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How Often Do Prescription Medication DUI Cases Arise?

Prescription DUI charges are becoming more common, and probably around 10 percent of the cases I see involve prescription medication, at least in part. The number would probably be higher if the prosecutor’s office was more inclined to test people’s blood for drugs or prescription medications.

Oftentimes, in a DUI investigation that involves alcohol, if there is enough reasonable suspicion and probable cause to arrest the person and blood is drawn, it would be tested for alcohol and only in certain situations would the prosecutor go one step further and test the blood for drugs and medications as well.

Most of the time, it would not be worth their funds to attempt to test the blood for drugs or medications, especially if they believed they already had strong enough evidence for impairment, or if they had a blood alcohol content that was above the limit.

The Law Does Not Distinguish Between Prescription Medication DUI And Illegal Drug DUI

In Arizona, the law does not really distinguish between prescription medications and illegal drugs in regards to DUI charges. The person would be charged with at least one count of DUI drugs if they had any drugs, medication or active metabolites in their system.

In Arizona, there is a difference between DUI alcohol charges and DUI drug charges. The main difference is that if someone were convicted of DUI alcohol as a first time offense, then in most situations, they would end up losing their license for 90 days and of that time, the first 30 days would involve no driving at all.

They could get a restricted license for the next 60 days at the discretion of the Motor Vehicle Division. If, however, the person was convicted of a DUI drug offense, their license would be revoked for one year with no ability to get any sort of restricted license.

This would also apply to people who have been convicted of simply having medication in their system while driving. This would be enough for a drug DUI even though it might be a prescription medication the person had been taking for years.

An exception to this rule, which can also be used a defense, is that Arizona law states “If a person is prescribed a medication and are taking it as prescribed, that could be a defense to one of the counts of DUI, meaning simply having the medication present in their system”.

While having a prescription and taking the medication as prescribed could be used as a defense to one charge of DUI, it would not be a defense to the second charge of DUI which would allege impairment.

New Changes In The Law Have Made It More Complicated To Defend These Cases

The law changed about seven years ago, so that it now states it would not be enough to simply have the medication prescribed but the person would have to be taking it as prescribed in order to get the benefit of the defense of having a prescription medication.

That small change has made it more complicated and more difficult to have that count of DUI dismissed because it is likely that the medication itself would have a warning against having it with alcohol. If alcohol was taken in combination with the medication, then all of the sudden, the person would not be taking the medication as prescribed, so they would not be able to use that defense.

Common Prescription Medications People Are Typically Charged With

Ambien and Zoloft seem to be the two most popular medications people are charged with. Percocet is another one that is very common, along with drugs that come under the category of muscle relaxers or sleeping pills.

People who take sleeping pills tend to know how it would affect them, so it would not be uncommon for someone to take a sleeping pill, and then decide to go to McDonald’s or drive somewhere really quick to do an errand. Since they had been using those sleeping pills for such a long time, they would know it would take about an hour for it to kick in.

The problem is that if they took the sleeping pill and then got pulled over, then the medication would have started to kick in by the time the officer decided to arrest them or process them at a police station.

There Is No Typical Client, Age Group Or Gender Generally Involved In These Cases

Anyone can get a DUI. I have represented clients as young as 14 years old and the oldest was probably around 93. The 93-year old had never gotten in trouble before and then all of a sudden he got in trouble when he was this age.

Most people charged with a DUI tend to be a bit younger and the age of the offenders tends to range between the ages of 18 and 50. Anyone could get a DUI including rich people, poor people, police officers, doctors, lawyers, politicians and really just everyone, not just alcoholics.

It Would Not Matter If It Was A Medication You Were Taking For Years

People can get DUIs simply for taking their prescription medication and sometimes this might be the same thing they had been taking for decades. All of a sudden they find themselves faced with the DUI charge because that medication impaired them to the slightest degree or at least that was what the prosecutor alleged.

People need to understand that even though a DUI in Arizona is not strict liability, the law does not say a person could not drive a vehicle after drinking alcohol. Arizona law simply says that the person would not be able to drive a vehicle if they were impaired to even the slightest degree while driving, in which case it would be a DUI.

It would also be a DUI if the person had an alcohol concentration above a limit at or above 0.08 of. In reality, people should look at it as a strict liability offense. If they had consumed any alcohol, they should not get behind the wheel of vehicle or even close to the wheel of vehicle.

For more information on Prescription Medication DUI, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling 480-900-0384 today.

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Brian Douglas Sloan


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