The New DUI: Making Criminals Out of Ordinary Citizens

There is a common misconception that DUIs (driving under the influence) can only be issued when the suspect consumed alcohol in excess of legal limits or is under the influence of illegal drugs. However, this is not the case. Any substance, even over-the-counter medications and medications you have been legally prescribed, can result in your arrest for a DUI.
The list of medication that could result in your arrest for DUI is exhaustive. There are over 350 medications listed in Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-3401 making it impossible to list all the drugs and medications in this article. But some of the most commonly used drugs may alert you to the dangers involved. Medications for cold/allergy such as Benadryl, Chlor-Trimeton, and Dimetapp; pain medications; tranquilizers/sedatives/anti-depressants such as Valium, Xanax, and Ambien; and other drugs such as medications for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and ulcers are found on this list.

All of these drugs serve a legitimate medical purpose and, in most instances, have little adverse effect on the user. However, Arizona law states if a chemical test shows that you have the drug or its metabolite in your system while you were operating a vehicle, you get a DUI. This charge only requires that you have the drug or its metabolite in your system; the State does not have to prove that the drug impaired your driving. (A.R.S 28-1381).
Luckily, there is a defense to this type of DUI. In order to have a defense to a drug related DUI the person charged with the DUI must prove he or she did not abuse prescription drugs. (A.R.S. 13-3401D). Thus, the person charged must show that they were prescribed the drug by a medical practitioner and that the levels of the drug in their system were within therapeutic levels, i.e., the drugs were used as prescribed.
The penalties for a DUI are strict and can include jail time, fines, surcharges, jail fees, revocation of your driver’s license, mandatory use of an interlock ignition device, substance abuse screening/counseling, and probation. Thus if you have been prescribed the medication that has lead to your DUI it is imperative that you take proactive steps to increase your odds of a successful defense.

With DUI cases, like almost all criminal cases, every day counts. Although you may think that merely stating you were prescribed the drug will satisfy the defense to a drug related DUI, navigating the law, court hearings, MVD hearings, establishing that you were not abusing drugs by showing that the drugs in your system at the time of arrest were within therapeutic levels, and all of the other intricacies to Arizona DUI law, are all matters that can leave you stressed and feeling as though you have no idea what to do next. Retaining a veteran DUI attorney who wants to handle your case and guide you through this difficult time can not only alleviate some of the stress involved with this type of case, but can also greatly improve establishing your defense.