Florida drivers often do not realize DUI charges do not always come as a result of drinking too much or taking illegal drugs. When taking medication that impairs driving ability, criminal penalties can ensue.
This remains true even when you take your medicine based on a legal prescription and according to your doctor’s instructions. It also does not matter how important to your health the medication is. The main issue is whether taking the drug actually caused you to drive in an unsafe manner.
A prescription drug DUI stop should happen based on probable cause, just like any other type of DUI stop. Common grounds include an officer’s observation of unsafe driving behaviors such as swerving, failing to keep pace with traffic or failing to observe traffic rules.
In the course of a DUI stop, officers typically administer a breathalyzer test and a field sobriety test. The breathalyzer only detects the presence of alcohol, not any other substance.
The field sobriety test measures physical coordination and the ability to follow instructions. Prescription medication can cause a person to fail this test. However, so can other factors, such as traffic noise making it hard to hear instructions, nervousness, uncomfortable shoes and a number of medical conditions.
Police officers typically rely on a blood or urine test to determine whether a non-alcoholic substance such as medication, was present. However, just because a drug was present does not mean it also affected driving.
In the interests of safety, it is important to avoid driving after taking medication that impairs essential functions such as focus, reaction time, physical coordination and alertness. Common medications that tend to produce concerning side effects include cold and cough remedies, some types of anti-depressants, anxiety medications and painkillers.
Some people may experience unusual side effects while others do not suffer impairment at all. In some cases, an adverse reaction may set in due to a combination of drugs. When starting a new medication or dosage, it is best to avoid driving until you know how it affects you.