Most drivers think that having a prescription for their medication protect them from DUI charges. That is not correct and can get a driver in trouble.
Pennsylvania DUI statutes make it illegal to drive while impaired by a drug or combination of drugs. The word ‘drug’ in the statute is not limited to illegal drugs or even DEA scheduled drugs.
Here are the common prescription drugs that can lead to being charged with a DUI:
Here is how a typical traffic stop can turn into a nightmare for a driver taking their prescription medication:
The driver is going down the street. Maybe they swerve a little. Fail to use a traffic signal, or one of their lights are not working. The police officer then pulls them over. The police officer either notices a prescription bottle or asks the driver if they are taking any medication. The driver, not knowing what these questions are designed to do, honestly tells the police officer they are taking their prescription medication. At this point it becomes a DUI stop.
The officer then asks the driver out of the car. Gives field sobriety tests. They May even calls in a drug DUI specialist that are called Drug Recognition Expert. and just like that, DUI charges are filed!
Generally, police officers do not consider that the person they are giving physical tests to is suffering from illness or injury. The biggest reason they do not is that the field sobriety tests that they are given have ABSOLUTELY NO leeway for people with physical injuries or illness. These tests have certain clues. If a clue is seen, it is scored. It does not matter if the physical disability, illness, or actual impairment cause the clue to be seen. If it is there it is scored. This is not an exercise where you want any points, let alone a lot of points.
I often see police camera video of field sobriety tests where the officer tells my client that they will take their physical disability into account in the tests. That is a total lie. The tests they give do not have any room for error because of physical disabilities, disease, or mental impairment from past brain injuries. I once had a DUI case where the police officer let my client do a field sobriety test with his cane. Talk about setting a person up for failure.
Here is a common trick that the police like to use. Once the driver tells the police officer about their physical disability or illness the officer then asks the driver if they feel they can do the test. Most drivers say yes and give the test a try. They have no clue what they are agreeing to. They often believe their disability will be considered. They are not. I have gone to the same exact training as the police officers get. Police officers are trained to know that physical problems can interfere with the tests and give false results and they must score a clue if it is found. But they never tell drivers this.
There are many possilble defenses to prescription medication DUI cases. People take medication because they are ill or injured. People who are ill or injured are most often worse off without their medication. However, police officers will charge a person with a DUI nonetheless, and then let the lawyers sort it out. Be aware of this.
If you take a prescription medication do not tell this to a police officer if asked. You have the right to remain silent. Do it. If you carry your prescription medication in your car do not put it in a place that can be seen or with your registration and insurance. Furthermore, if asked to step out of your vehicle and asked to take the field sobriety test, tell the officer because of your injury or illness you decline to take the test because of your injury. Do not let the officer intimidate you into doing it. Even if they threaten you with arrest, do not do it.
If the police officer is going to arrest you, then they are going to arrest you.
Do not give police evidence they can twist and use against you. Your defense lawyer and your freedom will thank you for it later.