blog home Legal How Prescription Drugs Can Lead to DUIs

How Prescription Drugs Can Lead to DUIs

By Jason Bottlinger on September 4, 2021

When your doctor writes you a prescription, you may be concerned with the cost of the medication, potential side effects, and possible drug interactions. It may never have crossed your mind that driving after taking your prescribed medication could lead to a DUI. In fact, certain prescription medications can impair driving ability and result in DUI charges, the same as alcohol or recreational drugs.

How Do Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs Cause Impaired Driving?

Certain prescription drugs can affect judgement, reduce coordination, and cause drowsiness and nausea, as stated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Opioids, sedatives, muscle relaxants, and antidepressants have been associated with increased risk of a crash. In addition, NHTSA reports that certain over-the-counter drugs can cause drowsiness, dizziness, shakiness, nausea, and irregular heartbeat.

What Is the Law on DUI in Nebraska?

Under state law, it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any drug. The fact that a drug has been prescribed by a doctor is not a valid defense. Many medications can cause impaired driving when taken as prescribed. The list of these drugs includes:

  • Narcotic pain meds such as OxyContin
  • Anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax
  • Antidepressants
  • Cough medications such as Nyquil
  • Sleeping pills such as Seroquel or Ambien
  • Tranquilizers such as Vicodin

What Makes It Difficult to Determine Prescription Drug Impairment?

Although the law on drug impairment is straightforward, interpretation is not always black and white. Prescription drugs may remain in your system long after the point at which you were impaired. Even if a chemical test is performed, it is difficult to establish impairment at the time of the traffic stop. A prescription drug you took the day before could remain in your system and show up in the chemical test.

How Are Prescription Drug DUI Arrests Evaluated?

If you are stopped under suspicion of driving under the influence, police may perform field sobriety tests or give you a breathalyzer test for alcohol impairment. If you pass the breath test, they may begin conducting tests for other possible substances. You may be asked to submit to a blood or urine test.

Whether or not you were impaired is usually left to the discretion of the police officer or a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). Factors that contribute to the DRE’s decision may include body temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate, anxiety, and sweating (all of which could be caused by the stress of the situation). These factors may not contribute to impaired or negligent driving.

What Are the Defenses Against DUI for Prescription Drugs?

Prosecutors have a more difficult time proving drug impairment than they have proving alcohol impairment. While the legal limit for alcohol provides a measuring system for DUI enforcement, DUI arrests for drugs are typically much more subjective. DUI attorneys can raise a number of defenses, including physical disabilities, mental distress, illness, drowsiness, depression, or other commonplace factors.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

Prescription drug DUIs are complicated cases with many varied factors at play. Your best chance of obtaining the best possible outcome is to have an experienced Omaha criminal defense attorney by your side. A knowledgeable lawyer can present every applicable defense and discover every weakness or flaw in the prosecution’s case.

At Bottlinger Law L.L.C., we can thoroughly investigate your arrest and build a strong defense against the charges based on the facts of your case. We can explain your rights and advise you of your best options under the law. Call us at (402) 505-8234 to schedule a free consultation if you are facing DUI charges for prescription drugs.



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