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Prescription drug DUIs: A valid prescription is not enough

Though many of us may be familiar with alcohol-related DUI charges, a broad range of substances can impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Prescription drugs are no exception.

What you may not know is that regardless of whether or not your doctor prescribed a medication, driving under the influence of prescription drugs known to cause impairment is punishable in the state of Florida.

Prescription drugs frequently associated with driver impairment

The following drugs can cause driver impairment. Some of these are prescription-only and others may be available in over-the-counter forms:

  • Treatments for anxiety disorders. Valium, Alprazolam or Xanax produce serious impairment and can significantly increase driver reaction times.
  • Cold medicine and antihistamines. Cold medications - including decongestants - can cause lethargy, anxiety and a slower reaction time on the road.
  • Pain killers. Though Hydrocodone, OxyContin and other opioids may fight pain effectively, they can also impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.

Police evaluation of impairment

If you are pulled over and the police officer suspects that you are driving under the influence, he or she may first request a Breathalyzer test to determine whether alcohol is involved. The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08. Even if you pass this test, law enforcement officers may take other steps to demonstrate that you are under the influence.

Field sobriety tests are a common tool used to determine impairment: this 3-part examination tests driver balance, motor abilities and attention level. In some cases, a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) may be called to the scene to analyze driver impairment. Urine tests may also be used to determine whether any drugs - prescription or otherwise - are present in your system.

Accused of driving under the influence?

If so, you need legal counsel. The techniques used for determining probable cause in DUI arrests are imperfect. It is important to consult an experienced DUI attorney for vital feedback, support and representation.

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