Most of us presume that if we don’t drink or take illegal drugs, we won’t be arrested for DUI (driving under the influence). However, if a legal prescription drug makes you too impaired to drive, you could be charged with DUI, and you will need the help of a Roanoke DUI attorney.
Your prescription drugs are the drugs that a doctor has determined you need. Your prescription drugs may be doctor-approved and legal, but they may interfere with your driving ability. If you operate a vehicle while using particular prescription drugs, you could be charged with DUI.
If you keep reading, you will learn what constitutes driving under the influence in Virginia, how to avoid a drug-related DUI charge, and what to do if, in spite of your best precautions, you’re charged with drug-related driving under the influence in this state.
What Does the Law Say?
Driving while impaired by drugs is a growing problem and poses a real threat to anyone who travels on Virginia’s streets and highways.
Many of us need our prescribed drugs, and as the population of Virginia ages, elderly drivers are more often facing DUI charges related to prescription drugs. Many prescription medicines – and even some over-the-counter products – can seriously impair the user’s ability to drive safely.
No one may legally drive in Virginia while under the influence of any drug, even if that drug is prescribed, legal, and necessary for the person’s health.
What Drugs Impair the Ability to Drive?
Frequently-prescribed drugs that impair the user’s driving ability include Dolophine, Demerol, Vicodin, and Oxycontin. These medications slow a driver’s reaction time, reflexes, and thinking processes. Never drive any vehicle or operate heavy machinery while using these medications.
You can also be charged with DUI for using a legal, over-the-counter medicine. Items like sleep aids and decongestants can also impair your driving ability. Driving while taking almost any drug creates the possibility of a DUI arrest as well as the possibility of a serious or fatal crash.
Why Are Drug-Related DUI Cases So Complicated?
For a number of reasons, drug-related driving under the influence cases are more complicated than cases that involve only alcohol. For example, the detection of alcohol is relatively simple.
In Virginia, if the police suspect that a driver has been drinking, an officer can measure the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level with a breathalyzer and make an arrest for DUI if the driver’s BAC level measures at or above 0.08 percent.
But if an officer suspects a driver is impaired by drugs, it is more difficult to measure the driver’s impairment or intoxication. If you use a drug and then drive in a way that constitutes driving under the influence, you may be arrested for DUI even if you have a prescription for the drug.
When Should You Speak With a DUI Attorney?
Should this happen to you, put your case in the hands of a Virginia DUI attorney at once. Your attorney will investigate the details of the charge, protect your legal rights, and develop and aggressive, effective defense strategy on your behalf.
If someone is charged with a drug-related DUI, the amount of the drug found in the person’s system, which is usually found by a blood test, may be used in evidence against the person. However, under Virginia law only a few drugs have listed presumptive levels of intoxication like the .08 level set forth for alcohol.
Therefore, depending on the particular drug alleged, in order to convict a person of a drug-related DUI, the state usually has to introduce more than just the level of the drug in the person’s system in order to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver was impaired and under the influence of a drug.
What Precautions Can Consumers Take?
If your physician has ordered prescription drugs for you, ask your physician if the medications will impair your driving ability. Explain your concerns. Always adhere to the warnings and instructions that come with over-the-counter and prescription products.
If you are taking any drug that could interfere with your ability to drive, then it is probably better simply not to drive until the drug’s effects have completely faded.
If you are placed under arrest and charged with DUI, exercise your right to remain silent, and politely insist on your right to have your defense attorney present for any interrogation.
What Are Virginia’s DUI Penalties?
For a first offense DUI in Virginia, the charge is a Class One misdemeanor. A first conviction for DUI may be penalized with up to one year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine, but most first offenders will be placed on probation and pay a $250 fine.
A first driving under the influence conviction will additionally result in a twelve-month driver’s license revocation, and in most cases a DUI offender may also be required to participate in drug education classes or a drug treatment program.
Second and subsequent driving under the influence convictions, as you might guess, are penalized more severely by requiring mandatory jail sentences and higher fines.
A third or subsequent offense within 10 years is a Class 6 felony penalized with even longer mandatory jail sentences and higher fines. If you are charged with DUI, a Roanoke DUI lawyer can examine the facts in your case and fight for the justice you need and deserve.
How Will Your Lawyer Defend You?
The right defense will be different for each case, but in many DUI cases, an attorney may challenge the legality of a traffic stop or a search, or a lawyer may instead dispute the accuracy of any blood test results or urine test results offered against the defendant as evidence.
In some DUI cases, the right Roanoke DUI attorney will be able to have the charge reduced or entirely dismissed. But if the evidence against you is convincing, and if a conviction is certain, your attorney may be able to arrange for a plea bargain with reduced or alternative sentencing.
If you are charged with drug-related driving under the influence, be honest with your defense attorney about what medications you are taking. Your attorney can best defend you only if that attorney has the complete picture of what is involved in your case.
It’s Imperative to Exercise Your Rights
Your DUI attorney will need to know what drugs you are using, how long you’ve been taking them, the reasons why you are taking them, and your general medical history.
If you are charged with driving under the influence in Virginia, do not try to act as your own defense attorney. Too much will be at stake, and Virginia’s driving under the influence laws are extraordinarily complicated.
Instead, exercise your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney. If you are placed under arrest for driving under the influence in the Roanoke area, obtain legal help at once from a Roanoke DUI defense lawyer.