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Virginia Prescription Drug DUI Lawyer

There is common misconception that if an individual is driving under the influence of prescription drugs, then that an individual is absolved from prosecution and has an affirmative defense for the DUI. This is not the case.

Some common prescription drugs that bring about DUI charges are pain medications as well as anti-anxiety drugs. A person may receive an anti-anxiety drug that a person takes in the normal course of a doctor’s orders. However, this mediation may include an indication that it causes drowsiness or other behavior that may lead to difficulty or impairment while operating a motor vehicle or there may be no warning on that product at all.

If a person takes that product and then exhibits behavior consistent with driving under the influence, that person can be charged and convicted even if they have a valid prescription and there is no evidence of refusing a prescription medication. Even when driving under the influence of a legal, over-the-counter substance, a person may be charged with DUI. If this happens it is imperative to contact a Virginia prescription drug DUI attorney in order to start building a defense to the charge.

Prescription Drug DUI Charge

If an individual is charged with a prescription drug DUI in Virginia, that person must be shown to be in violation of Virginia Code Section 18.2 – 266—that means a person must be shown to be driving under the influence of a prescription drug or driving in an impaired state. The prescription drug does not have to be of a certain level or certain concentration for a person to be found in violation of this statute. Simply, it has to be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual is intoxicated or under the influence and that the substance is a drug—and that does not even have to be a prescription drug. A person can be charged and convicted for over-the-counter medications. It does not happen often, but it does happen.

Prosecutorial Proof

For prescription drug DUIs, the Commonwealth must simply prove that a person was driving a motor vehicle on the highways of the Commonwealth of Virginia and was intoxicated beyond a reasonable doubt. This is typically done by the submission of certain types of evidence. It may include evidence of  driving behavior, evidentiary videos, responses to questions by law enforcement officers, performance on field sobriety tests, and admissions of the accused. Admissions of the accused typical involve statements about what type of drugs a person took. All these types of evidence go together to present a case for a prescription medication DUI charge. A Virginia prescription drug DUI lawyer can help to contest the prosecution’s evidence.

Penalties in Virginia

If an individual is found guilty of a DUI after consuming prescription drugs, that person faces the same punishment as if a person were found guilty of DUI for the consumption of alcohol. It is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail, up to a $2,500 fine, or a combination thereof. In addition, a person will lose his or her license for a period of 12 months. A person may be eligible for a restricted license and will be required to perform certain programs, including the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (VASAP) and any other local programs that the jurisdiction requires.

Providing Prescription Information

When prescription drugs are involved, it is certainly important for the individual to be upfront and honest with attorney about what medications that person may be taking and how they may affect the case. A Virginia prescription drug DUI attorney will only know how to best defend a person if the attorney has a full idea of what is going on in the case. Therefore, having that prescription drug information is helpful.

In addition, when the analysis returns from the department of forensic science, it may have information on drugs that are unusual to an individual. It may show substances in that person’s systems that are not in the prescription drugs that the person had ingested. This often occurs because prescription drugs breakdown and metabolize. The metabolisms of certain complicated prescription drugs by themselves are other controlled substances. It is important to analyze what a person took, what it can metabolize into, what it may indicate, and what the effect of those drugs may be.

In addition, prescription drugs do not have per se levels of intoxication. Experienced Virginia prescription drug DUI lawyers can muster certain resources that determine whether or not the concentration in a person’s blood is a therapeutic, harmful, or toxic level. If a person’s level is very low, meaning that the concentration level is consistent with proper use, that will be a positive fact for the case.

Use Without a Prescription

Prescription drug DUI charges are actually not necessarily different if a does not person have a valid prescription. There is no mitigation based on the prescription and actually the DUI charge is not going to turn based on the fact that a person has or does not have a prescription. What will turn it is whether a person received any additional charge for the possession of controlled substances. If a person does not have a valid prescription for the drugs that are found, that person can be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony offense for illegal possession in addition to the DUI charge.

Information for the Defense

Typically, an attorney wants to know everything the law enforcement officer knows as well as everything the client knows in preparing for a Virginia prescription DUI case.

For a Virginia prescription DUI case, it is important to know what the drugs were, how long the person had been taking them, their medical history, and the reasons for taking them. All of those things are important to know, as well as all information that led to the arrest, information relating to any statements that were made, and anything else that the officers may know.

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