Most people know it is illegal to drive when impaired from alcohol or illegal drugs. However, some may be surprised to find out that taking regularly prescribed medication can result in a traffic stop and even DWI charges.
Prescription and over-the-counter drugs can affect your ability to drive in a number of ways. Some common effects may include drowsiness, vertigo, lack of focus, blurred or distorted vision, decreased depth and distance perception, slow reaction times, compromised judgment and lack of physical coordination.
If your medication affects your driving, it can lead to charges
These effects can result from common medications many New Hampshire residents take on a regular basis for conditions such as anxiety, allergies, pain, coughs, depression and ADHD. It is important to understand that even though you do nothing wrong by taking the medicine you need for your health, getting behing the wheel can cause you to break the law.
Read warning labels
If your medication comes with a warning label, avoid driving after taking it. Medication effects can vary greatly from person to person, so even in the absence of a label or a warning from your doctor, do not drive until you thoroughly understand how the medication affects you.
Drug interaction can heighten effects
Taking another drug along with your regular medication can amplify side effects or create new ones. This can be true even in the case of something innocuous like an over-the-counter painkiller. Combining alcohol with medications, even in very low quantities, can also result in noticeable impairment.
Proof is not always reliable
Prescription drug DUI cases can get more complicated than a regular DWI. Unlike alcohol, the law does not set forth a specific limit on how much of the drug can be in your system. Prosecutors generally focus on whether you were actually impaired. They may use the testimony of law enforcement officers who may state they observed erratic driving. They may also use the results of chemical tests, although these can show traces of substances you took many days before the traffic stop.
The penalties and aggravating factors for driving under the influence of prescription medications are the same as those for a regular DWI. If you face DWI charges based on prescription or over-the-counter drugs, discuss your case with a qualified attorney who can build a strong defense for you.