Can I be found guilty of a DUI while driving on a medication legally prescribed to me?
Nearly half of all Americans will use at least one prescription medication on a daily basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Prescription drugs come in many classes, some of which can impact your mental state. Many drugs prescribed for anxiety, pain, sleeplessness, and depression could impair your perception and potentially your driving ability. Georgia Driving Under the Influence laws hold that drivers can be found guilty of a DUI if they drive under the influence of even a prescription medication. Our Atlanta drug DUI attorneys explain Georgia’s laws concerning DUIs and prescription or over-the-counter medication below.
The Effects of Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications
Studies show that Americans today use prescription and over-the-counter medications at high rates. While many of these medications can be used without side effects, some medications will impact your perception and mental state to a similar extent as some illegal drugs. Commonly prescribed benzodiazepine drugs for anxiety, such as Ativan, Xanax, and Klonopin, may render you tired, in a haze, and uncoordinated. Similarly, opioids, like Demerol and OxyContin could leave you drowsy, agitated, and with a reduced reaction time. The effects of both of these drug classes can be heightened by even a small amount of alcohol.
Prescription medications that could impact your mental state will typically come with warnings not to drive while you are taking them. For daily users of these pills, however, it can prove difficult to avoid operating a motor vehicle entirely. Over-the-counter medications tend to have less severe side effects, but some cough syrups and sleep aids can similarly influence your mental state.
Georgia’s DUI Laws and Prescription Medications
hough prescription and over-the-counter medications are treated drastically differently from illegal drugs in most respects, Georgia’s DUI laws treat drivers under the influence of any type of drug quite similarly. While the presence of illegal drugs in your system can give rise to a DUI per se, if police officers can present evidence that you were under the influence of any drug, a conviction can stand. Prescription drug based DUIs will often rest largely on the findings of the field sobriety tests. At times, those stopped for a DUI will admit to taking a prescription or over-the-counter medication because they do not realize it could lead to a DUI charge. Given the complexity of any drug based DUI charge, anyone arrested for this offense should contact a DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible.