Driving on Prescribed Medications: It’s More Dangerous than You Think
By: DUI Attorney Patterson Weaver
Recently my practice, Patterson Weaver Law, LLC has seen an increase in calls from potential clients charged with Driving Under the Influence of prescribed medications. Apparently several local police agencies, including the Colorado Springs Police Department, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the Colorado State Patrol, the Teller County Sheriff’s Office, and all of the Pueblo County law enforcement agencies are starting to crack down on what they perceive as a problem with driver’s driving while on prescription medications.
Most of these cases involve a person pulled over for a common traffic offense that, upon questioning from an officer, admits to taking prescription medications according to their doctor’s prescription. Invariably, the person expresses shock to me that taking medications prescribed by their doctor could result in being charged with a DUI. After all, if a doctor prescribed it, how can taking it and driving be illegal? Unfortunately, as a DUI lawyer, we see these types of cases entirely too often.
While we typically think of DUI as involving driving under the influence of alcohol, or in some cases marijuana or other drugs, the reality is that any substance that impairs one’s ability to drive, even to the slightest degree, can result in that person being convicted of Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI). In our age of excessive warning labels, any medications commonly taken for high blood pressure, cholesterol, anxiety, or a host of other common conditions often contain warning labels on the bottle advising patients not to drive on the medication until you know how it affects you, or not to drive heavy machinery at all (of which a car can qualify) while on the medication. Therefore, if a law enforcement officer finds out you are on a medication that can affect driving, or even just make you a little drowsy, they generally assume that that medication is impairing you—regardless of your personal experiences with how that medication typically affects, or does not affect, you.
Considering that by some estimates 55% of Americans are on some type of regular maintenance medication, and an overwhelming percentage of those people drive normally everyday without thinking about it, there is a significant number of people driving on the roads regularly that law enforcement apparently assumes are impaired. In my practice, I have recently seen appalling assumptions by law enforcement that anyone taking prescription medications should not be driving. Aggravating the situation is the fact that the typically young county court deputy district attorneys assigned to handle these types of cases are not of a demographic that yet needs to use these types of medications regularly themselves. This leads to an incredible ignorance of the fact that most people over the age of forty are on some type of regular medication.
So, if you take prescription medications and drive what should you do if pulled over? First of all, you are under no obligation to discuss your medical history and treatment with a law enforcement officer. You have both the right to remain silent and the right not to incriminate yourself. While most law abiding citizens naturally feel an inclination to cooperate with law enforcement by answering their questions no matter how personal they may be—many of the cases I see as a DUI attorney come out of a misplaced desire to be cooperative with law enforcement. Politely decline any question from an officer that goes beyond providing your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. After all—does that officer really need to know that you suffer from anxiety? Or that you struggle with high blood pressure? You should never lie to an officer. But just because an officer asks you a question does not mean that you need to answer it. Additionally, as a general rule doing voluntary roadside maneuvers of any type is usually harmful, not helpful, as completely sober individuals often do not pass the roadsides.
Secondly, ask your doctor to sporadically do an evaluation of if and how your prescribed medications are affecting you. If you are charged with a DUI for using prescription medications according to the prescription, it can be extremely helpful for your doctor to be able to testify that, in his her professional opinion, the prescribed medications were not physically impairing you.
If you are charged with DUI or DWAI for driving while using doctor-prescribed medications, you need a DUI Attorney in your corner. For experienced, responsive, and effective representation in Driving Under the Influence and Driving While Ability Impaired representation involving prescription medications, call me, Colorado Springs DUI lawyer Patterson Weaver, as soon as possible for a free consultation. These types of cases are often more complicated, but also more defensible, than other DUIs, and you need a DUI attorney experienced with prescription medication DUIs to help you. At Patterson Weaver Law, LLC, I have had great success with these types of complex DUIs in the past, and I would love to discuss your case with you.
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