DRUG DRIVING A PRIORITY
Law enforcement and other government officials are making drugged driving a priority. They are concerned that drivers are becoming extremely distracted by the use of handheld devices and ingesting legal pharmaceutical products. What happens, however, if you unknowingly ingest a drug or other pharmaceutical product and are subsequently arrested for a DUI? Does that DUI count against you?
For instance, what if you take someone else’s prescription and are unaware of the fact that it can impair driving? Will this help you avoid a DUI arrest? Unfortunately it probably won’t due to the fact that DUIs do not require you to specifically intend to drive impaired. Instead, there is just a general requirement that you knew or had knowledge that you were ingesting a substance that could impair your ability to drive safely.
NOTHING ON LABEL
Does this analysis change if the prescription belongs to you and it does not have an advisement that it can impact your ability to drive or use heavy machinery? That is a better case than the first hypothetical. However, if it could be proven that you ingested that same medicine on a previous occasion and you felt drowsiness or otherwise impaired, then you may ultimately have to fight the DUI in a courtroom. This is due to the fact that the authorities will argue that using the drug previously put you on notice or gave you actual knowledge that this drug could cause impairment. A pharmaceutical advisement would be considered unnecessary.
OVER COUNTER HERB
Would the above analysis be different if you were taking an over the counter herb as a form of alternative medicine instead of using a Food and Drug Administration approved pharmaceutical product? Unfortunately, the law gives a lot of liberty to the interpretation of what a drug is. Although a doctor, the FDA, and the American Medical Association would all agree certain herbs are not to be considered or used as drugs, the California authorities would treat it as a drug for impairment purposes.
SLIPPING A "MICKEY"
What would be the easiest way to show that you should not be arrested or convicted of a drug related DUI? The best way would be if you accidentally ingested an intoxicating substance due to the unknown actions of others. Simply put, if someone spiked your food or drink with an intoxicating substance and you were not aware of this prior to driving, then you have a great defense. However, you must be able to not only prove that someone committed this act but that you had no knowledge of it before driving.
In conclusion, drug related DUIs are creatively enforced by arresting and prosecuting agencies. You must be able to mount a convincing defense to overcome them. Hopefully you found this edition of the blog informative.