When the topic of DUI charges comes up, most people think of drunk driving. They may be surprised to learn that, in Florida, a person can end up facing DUI charges without taking a single sip of alcohol.
In addition to forbidding drunk driving, Florida law also prohibits driving while under the influence of drugs, including prescription medication. So, DUI charges can come out of allegations of such behavior. If the court finds you took the drug and were impaired while driving, you may face conviction even if the drug in question was medication your doctor prescribed for you, and you took it according to instructions.
What to look out for
Many types of prescription and over-the-counter medications can have side effects that could impair your ability to drive safely. Common offenders include cold and cough medications, some kinds of antidepressants, anxiety medications and painkillers.
When you receive a new prescription, consult your doctor and your pharmacist about likely side effects. Effects to watch out for include drowsiness, vertigo, delayed reaction times and blurred vision. Keep in mind that some people experience atypical side effects. For this reason, when you start taking a new type or dosage of medication, or even switch from brand to generic or vice versa, you may want to hold off on driving until you know how your body handles this drug.
Sometimes, a drug on its own will not affect you but can give rise to side effects in combination with other medications. Alcohol can also amplify a medication's effects, even in a minute amount that would likely not lead to a DUI on its own.
Why you were stopped
Generally, Florida law enforcement officers stop drivers who show possible signs of impairment. Some indicators include erratic driving, swerving, failing to obey traffic signage or failing to respond appropriately to changes in traffic flow.
Now, police can't pull over drivers for any reason, they have to have valid grounds. Whether valid grounds were present for a stop can be an impactful issue in cases involving allegations of prescription drug DUI.
Challenges to prescription drug DUI charges
Breathalyzers only detect blood alcohol content, so they will be generally useless in determining drug ingestion. Police officers might ask you to take a blood or urine test; which would generally take place at the police station. To make a case, prosecutors must show you were under the effects of the drug while you were driving. However, many drugs show up on blood or urine tests days and even weeks after ingestion and therefore this kind of evidence may be shaky and could present grounds for challenges.