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The Wilson Law Firm

Prescription Drugs and Your DUI Case

Most people understand that it is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol or with a prohibited amount of alcohol in the body ("over the legal limit").  However, many people don't realize that it is also illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs - even drugs which have been prescribed by a doctor, or with a prohibited amount of certain drugs in the body.  

Pharmaceuticals represent one of the largest industries in the United States.  Our society relies on the developments of the drug companies to stay healthy and productive.  Doctors are prescribing medications to help with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, sleeplessness, and a seemingly endless list of other conditions.  Unfortunately, many people mistakenly assume that it is safe and legal to continue to engage in normal everyday activities, such as driving, while taking prescription drugs - and that is a mistake which can have devastating consequences. 

We are seeing more and more people arrested for DUI after consuming prescribed medications, and there seems to be a common misconception that having taken prescription drugs is helpful in defending a DUI / DWI allegation.  The section of Virginia law addressing the issue of DUI / DWI offenses based on prescription drugs (Section 18.2-266) states:

"It shall be unlawful for any person to drive or operate any motor vehicle . . . while such person is under the influence of any narcotic drug or any other self-administered intoxicant or drug of whatsoever nature, or any combination of such drugs, to a degree which impairs his ability to drive or operate any motor vehicle . . . safely"

There is no exception for medications - whether over the counter or prescription.  If you are driving while under the influence of any drug which has impaired your ability to do so safely, you can be arrested for DUI / DWI in Virginia -  even if the drugs were taken pursuant to a valid prescription and taken in the prescribed dose.  Conceptually, this makes sense, because we don't want people driving motor vehicles while the ability to do so safely is impaired by drugs - regardless of whether the drug is a prescription drug or not.

Read the warning labels, instructions and literature that come with medications.  Many of them will say not to drive or operate machinery while using the medication.  As you can imagine, it is important that you follow these instructions in order to limit putting yourself at risk of being arrested for a Virginia DUI / DWI. 

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