DUI from RX Drugs in Georgia

Far too many drivers are under the impression that they can only be charged with DUI when they have consumed enough alcohol to be over the legal limit or when they are under the influence of illegal drugs. All Georgia drivers should be aware that the use of legal drugs—including prescription drugs—and even over-the-counter medications—can lead to a DUI arrest and conviction in the same way as alcohol or illegal drug-related DUI. 

An NPR surveyfound that almost half of all Americans over the age of 12 currently take a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, sedative or stimulant. While the majority of adults take their prescription drugs as prescribed, the survey found that at least 19 million people misuse these prescription drugs in one way or another. Even when the prescription drugs were taken precisely as prescribed, there are many prescription drugs which can potentially compromise a driver’s ability to drive safely. Many of these drugs cause drowsiness, delayed reaction times, dizziness, an inability to focus, blurry vision, and nausea. Drugs like Tylenol with codeine, Xanax, Nyquil, antihistamines and decongestants, many antidepressants, and a number of sleep medications can impair driving abilities, giving a Georgia police officer a basis to charge the driver with DUI. 

Blood Tests and Prescription Drugs

Since a breathalyzer—the typical test to determine whether a driver is impaired—is not applicable when prescription drugs have caused impairment, a blood test must be done. Unfortunately, the blood test can detect a medication, even when the driver is no longer “under the influence” of the prescription medicine. As an example, you might have taken an Ambien (prescribed by your doctor) to help you sleep on Friday night. Then, on Saturday night, suppose you looked away from the road for an instant, barely crossing the center line. 

A Georgia police officer, assuming you are impaired, pulls you over and requires a blood test. Although the blood test might still detect Ambien in your system, you could have been perfectly fine to drive but were simply distracted for an instant—like virtually every other driver on the roadways. Whether or not you were actually unsafe to drive is primarily a judgment call by the police officer—and police officers make mistakes. 

Penalties for DUI from Prescription Drugs in Georgia

DUI drug charges in Georgia are generally misdemeanors, however, the punishment for a conviction can still be severe—up to twelve months in jail, and a fine as large as $1,000. A first conviction for a DUI drug charge within ten years could also include 12 months’ probation, 40 hours of community service, DUI school, a clinical drug and alcohol evaluation, and the possibility of a six-month driver’s license suspension. 

The penalties increase for a second DUI drug conviction within ten years, with a mandatory jail sentence of 72 hours—and up to a twelve months in jail, a minimum fine of $600, 12 months’ probation, 30 days of community service, DUI school, a clinical drug and alcohol evaluation and a “hard” driver’s license suspension, which means you would be unable to obtain a work permit. 

Getting the High-Quality Defense You Need for Your Georgia DUI from Prescription Drug Charges

Of course, different drugs affect drivers in many different ways, and whether you were actually incapable of driving safely is, as noted, largely based on the opinionof the police officer (unless your driving was extremely erratic). An experienced Georgia DUI attorney can question your prescribing doctor to determine whether the dosage of the specific drug could cause impairment and ensure the record accurately reflects how much time had passed since you took the prescription or over-the-counter drug prior to driving. 

Because taking medication and driving is not illegal, it is extremely important to have a knowledgeable Georgia DUI attorney who understands therapeutic drug levels, and who believes you are not automatically guilty simply because you were taking a prescription medication. Attorney Melanie Ellwanger can help you through this difficult time, working hard to secure the very best outcome on your behalf. Melanie will strongly advocate for your rights and your future, aggressively fighting your charges–contactMelanie Ellwanger today by calling (404) 803-3105.