In my practice, probably about 20% of cases come out to be prescription medication problems.
How Does New York State Law Treat Prescription Medication And Operating A Motor Vehicle?
New York State is very simple and very unclear. Under the law, no person may operate a motor vehicle in a manner that was not reasonable and prudent, and if they were impaired by the use of a drug, then it would not matter whether it was a prescription medication or an illegal drug.
There is typically some grey area here because people who drive motor vehicles and are taking their prescription medications as prescribed, not abusing them by taking them at the wrong times, but they should know whether or not that medication was making them groggy, tired, less, vigilant, and that it might put them in a condition that they were not able to operate the motor vehicle the way it was expected they should. They would therefore open themselves up to being accused of driving under the influence of a drug.
Do You See The Number Of Prescription Medication Cases Rising?
I do. I have seen more cases over the years as it has become less politically correct for anybody to operate a motor vehicle under any circumstances other than what people think would be perfect driving, almost like a train on rails. Police officers give less and less discretion to people, and they take advantage of arresting people and of the fact that somebody lets them know they are on medication.
What Is The Typical Client Like For A Prescription Medication DUI?
I find a lot of professionals, a lot of females, and then there are college students. Those are the three specific groups that I find are accused more than others of having some sort of prescription medication problem and driving.
What Are The Most Common Prescription Medications People Are Charged For?
Adderall is the number one, and Ambien is the other. We live in a society now where it seems more and more people have been diagnosed with having Attention Deficit Disorders, ADD as it were, or ADHD. Prescriptions are given to help them focus and help them go through their daily routine. These are not drugs that would normally impair somebody’s ability to drive but police officers decide not to make that determination if somebody says that they are taking a prescription.
In additional to Adderall, we have Ambien. This is a big one in New York and across the nation. A person will take a sleep aid and then go out and drive. A lot of people do not actually realize they are driving at the time, because it is almost like sleep walking or sleep driving.
We have Xanax, Alprazolam, Oxycodone, and we sometimes see Percocet’s, blood pressure medications, and glucose medications. These are the ones we see most commonly, and some of them are inactive or they are a very small part of other drugs. It may be Tylenol PM or a Contac or another over the counter medication that contains some of these minor components which would show up in blood or urine tests, and that would become the DWI charge.
Can Prescription Medication Be Seen As Unintended Driving Under The Influence?
Yes, it is unintended. I have handles more prescription medication issues than marijuana. Nowadays, we do not see people who have been out taking illicit drugs or doing things, even the college students. More often we see someone who had been pulled over and who was just the average motorist who would not be doing anything other than taking their regular medication. I do not see the college student who had been out partying and drinking and taking drugs, and we very seldom see someone who had used heroin or cocaine or PCP, although we do come across cases like that.
The majority of the cases we see here are just regular prescription medication that a police officer decided must have been the reason the person was driving the way they were driving. Another thing we tend to see a lot is when police officers tell the person that was why they got in a car accident that must be why they got a flat tire or any other of the silly things police officers say.
Are Most People Arrested For Suspicion DWI With Prescription Drugs Surprised When This Happens?
Absolutely. I think 9 out of 10 people are surprised they had been arrested for doing nothing other than taking their regular medication. Some people are tired so they are really guilty of driving while sleepy, which would have nothing to do with the medication.
Someone who had been taking this medication all their lives, for 30 or 40 years, might have an encounter with a police officer. This officer would most likely be patrolling between 9:30 at night and 3:00 in the morning, so he would jump to the conclusion that the person was intoxicated. This happens because this is the invention of the stop that supposedly the tail light was out or they failed to signal, these would be normal traffic violations which if they happened during the day the police officer would not even bother the person with it.
They would pull the person over and ask the unsuspecting motorist whether they had had anything to drink that night. The person would say no. The officer would then ask whether they had taken any medication or any drugs. The person would say, yes, I took my drugs. The officer would then ask them to please step out of the car and it would just go from there.
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