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Prescription Drugs & Driving

In the Fort Lauderdale-Fort Lauderdale-Broward metropolitan area, police can arrest a driver who appears to be impaired, even if his blood alcohol level is zero. Broward County criminal defense attorneys see these cases regularly. Not surprisingly, you can be charged with DUI if you have taken illegal drugs that affect your ability to drive. However, you can also be charged if your driving was compromised by prescription drugs authorized by a doctor. Although a breathalyzer may not be able to detect the drug, police can still determine whether or not you are fit to drive based on your performance in a field sobriety test, as well as your behavior, speech, and driving.

In order for a driver to be convicted of a prescription drug-related DUI, the prosecution must prove that the driver was impaired while in actual physical control of the vehicle, even if she was not actually driving at the time of arrest. Because there is no absolute level at which any specific drug is deemed to be impairing — as is the case with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 — blood, breath, and urine tests are less useful. The body fluid tests may recognize the presence of a drug, but do not provide meaningful information about the safety of that level when driving. The effects of prescription drugs on the ability to drive can vary significantly from person to person. If you are arrested for a prescription drug DUI, a good criminal defense lawyer will be able to assist you with the scientific aspects of your case. There have been few scientific studies to guide prosecutors and police as to the dosage required of a drug lead to driving impairment.

You could be arrested for a prescription drug DUI even if you are under the care of a physician and are not abusing the medication. The sleep aid Ambien has received a considerable amount of attention due to its unusual effects, including the phenomenon of “sleep-driving.” Some patients who take Ambien will drive or engage in other activities. The next day, the patients usually have no recollection of driving. Unfortunately, driving while under the influence of Ambien can be extremely dangerous. To date, there are numerous reports of drivers under the influence of Ambien causing and then leaving the scene of accidents, driving on the wrong side of the road, and becoming belligerent with arresting officers. A Colorado nurse awoke to discover that she had apparently caused a minor car accident, in addition to driving around in a nightgown, fighting police, and urinating on the street. In 2007, the federal Food and Drug Administration began requiring enhanced warnings on the dangers of sleep-driving on Ambien, Lunesta, and other prescription sleep aids. Blood and urine tests administered by police do not usually screen for sleep aids. Anyone using prescription sleep aids should heed the warnings of the manufacturer, their pharmacist, and their doctor.

A prescription DUI arrest can be devastating. If you have been charged with DUI in Florida, contact William Moore Criminal Defense, P.A., which has experienced south Florida DUI lawyers with offices in Fort Lauderdale-Dade, Broward, and Fort Lauderdale Counties.

This article should be used for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

Some Sleeping Pill Users Range Far Beyond Bed, The New York Times, March 8, 2008

Article contributed by Mallory Shipman, Attorney-at-Law.

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