What does Wa state considered impairment on a dui for prescriped medications.

Asked over 3 years ago - Lynnwood, WA

My blood test showed oxycodone at 0.03 mg/L, and my anti-depressant levels at 0.17 mg/L. Are these considered excessive? At arraignment the judge did not have the results of the blood test in front of her and there was no prosecutor present so the PD advised to plead not guilty since there was no opportunity to discuss a lower charge or dismissal with the prosecutor. I feel like I'm being punished for having chronic illnesses; no one ever mentioned prescribed meds could be considered as a crime; I assumed that if a dr. prescrbed them, it was ok to drive once you got use to them. I have been taking them for many years. The stickers on the bottles just say not to use heavy equipment until you know how you react to the drug. Shouldn't the doctor or pharmacy be required to explain consequences

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Lyliane S Couture

    Pro

    Contributor Level 8

    Answered . You need to get an attorney. The State needs to show you were impaired. If you did Field sobriety tests those tests will be used against you to show you were impaired. If you were driving poorly they will use your driving against you. This is going to be a tough case, your going to need to hire an expert witness or doctor to tell the jury that you were not impaired at those levels. This is going to be a case that demands experience defending drug DUIs, which is how the state is going to clasiffy your case. If you pled guilty you'll be subject to license suspension, and drug treatment. You need to get an attorney and protect your rights.

  2. Noah E. Weil

    Contributor Level 12

    Answered . Ms. Couture is correct. A DUI is a very serious charge, and you need an attorney to navigate the process and achieve the best possible outcome.

    The DUI statute has two ways someone can be charged: having a .08 or higher BAC, or the person being "under the influence" of drugs and/or alcohol while driving. That influence is a very grey area, hence the need for experts to explain what certain drugs will do in a person's body.

    It's very possible you do have good defenses to the charge, however only an attorney will be able to review the reports and consult with the experts to know for sure. This is something you should take very seriously. Good luck.

    If and until you and I sign an Agreement for Legal Services, I am not your attorney. These answers are provided... more
  3. Scott Weymouth Lawrence

    Pro

    Contributor Level 17

    Answered . Prescription drug DUIs are actually fairly common and many of the people charged are surprised to learn that driving after taking drugs (even exactly as prescribed) can result in a DUI charge. The law says it is illegal to drive if your ability to drive is impaired by drugs or alcohol. The law makes no distinction between prescribed and non-prescribed drugs.

    Unlike alcohol (with "per se" impairment at 0.08%) there are no levels associated with any particular drug. To show impairment the State must prove that your ability to drive was affected "to an appreciable degree." There is a long-winded legal definition of this, but in layman's terms it probably means "did the drug impeded your ability to drive?"

    The therapeutic range for oxycodone is 0.01mg-0.10mg per Liter. Being within this range may indicate that you are taking the medication as prescribed, but that does not necessarily mean your ability to drive is not affected. It is impossible to answer the question about your "anti-depressant" as there are many different kinds and the effects of and therapeutic doses are all different (please don't post what kind on a public forum). Different people react differently to drugs and the amount of time you have had to adapt to your dosage level are relevant to impairment. The State will introduce evidence of likely impairment through witnesses from the Washington State Toxicology Lab. You will need expert witness of your own if you want to have any realistic chance of fighting the charge.

    It is quite possible that your doctor or pharmacist should have explained the possible affects on your ability to drive if any. That doesn't create an absolute defense to the charge, but it may be a mitigating factor. It may also help you at trial. However, you should be aware that juries typically don't like drugged drivers and there is a lot of work that will need to go into educating the jury about the effects of drugs.

    I see you have asked a number of questions and I would like to try to answer those in this response rather than respond to each post separately. You should ALWAYS plead not guilty to a DUI at arraignment. These cases are way to complicated to determine all of your defenses and your options in a brief conversation or a quick review of the reports. If the prosecutor was there that would not change. I have yet to see a prosecutor drop a DUI charge at arraignment because someone showed up and talked them out of it. On the other hand, you can talk your way into a lot more trouble very quickly. You may eventually be able to resolve your case with a reduced charge or dismissal, but that is not going to happen fast. It will probably take a lot of work from your attorney to get there. Always thoroughly investigate your case before pleading guilty to any criminal charge!

    Many people are also surprised to see how much trouble the roadside tests can get you in. No one ever passes them and the legal system puts a lot of emphasis on them. There are serious concerns about applying these test to drug cases and you need an attorney that understands these issues. (For those of you reading this for information only. The roadside gymnastics are a voluntary test. You don't have to take them and you should not take them under any circumstances.)

    As far as a public defender goes. The advice on the other answer was good. Meet with your public defender and treat it as an interview. If you are not comfortable that his person will represent you as vigorously as you want then start interviewing private attorneys. There is a wide range of quality in public defenders and private attorneys alike. Price should be a secondary concern to the ability to win your case. You may have to interview a lot of attorneys before you find one you can afford that also has the experience needed to represent you on this type of case.

    The answer provided is for educational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-... more

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