prescription drugs

Can I Get a DUI After Taking a Prescription Drug?

Often, when someone hears the term DUI, they think of a person being under the influence of alcohol or an illegal drug. But those are not the only two instances in which charges for this offense may be filed. Even being affected by a prescription drug while driving can lead to an arrest or criminal prosecution. That's right: You could face criminal penalties for taking medicine a doctor lawfully prescribed to you.

Utah's Drugged Driving Law

Utah does not have a separate statute concerning driving under the influence of drugs. Instead, the elements of the offense are enumerated in the same law as driving under the influence of alcohol.

Utah Code § 41-6a-502(1)(B) specifically states that it is unlawful for:

  • A person to be in actual physical control of a vehicle
  • While under the influence of any drug that impairs their ability to operate the vehicle safely

Drugs Defined

Note that Utah's DUI law explicitly prohibits driving under the influence of any drug. It does not state that only illegal substances can result in a violation. Even prescription medications fall under this term.

Let us take a closer look at how Utah defines drugs:

  • Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V controlled substances
  • Substances intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent diseases
  • Prescription medications
  • Substances affecting the body structure or functions
  • Any substance that can impair a person's ability to operate a vehicle safely

Note that drugs do not include things such as supplements, herbs, vitamins, or over-the-counter medicines containing specified substances (Utah Code §§ 41-6a-501 & 58-37-2).

Challenges in Drugged Driving Cases

One of the difficult things about a DUI of drugs case is that there is no stated legal limit. With an alcohol-related DUI, a person may be considered to have violated the law if their blood or breath alcohol concentration was 0.05 or higher. Drugged driving cases mainly rest on how affected the driver was by the substance and whether it compromised their ability to drive safely.

In some instances, the mere presence of a controlled substance in a driver's system is enough to result in charges. However, just because a drug was detected in a person's body does not mean that they were under the influence of the substance. An analysis could reveal the presence of drugs even if the person consumed them weeks earlier.

Drugged Driving and Implied Consent Laws

As with a DUI of alcohol case, a person lawfully arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs is considered to have given their consent to be subject to a chemical test to determine whether they have a controlled substance in their system. Refusing to submit to testing can result in criminal prosecution and/or revocation of driving privileges.

Penalties for Drugged Driving

The conviction penalties imposed for driving under the influence of drugs are the same as those for driving under the influence of alcohol.

A first offense can result in:

  • At least 2 days of incarceration,
  • At least 48 hours of community service,
  • At least $700 in fines,
  • Participation in a screening and an assessment, and/or
  • Substance abuse treatment

Drugged driving cases are complex, but that does not mean you can't fight your charges. If you have been accused in Salt Lake City, Lokken & Putnam, P.C. is ready to aggressively defend you.

Contact us by calling (801) 829-9783 today.