The Truth About Prescription Drugs and DUI
Most people probably think of alcohol when they hear that someone has been arrested for driving under the influence. However, motorists who have drugs in their systems may also face serious charges. What’s more, the law does not make an exception for drugs that have been prescribed by a doctor.
The signs of drug impairment differ from those associated with someone who has had too much alcohol. In South Carolina, there are many members of law enforcement who get certified as a Drug Recognition Expert to detect those signs, which may include the following:
- Pupil dilation
- Increase in pulse
- Fast breathing
- High blood pressure
Based on a certain matrix, a member of law enforcement can then take those measurements and decide whether or not someone is has taken drugs. It is important to note that a driver does not have to submit to those tests the way motorists must submit to a breath test or face penalties. There are no penalties for refusing to give law enforcement vitals.
What’s more, there are a number of factors that can explain those symptoms. People who are pulled over may very well have a higher pulse and fast breathing because of nervousness.
Detecting Prescription Drugs
If an arresting officer believes that a driver is under the influence of drugs, there will likely be a blood test to ascertain that there is a substance in the person’s system. There is no legal quantification of the amount of a substance that would cause impairment, therefore simply finding traces of a drug could imply guilt. In order to prove guilt, however, a prosecutor must be able to demonstrate that the substance actually caused the impairment, which can be difficult to do.
Types of Drugs That Cause Impairment
South Carolina statute simply says that people may not drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs or any other substance that causes impairment. Certain prescribed drugs, such as painkillers or anti-depressants, can have sedating effects that are similar to alcohol impairment. Even over-the-counter medicine, such as antihistamines, can slow the reaction times of a driver.
It is a good idea for patients to speak with their physicians regarding the side effects of prescribed medicine and ask if it is safe to drive a vehicle after taking it. This can help motorists avoid the issue of DUIs.
The penalties for DUI in South Carolina can be extremely tough, including fines, jail time and losing a driver’s license. At Nosal & Jeter, we can help people facing such charges through building a strong defense, calling expert witnesses and reconstructing the scene of the incident. If you have been accused of taking prescription drugs and driving, please allow us to help you through the legal process.