Any type of impairing medication could be considered for a DUI. There are probably about a thousand different types of chemical compounds, medications, and drugs listed in the Arizona law books that can be used to charge someone with a DUI, although the medicine would need to be impairing. Some sort of chemical composition would need to show up in the test that was either on that list or was otherwise generally impairing. Taking in Advil would not be considered impairing which is why it is not be on the list of illegal substances.
Nowadays, there are a lot of incidents of distracted driving because of people fiddling with the radio, fiddling with their GPS, or looking at their cell phone. I have had many clients claim they just dropped their cell phone, or they dropped a drink or something else which was why they were driving the way they were and that was most likely why they drove outside of their lane or slightly drove into a bicycle lane.
Officers use that kind of driving behavior as an excuse to pull someone over because they were swerving or driving in a bike lane, despite the simple explanation as for why the person pulled outside of their lane or drove abnormally. This would be an excuse for officers to talk to the person and it would all of a sudden turn into a DUI if the officer suspected alcohol, drug or medication impairment.
I handled a case recently where we used something that I call the “skittles defense.” My client was driving with a combination of medication in her system that she had been taking for a decade or more. The officer was following behind her and she was driving all over the roadway, but she was driving perfectly fine when the officer put on the lights and turned on the siren. She was able to pull over but they wanted her to be convicted of a DUI based on the prescription medication she had been taking for years.
I argued to the jury that the client was driving poorly because she dropped her skittles in the car and the skittles went all over the floor board, so she was picking them up and that was why her driving was affected, and we knew she was not impaired by her medications because she was driving perfectly fine the moment the emergency lights and the siren went on because she stopped searching for and trying to grab for her skittles.
There were a lot of other indications of possible impairment in that case, because I recall she was drooling quite a bit but ultimately, I was able to explain to the jury that she was not someone who was impaired, and she simply made a mistake in trying to gather up her candy and upon the officer indicating he was behind her and that he was going to pull her over, she drove perfectly fine because it had nothing to do with impairment by her medications so the jury agreed and found her completely not guilty.
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What Over-The-Counter Medications Would Police Officers Consider In A DUI Category?
There are plenty of over-the-counter medications and plenty of prescription medications. Most over-the-counter medication can cause impairment depending on how it is taken. One or two types of over-the-counter medications literally show up as methamphetamines in the system even though it was something that was purchased over-the-counter, like medications that can be used as a sleep aid and certain medications used to help with allergies.
Certain things in medications can show up in a drug screen as methamphetamine or they can show up as a stimulant or as a depressant, and it would just be asking for problems especially if any type of medication was combined with alcohol.
Arizona is quite harsh when it comes to medication DUIs because medication is treated the same as illegal drugs. Someone who was convicted of a medication DUI or convicted of a drug DUI, would end up having their license revoked for one year with no ability to get any sort of restricted license or temporary license. The person would be facing one year of not being able to drive and then they would have to jump through a lot of hoops to actually get their license back.
Could It Result In A Possible DUI If Someone Had Allergy Medication And Was Driving Around Feeling Drowsy?
Absolutely, because it could show up as amphetamines in the person’s system, although it would be grounds of reasonable suspicion even if someone was just rocking out in their car.
Common sense would also need to come into play here, and I would hope that this new case that came out from the Supreme Court would have been different if the person who was shaking their fists was in the vehicle by himself. I believe it was more about the community caretaking function because the person who was waving their arms had a passenger in the vehicle, and the officer might have had a concern that the passenger was being abused, and that maybe this was a domestic violence situation.
Around 85 percent of people who get charged with DUI tend to be in the vehicle by themselves, so hopefully the law will not open up a can of worms and have officers pulling people over for just anything. Most officers would try to look for multiple reasons to stop a vehicle so they would not just pull someone over for flailing their arms and they would watch to see if there was any other sort of traffic violation.
A lot of the police reports that I read seem to indicate that the officer was trying to see multiple traffic violations instead of trying to simply pull someone over because they saw someone driving in the bicycle lane for one foot. The police would generally try to follow the person for a little while so they could see what else happened.
Cases like these that come out of the Supreme Court open up the possibilities for people to be doing innocent conduct, but the officer would still be able to able to stop the vehicle because they felt they had reasonable suspicion.
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