Can I Be Charged with a DUI From Prescription Medication in Utah?

Charges for driving under the influence (DUI) are most often associated with drinking and driving. Drivers can also be charged with DUIs with no alcohol in their system if they are under the influence of intoxicating drugs or medications.

DUI charges can apply to drivers who get behind the wheel after consuming any form of controlled substances. Even prescription medications may lead to DUI charges. Prescription medications can be just as intoxicating as alcohol, and the police can use symptoms of intoxication as probable cause to arrest you. You might still be charged even if the prescription medication was legally obtained and given to you by a doctor for a medical condition. Even so, our attorneys can help you defend yourself against these charges.

If you are facing DUI charges after driving under the influence of prescription medication, our Layton DUI defense attorneys can advise you on what steps to take in your case. For a free review of your case, call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287.

DUI Charges Related to Prescription Medication in Utah

While DUIs are often charged when drivers are under the influence of alcohol, drivers under the influence of any intoxicating drugs or controlled substances can also be charged. It does not matter if the substances were illegal or illicit. Even drivers impaired by prescription medications can face DUI charges in Utah.

According to the statute for intoxicated driving, Utah Code § 41-6a-502(1)(b), a driver may be charged with a DUI for driving with any drug or substance in their system to the degree that they are incapable of safely operating a vehicle. The law makes no distinction between substances that are illegal or legal. You may face DUI charges if you cannot drive safely because you took your prescription medication before getting behind the wheel. Our Salt Lake City DUI defense attorneys can help you challenge the evidence obtained by the police and hopefully avoid a conviction. If evidence of the prescription drugs is suppressed, the charges will likely be dropped or reduced.

It is important to note that only drugs or medications that impair your ability to drive may lead to DUI charges. Taking over-the-counter pain medicine that does nothing to alter your senses or perception should never get you into trouble. You should discuss the side effects of your medicine with your doctor anytime you receive a prescription so you can avoid driving if you need to.

How Are DUIs for Prescription Medication Determined in Utah?

In DUI cases involving alcohol, the police usually take a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) measurement from the driver to determine how intoxicated they are. This is often done initially through a breathalyzer test, but other forms of chemical testing like blood tests might also be used. Controlled substances and prescription drugs cannot be measured in the blood or breath the same way alcohol can, so officers must assess DUIs differently in these situations.

According to the statute above, a person can be charged with a DUI for driving under the influence of controlled substances or medications if they cannot safely operate a vehicle. When approaching a suspected DUI driver, the officer must use their best judgment to determine whether the driver is fit to drive. This includes analyzing the totality of the circumstances. For example, slurred speech, slow reflexes, and poor motor skills might lead an officer to believe a driver cannot safely operate their vehicle.

To secure a conviction, prosecutors must have evidence supporting the charges. The evidence must go beyond the probable cause of the police. For example, they may use blood samples to show there were traces of a prescription medication in your system. Our Ogden DUI defense attorneys can work to suppress and challenge this evidence. If prosecutors cannot prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, you cannot be convicted.

DUIs involving drugs or prescription medicines do not adhere to a “legal limit.” The legal limit for DUIs involving alcohol in Utah is a BAC of .05% (although it is possible to be charged with a BAC under this limit). For prescription drugs, the prosecutor must have evidence that prescription drugs were in your system and that you were too impaired to drive. There must be proof beyond law enforcement’s probable cause.

Can I Be Charged with a DUI in Utah with Prescription Medication That is Legally Prescribed to Me?

Do not confuse a prescription-drug-related DUI with other drug offenses. In drug crimes like simple possession, having a valid prescription for the substances in question may free you from criminal charges. This is not so in a DUI case. It does not matter where or how you obtain the substances in question. Even prescription medication obtained according to a valid prescription from a doctor may lead to a DUI. Our Park City Utah DUI defense attorneys can help you defend yourself against the charges, but having a valid prescription is typically not a defense.

The key to understanding how drug-related DUIs work is understanding that anything considered “mind-altering” may lead to a DUI. Even something as simple as cough syrup that makes you a little lightheaded can lead to a DUI if you consume enough of it. This is sometimes problematic for people taking new prescription medicine for the first time. If you are not fully aware of how strongly you are affected by your prescription medication, you should avoid driving. Some prescriptions also specifically say that you should not drive or operate heavy machinery after taking them.

Defending Yourself Against DUI Charges Related to Prescription Medication in Utah

There may be several ways to defend yourself against DUI charges, depending on how and why you were arrested and charged. We can argue that you were not impaired enough to affect the safety of your driving. The evidence against you must show you had prescription drugs in your system and that you were too impaired to drive. If we can show you were not too intoxicated to drive, then you cannot be convicted because no crime was committed.

We can also challenge the procedures the arresting officer used during your traffic stop. In any DUI arrest, strict procedures and protocols must be followed for the arrest to be lawful. If the officer strays from these protocols, we can suppress certain evidence. For example, if the officer stopped you for an illegal reason (like your race or ethnicity) or if there was insufficient probable cause for the stop, our Provo DUI defense attorneys can invalidate the arrest.

Similarly, we can suppress evidence of the prescription drugs. Perhaps the police searched your car and found a bottle of prescription pills. If the search was not legal, the pills can be suppressed, and prosecutors might not have any other evidence of the drugs.

Call Our Utah DUI Defense Lawyers for Help

If you were arrested in Utah for a DUI related to prescription drugs, our Riverton DUI defense attorneys can help you. Many drivers do not realize how strongly their prescriptions affect them until it is too late. Call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287 for a free case review.