Prescription Drugs and DUI Regulations in Arizona
While many people believe that the term DUI refers solely to drinking alcohol, illegal drugs and pharmaceutical substances can also contribute to such charges. People who use or abuse prescription drugs may face charges under prescription drugs and DUI regulations in Arizona. This will happen in the case of medications that lead to impairment and may jeopardize the well-being of the driver, as well as of the general public.
Prescription Drugs and DUI Regulations
Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3401 defines a prescription drug as a substance that could produce a potentially dangerous/toxic effect and that is to be used only under medical guidance and supervision. The definition also focuses on the fact that prescription drugs come with a federal warning on the label.
Arizona Revised Statutes 28-1381 states that it is illegal to operate a vehicle while impaired to the slightest degree. Many prescription medications could lead to impairment as a side effect of their use or abuse.
These laws apply to medications that have been obtained via a doctor’s prescription and to medications used illegally. If the substance or its metabolites have been found in the body of the vehicle operator via a blood test, that individual will face DUI charges.
Unlike alcohol, the presence of prescription drugs in the bloodstream is not dose-dependent when it comes to DUI charges. Even if the medication was taken a few days ago and there are only traces in the bloodstream of the driver, there is still some risk of a DUI conviction.
Some of the prescription drug types that often contribute to DUI charges in Arizona include anti-anxiety medications and pharmaceuticals for the treatment of sleep disorders. People who take Vicodin, Percocet, codeine and valium will also have to be careful.
Identification and Testing
A drug test doesn’t provide information about whether a driver has been impaired at the time of the arrest. This is why DUI charges involving prescription drugs can be quite tricky.
Because drugs affect different people in different ways, the court will often be left with the testimony of a police officer to make a decision. The information such a testimony contains could be partial or biased.
To overcome such shortcomings, Arizona relies on drug recognition experts – the so-called DREs. These officers undergo training for the purpose of recognizing drug/medication abuse and an eventual impairment.
DREs will often be asked to participate in DUI investigations that involve illegal drugs and prescription medications. The job of the DRE in such situations will be to perform various tests for the purpose of determining whether the driver was impaired because of a prescription drug.
This approach can also be problematic. Regardless of their training, DREs can still be biased. On occasions, the certification programs will lack comprehensiveness, which can lead to false charges and allegations.
The presence of prescription medication metabolites in the system of a driver is never a good thing. Still, an experienced DUI attorney that has taken a thorough look at the substances may be capable of coming up with an adequate defense scenario.
Usually, attorneys will try to counter the arguments of the investigators, establishing the fact that their client was not impaired due to the use of a prescription medication. Medical statements and lists featuring the drug’s potential side effects will be presented as evidence.
Insufficient evidence and investigative mistakes are also going to be targeted as a part of the defense. Procedural failures and omissions could render the respective piece of evidence unusable. In such circumstances, the prosecution will have to come up with an alternative way for the establishment of the driver’s impairment.
If you have been taken in custody following a police stop that resulted in DUI charges, call your Arizona DUI attorney immediately. Refrain from speaking to the investigators until you get professional information about the best way to act in the coming hours.