Prescription Drug DUI Charges in Arlington
Driving under the influence (DUI) is often only thought of in the context of intoxication from alcohol or illegal street drugs. However, many prescription medications, whether abused or taken as intended, can cause impairment and lead to a DUI charge.
A prescription drug is a controlled substance that may only be obtained through written orders from a physician. Prescription drugs are illegal to possess unless a doctor prescribes them in the course of medical treatment. Common prescription medications that could cause impairment while driving include sedatives like sedatives/anti-anxiety medications, sleep medications, and opioid painkillers. If you are facing prescription drug DUI charges in Arlington, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
What Is the Burden of Proof for a Medication DUI?
To be convicted of a prescription DUI, there must be reasonable and articulable cause to believe that a driver violated the law, leading to a probable cause allowing for arrest. Law enforcement officers just need to believe the person is unable to drive or operate a motor vehicle safely as a result of prescription drug influence to affect and arrest.
To be convicted of a prescription drug DUI, the prosecution must prove all the same elements of any other drunk driving case beyond a reasonable doubt. The key difference is that in some cases, it may not be possible to get a verified or scientific reading about what substances a driver was using. As with all criminal charges, defendants should be considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Potential Defenses Against Arlington Prescription Drug DUI Charges
If a driver experienced unintended side-effects or suffered from natural and probable consequences of consuming a prescription drug that were more severe than they thought, the case may be changed, but they would still be facing criminal charges. When someone in Virginia takes a substance, they are viewed as being voluntarily intoxicated by the substance. This applies when they were not injected against their will and were not a victim of a fraud in which a pharmacist gave them the wrong pill. Arguing that the side-effects of medication were stronger than expected might mitigate the consequences of a conviction.
What if the Prescription that Caused a DUI is Essential?
There is a jury instruction stating that we are all responsible for the natural and probable consequences of our actions. If someone requires pain management medication, they are responsible for the effects of the medication. The same goes for anti-anxiety, anti-seizure, and sleep medications. An individual is responsible for what happens when they voluntarily put something in their body, even if it is authorized by a doctor’s order for management of their health. Drivers who use prescription medication are held to a higher duty of care to make sure they do not put themselves in a dangerous situation by driving after the voluntary consumption of a powerful drug.
Driving Under the Influence of Medication Penalties in Arlington
Prescription drug DUIs are punished as class 1 misdemeanors just like any other DUI. Generally, a prescription drug DUI for a first offense is only punishable by a fine of up to $250. This is the mandatory minimum required by statute. In practice, most prescription drug DUIs include a period of suspended jail time for a first offense as well as statutory penalties, including a 12-month loss of license, completion of the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP), ignition interlock, and other requirements. The penalties become more severe for subsequent offenses.
An Attorney Could Help Fight a Prescription Impaired Driving Charge
When an individual is charged with a prescription drug DUI, they need to inform the attorney about all of the prescriptions they take. If someone does not have a valid prescription for the drug and they are found in possession, meaning the drug is in their bloodstream or on their person, they could be charged with possession of a controlled substance as well. Depending on the type of controlled substance and the quantity, they could be charged with a variety of offenses including possession with intent to distribute or possession of the controlled substance.
Most prescription drug DUIs are complicated, potentially involving both a drug possession and a DUI component. There are multifaceted layers to a defense, so it is important to get experienced help from a qualified local defense attorney. If you are facing prescription drug DUI charges in Arlington, call a dedicated attorney today to schedule a consultation and start building your defense.