Many Florida residents take prescription medications to manage a variety of conditions. Most do not think of taking duly prescribed drugs in accordance with medical directions as an action that could lead to criminal charges.
However, if your medication impairs your ability to drive, you may end up dealing with a DUI arrest. This is true even if everything about your usage of the drug is completely legal and above-board.
Signs of impairment
Police officers most often stop a vehicle when they observe a driving pattern they believe suggests impairment. Examples of red-flag driving may include drifitng out of your lane, weaving in and out of traffic, driving very fast or very slowly, stopping and starting abruptly and having delayed reactions to traffic conditions.
Once officers stop you, they may administer a breathalyzer test and a field sobriety test. The breathalyzer tests for alcohol, so it will not identify the presence of prescription drugs. The field sobriety test aims to detect impairment of your normal functions, such as the ability to balance, focus your gaze and perform simple cognitive tasks. If you fail the field sobriety test, the officers may likely arrest you and administer a blood or urine test to detect the presence of drugs.
Common side effects
Even drugs you think of as commonplace can have side effects such as blurred vision, inability to focus, lack of physical coordination, delayed reaction times, drowsiness and vertigo. These effects, in turn, can diminish your ability to drive safely. Common medications with these effects include prescription painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs and ADHD medications.
Effects may vary
However, not everyone experiences these side effects the same way or at all. Some medications can develop effects in combination with other drugs. Some people have rare and unpredictable effects from drugs generally considered safe. In addition to speaking with your physician, avoid driving when you start a new prescription or change the dosage.
Fighting the charges
A significant part of a prescription drug DUI case can rest on officers’ assessment of your impairment and their attribution of your behavior to ingestion of the medication. Qualified defense attorneys can identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and develop the best approach to fighting your charges.