Most of the people charged with impaired driving offenses in California face allegations of driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. However, the same law that establishes legal limits for your blood alcohol concentration also explicitly prohibits driving under the influence of drugs (DUID).
Those who get pulled over by the police after consuming drugs can find themselves arrested and facing the same kind of consequences that a drunk driver might face. Not only do these rules apply to prohibited drugs like heroin, but they also apply to many prescription medications and even certain over-the-counter medications.
What kinds of medicines put you at risk of a DUID in California?
Any medication that affects motor function or cognition is dangerous
Many prescription medications come with a warning label letting the patient know that they should not drive after taking the drug. Some people still choose to drive, possibly because they believe they have developed a tolerance and no longer experience impairment from the medication.
For example, someone who has frequently taken a narcotic pain reliever for chronic pain issues may not experience the same cognitive effects from the medication as someone who only recently suffered a painful injury and began taking pain medication.
There is no conclusive way for police officers to determine if a medication impairs your driving or not. If they believe that your driving was improper or unsafe and they discover that you have consumed prescription or recreational drugs, they will likely arrest you and charge you with a crime.
Having a prescription won’t be a defense
Simply proving that you have the right to possess or consume the prescription doesn’t mean you can legally drive after taking it. Anything from muscle relaxers and psychiatric medication to anti-epilepsy drugs could potentially affect someone’s driving ability.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have defense options available to you. Although the state law is quite strict about what constitutes a DUID offense, you could challenge the traffic stop or even the chemical evidence in some cases. A careful review of the evidence against you can help.
Understanding the California law about drugged driving could help you make better decisions or fight back if you get arrested for an impaired driving offense.