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4 Things You Need To Know If You're Being Charged With A DUID After Taking Prescription Drugs

Most drivers are well aware that driving under the influence of drugs is just as bad as driving drunk, which is why the driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) charge exists. However, many people make the assumption that the rule only applies to drugs they're using illegally. Find out how legally prescribed drugs affect the DUID case and how to form a strong defense against the charges in court.

Legal Use Is Not a Defense

In the eyes of the law in all 50 states, using prescribed medications or illegal drugs is considered the same if they result in impairment while you're driving. Just because a doctor prescribed the medication does not help you avoid charges for reckless or dangerous driving. In fact, states like Tennessee and California explicitly state that a valid prescription does not constitute a defense. Even if your state doesn't not include such specific language in its statutes, it's sure to follow the same regulations regarding impaired driving as the rest of the country.

Testing Is Difficult

Most drivers are only familiar with the tests used to measure alcohol in the bloodstream, such as the Breathalyzer. There are both cheek swab and blood tests for detecting prescription drugs in drivers involved in accidents or checkpoints, but these tests are a lot less straightforward and open to interpretation. For example, many states will use a blood test to determine if you were taking more than the prescribed amount, and returning results that show you were taking the right dose is the best defense.

Some judges may accept evidence of metabolites, the residues left after your body breaks down the active ingredients, as proof of intoxication. However, metabolites are not a strong enough source of evidence for a DUID in most cases. This is why it's essential to hire a DUID defense attorney familiar with your state's specific blood testing rules so that they can highlight any mistakes made during testing or dispute the meaning of the results with the help of an expert witness.

Field Sobriety Tests Are Disputable

Did the arresting officers involved in your DUID case fail to request a blood test or get turned down for the warrant to order the test? In these cases, your entire DUID charge can hinge on a field sobriety test. While these roadside tests can indicate a serious impairment, they're also prone to being administered incorrectly. Your own health conditions, including the ones you're taking prescription medication to treat, can also interfere with your test results. Look for weaknesses in the field sobriety test to dispute it, such as

  • Walking or balancing while on an uneven surface
  • Wearing footwear that impairs your balance
  • Long-term coordination issues due to health problems
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty hearing the instructions due to roadside noise
  • Administering the test so that the headlights of oncoming cars shine into your eyes
  • Missing any one of the 25 complex steps required to complete a full sobriety test.

Mistakes Do Constitute a Defense

Finally, you can use an accidental ingestion of the wrong medication as a defense in your DUID case. For example, if you usually only take your sleeping pills at night but accidentally took one thinking it was a pain killer for your headache, you can explain this to the judge and avoid charges. However, you'll need some kind of proof that it was a real accident or everyone would simply use this as their defense for DUIDs. On a related note, proving someone slipped you the medication without you knowing also helps relieve the burden of responsibility. Just keep in mind that these two defenses require plenty of real evidence, not just your claims of innocence.