Interviewer: We’ll focus on illegal drug-related DUIs for illegal first. Percentage wise, out of all the DUIs you see, what percentage tend to be for illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine, or heroin?
Brian: As far as DUIs, generally speaking, illegal drugs probably represent about 10% of the total cases. I would say of the DUIs concerning illegal drugs and prescription medications, illegal drugs are probably about 40% of the total.
Prescription Drug Use While Driving Comprise Most of the DUI Cases
Interviewer: It’s actually more prescription drugs that cause DUIs, is that right?
Brian: We definitely see more prescription drug cases. The police are starting to really arrest people that have been taking medications for their entire lives, people who are on new medications and people who had their medication doses changed.
The problem is the prosecutors have to prove that it was the medications that caused impairment. So if there is any issue with driving, any type of weaving, any type of swerving, any wide turn, anything, the prosecutor will blame that on the prescription medication simply because the prescription medications were present.
How Do the Police Suspect Impairment By Prescription Medication?
Interviewer: In those prescription medication cases, when people are stopped by Police, how does it end up with the police suspecting they are on prescription medications? Do they just ask or are people truly impaired by the drugs?
Brian: A lot of prescription medications cases don’t start out with the belief that someone is impaired by the prescription medications. Often an officer will see something they think is odd.
Sometimes, it is bloodshot, watery eyes. Sometimes it is slurred speech. Sometimes it is dilated pupils or overly large pupils. An officer will sometimes just rule out alcohol impairment but feel that there is some sort of other impairment present.
Blood Tests Are the Most Common Method for Testing for the Presence of Prescription Drugs
Quite often what happens is an officer will believe that there is alcohol impairment and draw blood under the theory that there is alcohol impairment. When the results come back, thy show a very low presence of alcohol or no presence of alcohol.
The police will simply test the blood for prescription medications or drugs at that point in a ‘Hail Mary’ move to see if there is anything present. If there is something present, such as prescription medications, it is sometimes the same prescription medications that people have been taking for years.
The prosecutor will then allege that it was those prescription medications that must have caused the impairment because impairment was observed.
If You Are Stopped, Should You Tell a Police Officer that You Are Taking Prescription Medication?
Interviewer: Does it help anyone to tell the police that they are on certain prescription medications or does it just hurt their case?
Brian: I think it does hurt the case. With prescription medications, there are some that might cause impairment, and there are others that absolutely would not cause impairment.
Admitting that you were taking prescription medication is on par with admitting that you only had two drinks or that you only smoked a ”little” marijuana.
Admission is going to be used against you and it gives the prosecutor ammunition to say, “See these people were on medication, there is no denying they are on medication, that must have been what the officer was seeing that indicated that there was some sort of impairment present at the time.”
Interviewer: I’m sure most people don’t even think or dream that taking prescription medication could end up with them being charged with DUIs. I would guess most people are surprised and they admit it because they don’t think there is any danger.