Can You Get a DUI if You Drive on Prescription Drugs?Generally, when we think of driving under the influence, we think of alcohol and/or drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, or heroin. While it is against the law to drive while under the influence of those substances, it is also illegal to drive under the influence of any substance that inhibits your ability to drive safely. Even legal drugs can have you being pulled over and arrested for DUI.

Even if I have a prescription?

Even if you have a prescription. Under the influence is under the influence, no matter what. Keep a copy of that scrip with you when you drive, though. It may help you later.

What if I need my meds to live?

Still can’t drive high in Maryland. If your meds make it so you can’t drive, then call an Uber or take a bus to get to work or wherever you need to go.

(This is why it is important for drivers to understand the effects and side effects that your prescription and over-the-counter medication may have on you.)

What if my prescription meds don’t have a warning regarding driving?

Civil claims are not my area of practice, but again — it doesn’t matter. If you take your meds and they make you loopy, don’t drive. You can get ticketed.

The penalties for DUIs can include anything from a hefty fine, the suspension of your license, and even jail time. In Maryland, there are two different charges that can be applied to someone who has been pulled over due to suspected alcohol/drug impaired driving, and these differences can drastically change the type of penalties.

How common is driving under the influence of prescription drugs?

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), certain medications such as some types of antidepressants and Diphenhydramine are often found in car accidents caused by medications. Certain antidepressants have shown to increase crash risk by 41%, and Diphenhydramine (a common ingredient in over-the-counter cold and cough medication) “can have the same effect on driving as being above the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration.”

Many drivers involved with drugged-driving accidents were found to have legal opioids such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, and morphine, as well as many other strong prescription pain medications, in their system. Opioids can cause people to feel anywhere from drowsy to euphoric to confused, and can double one’s risk for a crash.

Per the National Institute of Health, “It’s hard to measure how many crashes are caused by drugged driving, but estimates show that almost 44 percent of drivers in fatal car crashes tested positive for drugs.”

What is the difference between DUI and DWI?

In Maryland, there are two different types of drinking/using and driving offenses. While they are similar, they come with different penalties based on which category you fall into. In both cases, it must be proven that you were driving the vehicle at the time of the arrest and that you must be intoxicated, impaired, or under the influence.

  • Driving under the influence. Driving under the influence (DUI), as per Code, Transportation §21-902, is an offense in which it is determined that the driver of the vehicle has a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08 or higher. This is known as driving “under the influence per se.”
  • Driving while impaired. Driving while impaired (DWI) is when the driver is determined to have a BAC level of at least .07, or is otherwise impaired by any substance that inhibits the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle safely.

It is important to note that in order for the officer to charge you with a DWI due to prescription or over-the-counter medicine, you must be subjected to and fail a field sobriety test. You may refuse to take a blood alcohol test or field sobriety test, though you may still be arrested and charged, and your license may be confiscated. This is when you should contact a Maryland DUI lawyer.

What are the different penalties for DUI and DWI?

A DUI is penalized more harshly than a DWI. The penalties for each category, as per MD. Code §21-902 include:

  • DUI penalties. For a first offense, imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both; and for a second offense, imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or a fine not exceeding $2,000 or both.
  • DWI penalties. For a first offense, imprisonment not exceeding 2 months or a fine not exceeding $500 or both; and for a second offense, imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or a fine not exceeding $500 or both.

This is only if you are pulled over for driving erratically. If you are in an accident due to drugged driving, then you may face more severe penalties. This does not include any personal injury or other lawsuits that may be brought against you by other parties involved in the accident.

Why you need an Annapolis DUI/DWI attorney now

If you are ever pulled over for driving while impaired or driving under the influence, it is important that you know your rights. You can and should refuse to take any blood-alcohol or field sobriety tests, even if that gets your license confiscated or suspended. As a DUI/DWI charge cannot be expunged from your criminal record, it is important that you follow all the steps you can to avoid a conviction.

This is why as soon as you are arrested, insist on getting in contact with your Annapolis DUI attorney. At Drew Cochran, Attorney At Law, I know the best path forward after being charged with DUI/DWI. If you refused to take any of the blood/drug tests (which you definitely should refuse), the state does not have any failed test results to use against you and prove that you were under the influence. I can ensure that the charges are lessened or even dropped so that you can avoid having a nasty mark on your criminal record. To learn more, call my firm in Annapolis or Ellicott City, or fill out our contact form.

And remember: Keep Calm, and Call Drew.