Many people know that operating a vehicle after getting high from an illegal substance can lead to an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI). This type of offense can potentially result in months behind bars and thousands of dollars in fines. However, many people are not aware that getting behind the wheel after legally taking over-the-counter medicine may also land you in a similar legal mess. Here are some ways to fight a DUI charge for prescription drugs.
“Harmful Chemical Substances”
Florida Statute 316.193 states that someone commits a DUI if they are:
“driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle … [and] under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in s. 877.111, or any substance controlled under Chapter 893, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired.”
If you look at Statute 877.111, you’ll see that this section refers to a lengthy list of “harmful chemical substances” that includes toluol, hexane, trichloroethylene, acetone, toluene, ethyl acetate, and many more. According to the statute, it is illegal to use any of these for “inducing a condition of intoxication” or distorting the senses, which typically means recreational use, but Statute 316.193 states that regardless of the reason, you should not have these chemicals in your system for any reason if you’re behind the wheel.
Of course, for a defendant to be convicted of a DUI charge for prescription drugs, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had any of these chemicals inside them at the time of the arrest. You may want to check the list of ingredients in any medication you consume to confirm that they have none of them. For example, zolpidem – which you may know as the sleep medicine Ambien – is not included in the list of substances under Statute 877.111, nor in the two lists in 893.033.
Mistaken and Involuntary Medication Usage
There are at least two plausible excuses for driving with a prescription drug in your system. The first is that you mistook one pill for another. This is not an uncommon situation, as many medicines look the same, and sometimes people misread or fail to read the label before taking the wrong drug. This can, in turn, cause different unforeseen side effects that can affect their ability to operate a vehicle. Your lawyer can work to prove that you meant to use something else, which can clear you of your DUI charge.
There is also the more sinister possibility that you did not mean to be drugged at all at the moment you were driving. Too many people have the troubling and disorienting experience of being “roofied,” or being slipped another substance, by someone else. While finding and implicating the person responsible is a legal issue unto itself, it can at least be successfully used as an argument in a DUI case – if a defense attorney can prove it.
On that note, there is one last and crucial piece of advice on how to fight a DUI charge for prescription drugs: do not do this alone. If you or a loved one find yourselves in such a situation, it would be wise to allow a legal professional to help you handle it. The skilled Florida DUI attorneys at Michael A. Gottlieb, P.A. Broward Criminal Lawyers can assist you in navigating the legal system and fight these charges on your behalf. Contact us today at (954) 462-1005 for a free consultation without obligations.