When you think of driving while impaired (DWI), the first thing that likely springs to mind is driving drunk or under the influence of illegal drugs. However, using legally prescribed prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications can also lead to DWI charges. Basically, any substance that impairs your ability to drive is fair game for a DWI arrest.
You are not alone if you have overlooked this possibility. In fact, only 28% of drivers think that driving under the influence of prescription drugs is a serious threat. Do not be mistaken. Drugs of all types can harm your ability to drive safely.
Side effects can impact your driving skills
You have probably seen prescription warning labels cautioning against using heavy machinery, including driving an automobile. Warnings like these exist because many prescription drugs can have several side effects, including:
- Blurred vision
- Inability to focus
You can see how any of the above side effects can impact your ability to safely operate a car. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications have possible side effects. Medications affect people in different ways. That is why it is important to refrain from driving until you know how your body reacts to a medicine.
How can the police prove I was impaired?
Unlike drunk driving charges, which are mostly based on blood alcohol concentration measurements, DWI charges involving legal medications are much more subjective. An arresting officer only needs to believe that your ability to operate motor vehicle was significantly impaired. The police may strengthen their claim by dashboard and body camera footage, as well as asking you to perform field sobriety tests.
This does not mean that your only defense is your word against the officer’s word. You may be able to challenge the traffic stop on constitutional grounds or to raise other defenses. Seeking advice from someone who understands criminal defense law can help you explore all your available legal options.
Remember, you may not be safe to drive even if you are “sober”
You should always remember that there are numerous things which can impair your ability to drive, not just illegal drugs and alcohol. Be aware of how your body reacts to legal medications and be aware of your rights if you find yourself charged with a DWI.