penalties await them?
Medications that can lead to DUI
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, many prescription and over-the-counter drugs can impair drivers’ faculties. Here’s a nonexhaustive list of medicine types that have impairing side effects:
- Allergy medicines
- Cold medicines
- Muscle relaxants
- Sleeping pills
In general, if a drug causes the following side effects, it can impact your ability to drive:
- Blurred vision
The NHTSA has additionally warned that some drugs will not impair you when taken alone, but when combined with a second medication or liquor, they can lead to intoxicating effects. Before taking any medication, it’s best to read the label to check for any side effects you should be careful of.
Drug DUI charges in Florida
Driving while impaired by drugs – whether over-the-counter or illegal – is illegal in Florida, and drivers who are charged with DUI for drugs face the same penalties as those charged with DUI for alcohol. This includes jail time, fines from $500 to $5,000, and license revocation for at least 180 days. The court might ask convicted drivers to render community service and have their vehicles impounded.
But while law enforcement officers can test a driver’s blood alcohol concentration levels to determine if they’re drunk enough for a DUI charge, there’s no similar legal limit to gauge drivers impaired by medication. Officers will perform field sobriety tests to assess whether you’re impaired and may even conduct a chemical test if they think a drug caused your impairment. If an officer still suspects drugs impaired you, they might ask you to undergo blood tests at a certified clinic. Remember that these tests don’t measure intoxication but can reveal whether you’ve recently used drugs.
Even if you’ve only taken an over-the-counter or prescription drug, challenging a DUI charge for the medication can be tricky. And it can be distressing to have a criminal record just because you took medicine for colds or allergies. If this happens to you, you should consider hiring a lawyer to aggressively defend your rights in court, especially if you want to have criminal charges dropped or reduced.