Drivers in New York state know they can face arrest and prosecution if they drive when taking illegal drugs or with a high blood alcohol content. However, contrary to the belief of many, proving you took a legal, properly prescribed medication may not get you off the hook if the officer believes taking it impaired your ability to drive.
Generally, in a DWI case based on prescription medication, prosecutors need to show you took the medication, and it affected your ability to drive. If you face charges, it is important not to give up just because you know chemical tests show you ingested the drug. Your attorney can discuss with you in deeper detail whether the facts support the allegation that you could not drive safely.
One way to steer clear of a prescription drug DUI stop in the first place is to be careful when you take needed medication. If your meds have a warning label telling you not to operate heavy machinery, this includes driving a car. Likewise, if your doctor or pharmacist mentions a likelihood of side effects that could make driving unsafe, the law will likely hold you responsible for ignoring these warnings.
Common types of drugs that often affect important physical and mental functions include a wide variety of painkillers, sleep medication and certain anti-anxiety drugs. Side effects may include drowsiness, dizziness, blurry vision, lack of focus and delayed physical responses.
Some people also experience rare side effects from medications that may not typically affect driving ability. Some effects can happen due to an interaction with other medications. People taking some medications may also need to avoid alcohol altogether, as even very small amounts can amplify the side effects.
How police officers determine impairment
Initially, police officers determine medication-based impairment based on behavioral cues as well as information you give them. Police officers may receive some training in recognizing impairment, but they are not doctors. They may not have the capacity to state that symptoms they observe, such as shakiness or slow speech, are specifically the result of your consumption of medication. They also use field sobriety tests; however, many people fail those due to other factors, including the presence of the condition they need the meds for in the first place. Chemical testing reveals the presence of the drug but not its effect on driving.