I was wrongfully arrested in WA for DUI of my doctor-Rx'ed meds, all of which I'm allowed to take while driving. Please help me!

Asked over 2 years ago - Seattle, WA

This is an extremely long story, but I'll try to keep it concise. Basically, 18 months ago, I was doing 55 mph in a 50 mph zone. A few hours prior (4-5), I had taken the prescribed amount of Adderall and Xanax prescribed to me by my psychiatrist. In addition, my doctor, pharmacist, and pill bottle all say that it's safe to drive on these medications once you know how they effect you. Since the initial arrest, my attorney has managed to convince the prosecutor to drop the DUI charges and pursue a deferred prosecution due to mental illness instead. However, in order to get this expunged from my record, I have to attend group/individual therapy 4x weekly, and I really hate having to jump through all the hoops. I'm considering going for a Neg I, because I want a life outside of therapy, etc.

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Scott Weymouth Lawrence

    Pro

    Contributor Level 18

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . First of all, to be very clear, the following is not legal advice on how you should proceed in your case. You have an attorney for that purpose. Instead, I would like to offer you some information that I think may be helpful.

    You can be charged with DUI after taking any drug, prescription or not, if it may affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Whether or not you are actually affected is usually a question of fact for a jury. The level of drugs in your system and adaptation to those levels are relevant in how you were affected. Both of the drugs you mention can have severe impairing effects. People also tend to adjust after time and the effects are lessened significantly over time.

    All this means that it is not a clear cut issue whether or not your driving was affected by these drugs at the time. Police and prosecutors tend to err on the side of guilt and prosecute drug DUIs without much discretion.

    Remember, that the prosecution has to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. To establish the drugs effects they will use the toxicology reports and witnesses from the State Tox Lab. To show impairment they will use the officers observations: driving, admissions, physical appearance/demeanor, field sobriety tests, drug recognition examinations and the like.

    You have the option of having your doctor testify that he or she provided you instructions that it should be okay to drive and your own toxicologist to testify on the likely effects. Sometimes presenting the opinions and intended testimony of your experts is enough to get the charges dismissed or significantly reduced. If not, their testimony still may be very helpful in counteracting the prosecution's witnesses at motions and trial.

    The choice between Negligent Driving in the First Degree, a Deferred Prosecution and trial is something you need to discuss with your attorney until you are crystal clear on the options and risks. Be aware that a Deferred Prosecution is not simply a dismissal. It may result in the case being closed in five years if you complete all of the requirements, but their are a lot of requirements to fulfill. A Deferred Prosecution usually involves the following:

    Two years of treatment (substance, mental health or both),
    Five years of probation,
    Two years Interlock Ignition Device (even if it is a drug only DUI),
    Several thousand dollars in costs (+ treatment costs),
    and more.

    If you do not complete the program you will be automatically convicted of DUI, sentenced and the 5 years will start over again. The decision to enter a Deferred Prosecution is not one to be taken lightly. For many people it makes more sense to take the chance of being convicted of DUI at trial, especially if it is a first offense.

  2. Jonathan Dichter

    Pro

    Contributor Level 13

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . First of all - you're missing some important information.

    1) Although your doctor and pharmacist say it's okay to drive on medication - the law says that if the medication affects your abilities to drive TO ANY DEGREE, it's a DUI. Even if they're legal medication.

    2) Your charges are not being dropped. Pursuing a deferred prosecution is telling the court that you committed the DUI, but did so because of your mental health issues. If you complete the terms, the case is THEN dismissed. But if you fail to do so, you end up with the DUI.

    If you're not sure what your options are, you should consult your attorney, or if you feel you're being represented poorly, you should consult another attorney. Feel free to call me anytime.

    Every case is different, and this is not intended to be anything other than helpful information. This in no way... more
  3. Brian Christopher Jordan

    Contributor Level 11

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . First and foremost, you need to have a candid discussion with your attorney about what your options and goals are, because it sounds like you are on different pages. You have to weigh out the various outcomes and really decide what is in your best interest. That might sound vague, but it sounds like you really need to start there first.

  4. James C Forslund

    Contributor Level 19

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Rely on your attorney's advice.

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