Millions of Americans rely on their prescription medications to treat ailments and disease. If you are caught driving under the influence of either a prescription medication or an illegal drug you can be convicted of DUI.
Everyone knows that drinking and driving do not mix. What many people are not aware of is the fact that they can be criminally prosecuted for driving under the influence of drugs too. For obvious reasons, driving while under the influence of illicit drugs such as cocaine, PCP, heroine, and methamphetamines is dangerous since these drugs have a significant effect on the human body. What about perfectly legal over the counter medications and prescription medications?
People can be equally prosecuted for driving under the influence of both legal and illegal drugs. As long as these drugs affect the way you drive and operate a motor vehicle, you can be charged with DUI/Drugs and face virtually the same penalties as a regular DUI conviction.
With advances in medical technology, prescription drug use has reached all new heights. According to data released by the Department of Health and Human Services, more than half of all American’s take at least one prescription drug and one in six American’s take three or more medications.
Prescription drug use has been on the rise for all age groups; for instance, five out of six people over 65 take at least one medication and nearly half of senior citizens are on three or more medications.
Antidepressant use tripled between 1988-1994 and 1999-2000. Ten percent of American women are on antidepressants and four percent of men are now on them. According to a study on the use of prescription drugs in the United States the number of people with at least one prescription rose from 67% to 74% between 2000 and 2006.
Considering how nearly three-fourths of the population is on at least one medication, it’s safe to assume that many Washington residents will drive while on their medication at some point in time. Unfortunately, prescription drug use has grown at such a fast pace that law enforcement is only beginning to learn about the effects of medication on people’s driving ability.
Prescription medications and DUI are a newer area of law. As time goes by, Washington State is becoming more aggressive about prosecuting those who are caught driving while under the influence of drugs. Law enforcement officers are now undergoing specialized training to help them evaluate suspects who they believe are driving under the influence of drugs. They are called Drug Recognition Experts in the field of law enforcement.
If you are pulled over by the Washington State Patrol or another police department, you could be arrested for DUI due to illegal or legal drug use, pursuant to RCW 46.61.502. You could even be prosecuted for driving under the influence of a prescribed medication. This can be extremely frightening considering the fact that you probably didn’t even know you were breaking the law.
A conviction for a drug DUI carries a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine. The mandatory minimum sentence if this is your first offense is one day in jail and a $350 fine plus court fees and assessments, often totaling over $1000. This is the least restrictive sentence a judge can order, but, the judge has discretion to impose anything up to the maximum sentence. Additionally, the Department of Licensing will suspend your license for at least 90 days, require high-risk insurance for three years, and impose between a one-year and ten-year ignition interlock restriction. It is essential that you speak to an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. There are steps that your lawyer can take that may help you avoid a DUI conviction altogether. There is no time to waste so contact an experienced DUI defense attorney today!