Can you be charged with a DUI when taking “legal” drugs?

On Behalf of | Oct 29, 2020 | DUI |

Under the Alabama criminal code, the DUI law is broad enough to include “any substance which impairs” the driver, such that safe driving is not possible. That is, along with alcohol, controlled substances like certain drugs prescribed by doctors, as well as illegal narcotics, can impair a driver.

So in short, yes, you can get a DUI in Alabama from taking your own prescription drugs. As long as you are legally considered impaired and get behind the wheel, it may result in a Driving Under the Influence charge. While we often think of DUIs as involving alcohol intoxication, driving under the influence of any drug, including ones with your prescription on them, can lead to a DUI charge.

Sentences can be severe

In Alabama, for a first conviction of driving under the influence may be imprisoned for up to a year, or by a fine of at least $600. The state could also seek the suspension of the accused’s driver’s license for 90 days unless an ignition interlock is installed in your car. Additional convictions can lead to increased fines and even longer jail time.

How police will measure impairment

Law enforcement uses blood-alcohol concentration levels and driving with a blood-alcohol concentration above a certain level is unlawful in all 50 states – although the acceptable level differs. Breathalyzer tests often result in guilty pleas or convictions on DUI charges, but it is impossible to detect impairment at a particular time due to THC in marijuana. The presence of THC and other drugs is usually measured with urinalysis or a blood sample.

Prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs can cause impairment and can result in a DUI. Some antidepressants are sedating and can cause impairment; antihistamines can slow reaction time, sleeping pills, and pain killers can affect your driving.

For those facing a DUI charge for whatever substance, it can be helpful to speak with an attorney to understand how the case will proceed and what defense options may be available. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help ensure one’s rights are respected and defended aggressively in court.