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Can you be charged with a DUI for taking your medication?

Whether you are managing a chronic medical condition or recovering from illness or injury, your health may depend on taking prescribed medication regularly. However, many may not know that following their doctor’s orders could put them at risk of a drugged driving charge.

How can prescription drugs impair a driver?

Even when using medication safely and in line with physician instructions, side effects could impair drivers’ ability to operate their vehicle. Some of these side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Blurry vision
  • Excitability or inability to focus
  • Slowed movements or delayed response time
  • Nausea

A wide variety of medications can lead to these side effects, including antidepressants or antianxiety medication, pain relievers, medication to treat motion sickness, sleep aids and even allergy medication. Some medications may even lead to side effects the day after they are taken.

What does California law say about prescription drug use?

The California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f) forbids driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, while many may think that “drugs” refers to illegal or controlled substances, the law does not draw a line between those substances and the medications that drivers may take to protect their health. Any drug that might limit a driver’s ability to safely drive a vehicle could be cause for a drugged driving charge.

What can you do if charged with a prescription drug DUI?

A DUI charge can be daunting. However, it is possible to defend against these charges, especially with the help of an experienced attorney.

As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes, there is currently no reliable way to judge a driver’s performance based on drug concentration, leaving the definition of “impairment” up to an officer’s subjective interpretation. Details like the prescribed amount of medication or your individual tolerance to the medication in question can be key when defending against that subjective judgment.

When taking prescribed medication leads to criminal charges, a skilled attorney can help people explore their legal options and protect their rights.

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