Legally Prescribed Medication May Lead to a DUI/DWI Conviction

Did you know that legally prescribed medication may lead to a DUI/DWI conviction? Contact the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center for resources and guidance.

Kimberly2 1Author:

Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney

March 01. 2023.

Understanding DUI/DWI Drugs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of driving under the influence (DUI) fatalities rose from 15.7% to 30% from the year 2019 to 2020. As such, states maintain strict DUI laws to reduce traffic deaths. There is no exception in Missouri, where alcohol-impaired driving and operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs results in harsh penalties.

New York was the first state to set up impairment DUI laws in 1910. However, the statute on drunk driving didn’t expressly define impaired driving. Instead, the arresting officer decided what constituted a DUI-based offense.

With more pragmatic steps, states developed blood alcohol concentration (BAC) monitoring technology. Impaired drivers are now required to submit to a BAC test. A reading exceeding 0.08 percent results in DUI charges that carry hefty fines and even possible jail time.

DUI/DWI in Missouri

As per Missouri DWI or DUI laws, a person commits a DWI when they operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. The individual is ‘impaired’ if they can’t safely operate a car due to the consumption of alcohol, illegal drugs, controlled substances, or doctor-prescribed drugs.

In Missouri, the consequences for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs may include fines up to $5,000, license suspension or revocation for up to 10 years, and as much as five years of jail time.

A conviction for a first-time DWI offense in Missouri attracts a $500 fine and up to six months in jail. Additional DUI convictions can lead to driver’s license suspension, higher fines, and longer jail sentences.

In addition, you may also pay increased insurance rates and other financial costs associated with legal proceedings related to DUI arrests. A conviction for DUI law violation in Missouri could also impact your employment opportunities and negatively affect your reputation in the community. 

When charged with DUI where there is evidence of use of prescription medications, it is vital to contact an experienced Kansas City drug lawyer. They will review the circumstances surrounding your arrest by a police officer and identify potential legal defenses at your disposal. Your lawyer will also work closely with prosecutors on plea deals which could limit fines, jail time, and license suspensions.

Driving Under the Influence of Prescription Drugs

Taking prescription medication and operating a vehicle could result in a DUI arrest in Missouri. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, some prescription drugs impair drivers and could have fatal outcomes.

Some prescription drugs do not impair the driver on their own, but when taken with alcohol or another drug, they cause impairment. Impaired driving in Missouri results in a DUI charge regardless of whether you used prescription or over-the-counter medication.

After the arrest process for DUI, a person will have to face the court for sentencing and possible fines and attend an administrative hearing to avoid license suspensions or revocations. 

It is important to work with a lawyer throughout the process, from pre-trial motions to trial, sentencing, and appeals, to protect your rights.

    Are Prescription Medications Subject to any Legal Limits?

    Because alcohol is legal for adults, setting a per se limit is simpler than determining the BAC at which individuals become impaired.

    It is illegal to have any amount of illegal drugs in your bloodstream, such as heroin, marijuana, or methamphetamine. As a result, there is no legal limit for these prohibited substances. Additionally, no legal limits have been set regarding these substances in the same way that limits have been established for alcohol.

    The use of prescription medications like muscle relaxants, sleep aids, and narcotic pain relievers that impair a person’s ability is not subject to any restrictions, as has been the case with banned substances.

    In spite of the fact that prescription medications are not inherently illegal, driving after taking them is usually an offense. The use of medications containing warnings about driving or operating heavy machinery is not recommended before driving. When taking prescription medication, monitoring yourself and avoiding driving if you feel drowsy or notice any signs of cognitive impairment is critical.

    Having any detectable amount of these medications in your bloodstream, or admitting to taking them before driving, could be grounds for a drugged driving charge in Missouri.

    It is important to note that using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes, without a valid prescription, or outside the prescribed dosage may result in criminal charges such as possession or distribution, which may result in jail time. Additional charges may be imposed on top of DWI charges if prescription drugs are found to have been used.

    An experienced DUI lawyer can explain your rights and the possible consequences if you are charged with DUI in Missouri.

    Side Effects of Legal Drugs That Can Impair Driving

    Medications may cause drowsiness or dizziness that could impair your ability to operate a vehicle safely. Drugs with sedative properties slow down reaction time and reduce coordination. On the other hand, stimulants often create feelings of alertness and energy that could lead to overconfidence in one’s driving abilities, which is also dangerous.

    If a person takes medication with alcohol, their reaction time, judgment, and coordination can be significantly impaired. In order to avoid prescription drug DUI, speak with your doctor about any side effects of your medication.

    With so much at stake, it is crucial to seek legal counsel if arrested for DUI in Missouri. An experienced lawyer knows how to defend against drugged driving and will help protect your rights.

    What Types of Medications May Cause a Driver to Become Impaired?

    Medications that can impair a driver include:

    • Sedatives

    • Stimulants

    • Tranquilizers

    • Anti-depressants

    • Sleeping pills

    • Cough medication

    • Other over-the-counter medications

    DUI Blood Test for Prescription Drugs

    In Missouri, law enforcement officers may use a blood test to determine if you are driving under the influence of prescription drugs. A blood test is usually done when an individual fails or refuses field sobriety tests such as walk-and-turn tests, roadside coordination assessments, etc.

    Medical professionals will take your blood sample for tests at designated laboratories. The blood test will detect traces of various substances, including legal medications like opioids and benzodiazepines. If you are found to be impaired by drug metabolites in your system at the time of driving, you will face a DUI charge.

    What Should You Do if Charged With a DUI While on Prescription Drugs?

    Have you been charged with a DUI while on prescription drugs? If so, then don’t panic!

    Enlist the help and services of an experienced attorney as soon as possible. An experienced Missouri lawyer will explain the quick facts on a DWI Missouri and identify potential legal defenses to avoid conviction or reduce the penalties.

    Contact Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center for a consultation today!

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