Impaired driving doesn’t only happen after enjoying one too many drinks. It can also result from taking prescription medication. Knowing the potential dangers of these drugs will help you stay safe and prevent a driving under the influence charge in PA.
The prescription drugs and DUI issue made headlines recently when pro golfer Tiger Woods was arrested in Florida for suspicion of driving while impaired. Toxicology results revealed his blood showed evidence of four medications, including the opioid Hydrocodone and anxiety drug Alprazolam (also sold as Xanax). The tests also showed evidence of marijuana use, which is legal for medicinal purposes in that state.
How Prescription Drugs Impair Driving
As with alcohol, medications have the potential to slow down reaction time, impair decision making, and skew judgement of time or distance. Some prescription drugs can also trigger dizziness and sleepiness as a side effect.
The list of drugs that can cause what’s commonly called drugged driving is surprisingly long. It includes medications that treat chronic pain, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, insomnia, and other common ailments. Prescriptions linked to DUI charges include:
People at Risk for Impaired Driving While Taking Medication
Any drug that impairs your ability to drive safely puts you at risk, even if you take the drug as prescribed. Other medications place you at risk if you abuse them by taking higher or more frequent doses than you’ve been prescribed.
Prescription drugs and DUI can be a problem especially among older drivers. As people age, drugs may not break down within the body as quickly as they might in a younger driver, leading to unintentional intoxication. In addition, the cognitive decline that sometimes happens with age or a medical condition can cause an older driver to take drugs in the wrong amount, increasing their vulnerability to driving while impaired.
How Police Know Whether to Arrest You for Drugged Driving
You can be arrested and charged if police have a reasonable suspicion you’ve been driving while impaired, even if you haven’t consumed any alcohol. Initially, impairment is assessed by the officer’s observations and your performance on a field sobriety test. Lancaster County also uses municipal officers and trained state police to assist area law enforcement in identifying drug-impaired drivers. Your admission that you are taking prescription medication can be used to help establish this probable cause. You do not need to answer medical questions.
After the arrest, police will order a blood test to assess whether you have prescription or other drugs in your system. Officers in Lancaster County don’t utilize urine tests to detect drugs, however, police in other PA counties may use them.
Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Prescription Drugs
Pennsylvania takes a zero-tolerance stance on drugged driving. Potential legal penalties in Lancaster include license suspension, jail time, and significant fines. In addition, expect to pay numerous short- and long-term DUI costs. Driving under the influence of controlled medication is treated as if you were at the highest tier of alcohol.
First-time offenders may be eligible for ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition). If you’re accepted into this program, you can potentially avoid certain penalties, plus you may be able to have the charges dismissed and expunged.
Don’t let prescription drugs and DUI ruin your life.
Driving under the influence of drugs in Lancaster, PA is not only dangerous to yourself and others, it can also get you into significant legal trouble. Former Lancaster County Prosecutor Mark Walmer provides the legal expertise you need to protect your rights.