DUI – Prescription Drugs

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DUI Prescription Drugs

When most people think of DUI cases, they typically think of a person under the influence of alcohol.  However, more and more Georgians are being charged with driving under the influence of prescription drugs.

A conviction for Prescription Drug DUI requires the State to prove that an individual was under the influence of a prescription medication to the extent that he or she was incapable of driving safely.  This analysis relies almost exclusively on the officer’s observations and takes into account all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the arrest.  These may include (but are not limited to):

  • The accused person’s driving (weaving, failure to maintain lane, speeding, hit-and-run, failure to use safety equipment such as headlights);
  • The accused person’s speech patterns and behavior, as observed by the arresting officer;
  • The accused person’s performance on Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (click here to learn more about Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and how they work);
  • The presence of one or more controlled substances in the person’s blood, as determined by chemical testing; OR
  • The person’s refusal to submit to a blood test.

None of these factors are dispositive in and of themselves.  Rather, the finder of fact (the judge or the jury) must take all of them into account simultaneously in order to determine whether a person was driving under the influence of prescription drugs in Georgia.

“I had a valid prescription” is NOT NECESSARILY a valid defense.

There are many prescription drugs which, even if used correctly, can impair a person’s ability to drive safely, and can potentially lead to a DUI.  These may include (but are not limited to):

  • Painkillers, including codeine and morphine;
  • Anti-anxiety medications, including diazepam, lorazepam, and alprazolam;
  • Some anti-depressants, including amitriptyline and fluvoxamine;
  • Sleep aids, including Ambien; and
  • Muscle relaxants, including carisoprodol and cyclobenzaprine.

HOWEVER…

Taking a particular medication, even if it is known to have impairing properties, does not necessarily mean that a person is an impaired driver and thus guilty of DUI.  Officers will frequently ask drivers if they have taken any drugs, including prescription medications.  If a driver responds that they have taken certain medications, the officer will often assume that the person is DUI.

But, in order to secure a conviction, the State still must prove that the driver was a less safe driver due to his or her consumption of the drug(s).  For this reason, it is imperative to hire an attorney who understands the law surrounding Prescription Drug DUI, how to question expert witnesses in Prescription Drug DUI cases, and who can properly analyze the evidence to determine if “less safe” evidence exists (or doesn’t exist).

What are the penalties for Prescription Drug DUI in Georgia?

The penalties for a conviction can be serious, and even a first offense can result in up to 12 months in jail.

Penalties for Prescription Drug DUIs

First Offense in 10 Years Misdemeanor · At least 24 hours but not more than 1 year of jail time;

· 12 months of probation, less any time spent in jail;

· A fine of $300 – $1,000, plus surcharges and court costs;

· 40 hours of community service at a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization;

· DUI or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program;

· Clinical Evaluation and Treatment;

· License Suspension

Second Offense in 10 Years Misdemeanor · At least 72 hours but not more than 1 year of jail time;

· 12 months of probation, less any time spent in jail;

· A fine of $600 – $1,000 plus surcharges and court costs;

· 240 hours of community service at a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization;

· DUI or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program;

· Clinical Evaluation and Treatment;

· License Suspension

Third Offense in 10 Years High and Aggravated Misdemeanor · At least 120 days but not more than 1 year of jail time;

· 12 months of probation, less any time spent in jail;

· A fine of $1,000 – $5,000 plus surcharges and court costs;

· 240 hours of community service at a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization;

· DUI or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program;

· Clinical Evaluation and Treatment;

· License Revocation

Fourth or Subsequent Offense Felony · At least 90 days but not more than 5 years in jail/prison;

· 5 years of probation, less any time spent in incarceration;

· A fine of $1,000 – $5,000 plus surcharges;

· At least 60 days of community service at a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization;

· DUI or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program;

· Clinical Evaluation and Treatment;

· License Revocation

Why hire an attorney for a Prescription Drug DUI?

Because of the technical nature of a Prescription Drug DUI — the State cannot simply rely on test results — hiring an experienced Georgia Prescription Drug DUI Attorney is imperative.  Your attorney must be able to analyze every piece of the State’s case in order to mount a successful defense.  That is the only way to get the best advice and get the best outcome.  If you have been charged with Prescription Drug DUI in Georgia, call me today.