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Can I get a DUI for using prescription drugs while driving?

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Can I get a DUI for using prescription drugs while driving?

It is easy to associate “driving under the influence” or a DUI with alcohol. After all, that is generally what we mean when we refer to the offense. But there are many ways a driver may suffer impairments, alcohol aside. There is, of course, illegal drugs such as ecstasy, heroin and cocaine which can significantly influence your cognitive abilities and reaction times.

But, what about legal drugs? Suppose you receive a prescription for a pain reliever for a recent surgery or a low-grade narcotic for anxiety. Can you really be charged with a DUI for using legal drugs? The answer is a resounding yes.

California and every other state in the U.S. follow similar standards for a DUI arrest, whether the driver is influenced by alcohol, illegal drugs or legal drugs. And California code 23152 states that it is unlawful for anyone to drive under the influence of any drug. The reason for laws like this relates to the effects and side effects drugs may have on the motorist. Such effects may relate to:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed movement or reaction time
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Poor focus or inability to pay attention

It is easy to determine the level of drunkenness via breath and blood tests. But how one determines the level of cognitive impairment from a legal drug may be more complicated. It is important that you err on the side of caution when you take your prescription drugs prior to operating a vehicle. If you face DUI charges related to this, or illegal drugs or alcohol, seek the help of an experienced attorney to understand your legal options.

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