A lot of people don't realize and comprehend that even if they're taking prescription medications and get arrested for a DUI that the prosecutors can still prosecute that case successfully.
In other words, if you're taking anything — you're putting anything in your system — and it causes you to not be able to safely operate a motor vehicle, then you can be charged with a DUI (CALCRIM 2110).
I've had clients take Ambien before they go home so they can sleep well and they end-up crashing into the center divider and being charged with a DUI and they can't figure it out.
The answer is you can't put anything in your system that endangers the public. In other words, if it's going to cause you to not be able to drive right, you've got a problem.
Unable to Safely Operate a Motor Vehicle
If you're mixing prescription medication with alcohol and you end-up with a DUI, the prosecutors can certainly prosecute that case even if your blood alcohol level is under a .08 (CALCRIM 2111) because the combination of the alcohol and the prescription medication can cause somebody to become intoxicated to a level that they can't safely operate a motor vehicle.
Even if there's not a warning label on your medication saying that you can't drive. It doesn't matter. You have to be very careful when you're taking anything.
A lot of people think now because you can take Marijuana legally, that if they've got Marijuana in their system they can't be charged with a DUI because it's now legal in California. That's completely wrong.
If you're smoking Marijuana, drinking, taking prescription medications, they're going to try to prosecute you if they think they can prove that you can't safely operate a motor vehicle.
One big way they do that is in alcohol cases, obviously they do field sobriety tests and then they write down all of their observations about your driving, how you're walking, talking, acting and all those things are designed to try to assess whether you can safely operate a motor vehicle.
Drug Recognition Expert
When it comes to a drug case like prescription medication or Marijuana, they'll get a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) to assess you. That's a whole different set of tests than the DUI test.
That's why I laugh whenever people are doing DUI tests and the person has no alcohol in their system and the prosecutors are trying to pick-up on that and use that to claim that the person couldn't safely operate a motor vehicle.
Those tests have nothing to do with drugs or prescription medication. Those are alcohol-related tests.
So, if the police are claiming the person didn't pass a test that's alcohol-related and there's no alcohol in their system, they're obviously lying and making things up in order to try and justify their arrests.
The bottom line is prescription medication can cause somebody to not be able to safely operate a motor vehicle and therefore, if you are arrested for driving under the influence of prescription medication, the prosecutors do have the ability to prosecute you.
Another thing that I think is confusing to people is, they think they have to be drunk or so intoxicated from prescription medication that they're falling down and that's really not the case. The test is pretty clear.
Can you safely operate a motor vehicle and if you're getting in accidents, if you're swerving all over the road, if you can't pass the police field sobriety test, then they're going to be able to mount an argument that you cannot safely operate your motor vehicle.
You don't have to be drunk, about to fall down or pass out. That's not the test. That's not the requirement for alcohol and that's not the requirement for prescription medication.
Defenses for Prescription Drug DUI Cases
There are defenses though when it comes to prescription medication. Sometimes people are prescribed something and they have no idea it's going to impact them a certain way.
That person may have an argument that they shouldn't be charged with driving under the influence because they didn't voluntarily ingest the medication knowing what the result was going to be. In that circumstance, that particular person may have a good argument.
So, we really have to look at everything. Assess the case. Take it one step at a time. I think that's the crucial thing.
We sit down and go over everything and then we make a determination as to whether or not it makes sense to try to defend the case or whether it's a case that warrants us trying to work out a resolution with the prosecutor.
If it's one of those close-calls, obviously we're going to try to use everything we can to get you that result — a less charge — whatever it is we determine is the right way to handle the case.
So, the fact that we have a good argument that you didn't know that the prescription medication was going to impact you like this may be a way to mitigate the case versus getting a complete dismissal.
Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense law firm located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436.
We are also located at 633 West Fifth Street Los Angeles, CA 90071. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0963.