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Can I Be Charged With DUI for Driving While on Prescription Drugs?


Many people are aware that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can lead to a DUI. However, few people consider the legal implications of driving while on prescription drugs. If you are wondering if you can be charged with DUI for driving while on prescription drugs, the answer is yes, you can be charged with DUI for driving while on prescription drugs. Therefore, when taking prescription medication, you need to be careful before getting behind the wheel. Many prescription drugs can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and other side effects that can impair your ability to drive safely and lead to you being charged with DUI. Below, we discuss the types of medication that can lead to you being charged with DUI, how law enforcement officers determine if someone is impaired by prescription drugs, and some of the potential defenses you may have if you are charged with DUI for driving while on prescription drugs.

Types of Prescription Medication That Can Lead To DUI Charges

Several prescription medications have side effects that can affect a person’s driving ability. However, it is crucial to note that the specific drugs and their side effects can vary widely from person to person since everyone is different. The following are some types of prescription drugs that could lead to DUI charges;

Opioids or Pain Relievers

Drugs like oxycodone, codeine, morphine, and hydrocodone can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and sedation.


Some antidepressants, especially SSRIs, tricyclics, and MAOIs, can cause side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, and blurred vision.


Some antihistamines used for cold symptoms or allergies, such as cetirizine and diphenhydramine, can cause drowsiness.


Stimulants are designed to increase focus, alertness, and energy. However, some stimulants can lead to aggressive behavior, increased heart rate, nervousness, and other side effects that impact one’s ability to drive safely.

Muscle Relaxants

Some muscle relaxants can result in drowsiness and impaired coordination.

How Do the Police Determine if Someone Is Impaired by Prescription Drugs?

When it comes to determining if someone is impaired by prescription drugs, police officers use a combination of various strategies. First, an officer may observe your behavior during a traffic stop. Slurred speech, inability to follow instructions, confusion, poor coordination, and erratic behaviors are examples of signs that may indicate impairment. Second, a police officer may use field sobriety tests (FSTs) to determine if you are impaired by prescription drugs. While commonly used for alcohol impairment, FSTs can also be used to determine impairment by prescription drugs. Field sobriety tests assess your physical and cognitive abilities. Standardized FSTs include the One-Leg Stand, the Walk and Turn, and the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. Additionally, police officers may use blood and urine tests to determine impairment by prescription drugs.

Potential Legal Defenses Against Prescription Drug DUI Charges

When charged with prescription drug DUI, several defenses may be available for use in your case. They include the following;

  • Lack of probable cause during the traffic stop
  • Unreliability of field sobriety tests
  • Unreliability of blood or urine test
  • Failure to follow proper procedures
  • Violation of Constitutional rights
  • Alternative causes for symptoms

Legal Help Is Available

When faced with a prescription medication DUI charge, you need to contact an attorney as soon as possible. Our NYC DUI/DWUI/DWAI attorney at Mark I. Cohen, Esq., has experience defending people charged with DUI. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and discuss your case.

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