Prescription Drugs & DUI in Ventura, CA
Ventura DUI Defense Lawyer
Most people assumed that "DUI" refers to drunk driving. This is true, but DUI also includes drugged driving: the act of driving under the influence of a controlled substance. Whether you realize it or not, law enforcement can arrest you for driving under the influence of prescription drugs. In other words, DUI with drugs is not limited to illegal substances like marijuana. According to California law, driving under the influence of any controlled substance is unlawful, including over the counter medications, prescription medications, and medications with alcohol in them (such as cough syrup or sleep aids).
A prescription drug DUI will stay on your criminal record for ten years. During this time, insurance companies, potential employers, etc., will treat your conviction like a standard DUI. If convicted, you will face serious legal penalties and increased insurance rates. Additionally, a prescription drug DUI will count as a previous DUI offense if you are arrested for driving under the influence in the future.
At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP we understand the consequences of a drunk driving conviction and can help you avoid the penalties associated with a drugged driving charge.
DUI & Sleep Medications
"Sleep driving," according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), occurs when a driver operates a motor vehicle when he/she is not fully conscious. The FDA states that:
"Sleep driving is defined as driving while not fully awake after ingestion of a sedative-hypnotic product, with no memory of the event."
In other words, a person could sleep drive when he/she operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of prescription medication. Drugged driving is dangerous, but some DUIDs are not the result of irresponsible choices; they are caused by sleep disorder drugs. Thus, police officers could arrest a driver for DUID if he/she is found sleep driving, even though the driver may not be aware of his/her actions.
Common medications associated with sleep driving include:
Evidence in Prescription Drug DUIs
Like any drugged driving case in California, most of the evidence held against you in court will probably be brought by the arresting officer and a Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE). DREs are trained drug recognition specialists who use their understanding of controlled substances and DUID evidence to identify drugged drivers and determine why type of drug the driver consumed. During a DUID investigation, the arresting officer and DRE may determine that you are under the influence of prescription medication if you exhibit the following symptoms:
- Heavy eyelids
- Constricted pupils
- Slow breathing / heart rate
- Slowed or raspy speech
While these symptoms are not always associated with drug use, law enforcement may use them as probable cause for a DUI arrest. Additionally, police officers may use chemical testing to identify prescription medication in your urine or blood. Vicodin and Hydrocodone are two common medications associated with prescription drug DUIs in California.
Common Defense Techniques for Prescription Drug DUI
Drugged driving is serious crime, but a skilled Ventura DUI defense attorney can help you avoid a criminal conviction. Two common prescription drug DUI defense strategies include:
- Chemical Testing – Chemical tests can reveal a prescription drugs in your system, but this does not mean that you are under the influence of a controlled substance. Although many prescription medications can impair your ability to drive for a short amount of time, they stay in your system for many weeks. If you were charged for drugged driving because testing revealed drugs in your blood or urine, an experienced DUI lawyer may be able to help you avoid a conviction.
- Physical Appearance & Driving Pattern – Law enforcement may cite your physical appearance as evidence against you in a prescription drug case. For example, an officer could claim that you drove under the influence of prescription drugs because your speech seemed slurred and your eyes appeared bloodshot or watery. In reality, many of the physical characteristics associated with prescription drug impairment may be caused by exhaustion as well.
What are the Penalties for DUI with Prescription Drugs?
Drugged Driving penalties are the same as the penalties for a standard DUI. Your first prescription drug DUI conviction is punishable by three to five years of informal probation, six months in a county jail, a $1,000 fine, DUI school, and up to six months of driver's license suspension. However, aggravating circumstances could result in more severe penalties. Excessive speed, property damage, a traffic collision, or injuries may constitute aggravated circumstances in a DUID case. Other factors include your criminal history, previous DUI convictions, and the time between your arrest and your last DUI conviction. Prescription drug DUI can be charged as a felony of misdemeanor offense.