Most anti-depressants have no impairing effects. Lately however, law enforcement agencies across the country are putting a new emphasis on arresting people for DUI when they get pulled over for a traffic infraction like speeding.
The prosecution is going to have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the anti-depressant caused impairment that affected your driving. The State usually has trained expert witnesses that work for the government, and it is their job to give this kind of testimony.
As the defendant, you have no burden to prove anything, but as a practical reality, if you do not have your own expert witness to refute that testimony, the jurors or judge might well believe it. Although I have a hunch if any of your jurors or the judge ever took anti-depressants they would think the testimony of the State expert is hogwash.
If you are convicted of DUI, there will be jail time to serve and the amount depends upon any aggravating factors that the judge might find in the facts of your case.
Find a good DUI lawyer to fight the case.
This answer is my personal opinion, offered for informational purposes only. It is not a legal opinion, nor is it legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship with anyone reading it.
There are three different methods of proving "impaired driving" in North Carolina:
1. BrAC or BAC reading of .08 or higher; and/or
2. Appreciable Impairment as described by witnesses for the State; and/or
3. Existence of Metabolites of certain controlled substances. (SEE BELOW FOR STATUTORY DEFINITION UNDER NCGS 20-138.1)
The accused may not be actually "impaired" to be convicted of Impaired Driving. DWI may be proven even in instances where the active ingredient is NOT present in the sample (normally blood) and only the remaining "metabolite" shows in testing.
DWI law in North Carolina is VERY complicated. . .and at times frustrating. One need not "intend" to drive while impaired. Although not often seen, legally prescribed medications can present problems.
For example, Alprazolam is commonly used to treat anxiety disorders and panic disorder (sudden, unexpected attacks of extreme fear and worry about these attacks). Alprazolam is in a class of medications called benzodiazepines. It works by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain.
Alprazolam may cause side effects. As it pertains to Driving While Impaired DWI they may include:
• difficulty concentrating
• dry mouth
• joint pain
• seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist (hallucinating)
• yellowing of the skin or eyes
• memory problems
• problems with speech
• problems with coordination or balance
You may benefit from reviewing one of our North Carolina DWI - Quick Reference Guides (the 2012 edition is not yet available on digital form) for GENERAL background information. There have been changes in the law since said version; yet, the general concepts of law pertaining to "impairment" and "impairing substances" is set forth therein.
You should retain an experienced DWI attorney as soon as possible. In many instances the consultation is both free and confidential.
North Carolina DWI Defense
See also: NCGS 20-138.1
§ 20‑138.1. Impaired driving.
(a) Offense. – A person commits the offense of impaired driving if he drives any vehicle upon any highway, any street, or any public vehicular area within this State:
(1) While under the influence of an impairing substance; or
(2) After having consumed sufficient alcohol that he has, at any relevant time after the driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. The results of a chemical analysis shall be deemed sufficient evidence to prove a person's alcohol concentration; or
(3) With any amount of a Schedule I controlled substance, as listed in G.S. 90‑89, or its metabolites in his blood or urine.
(a1) A person who has submitted to a chemical analysis of a blood sample, pursuant to G.S. 20‑139.1(d), may use the result in rebuttal as evidence that the person did not have, at a relevant time after driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
(b) Defense Precluded. – The fact that a person charged with violating this section is or has been legally entitled to use alcohol or a drug is not a defense to a charge under this section.
(b1) Defense Allowed. – Nothing in this section shall preclude a person from asserting that a chemical analysis result is inadmissible pursuant to G.S. 20‑139.1(b2).
(c) Pleading. – In any prosecution for impaired driving, the pleading is sufficient if it states the time and place of the alleged offense in the usual form and charges that the defendant drove a vehicle on a highway or public vehicular area while subject to an impairing substance.
(d) Sentencing Hearing and Punishment. – Impaired driving as defined in this section is a misdemeanor. Upon conviction of a defendant of impaired driving, the presiding judge shall hold a sentencing hearing and impose
SEE LINK BELOW FOR COMPLETE STATUTORY DEFINITION
NOTE: Although a response is provided to the specific question, there may be other facts and law relevant to the issue. The questioner should not base any decision on the answer and is specifically advised no client-lawyer relationship has been established. Put simply, seek the advice of competent counsel without delay to discuss the particular aspects of the case, factual scenario and historical background. NOTE: There may be other facts and law relevant to the issue. Readers should not base any decision on the;information provided herein and are specifically advised no client-lawyer relationship has been established. Put simply, seek the advice of competent counsel without delay to discuss the particular aspects of the case, factual scenario and historical background WHY: The content herein is provided for educational purposes and should not be inferred as applying only to DWI / DUI criminal defense. In fact, it may be equally relevant to claims of personal injury involving accidents and the consumption of alcohol or more simply, to the daily practice of law. Bill Powers lectures on such issues on a regular basis with the intent to educate, to be fair, to be accurate and to encourage, open, honest and scientific discussion on the subject. Attorney Bill Powers did NOT represent the Defendant in the particular cause of action.
If you are considered a Level 5 offender under the DWI laws (the least serious) then you are looking at 24 hours of community service (or 24 hours in jail), a suspended driver license for 12 months, costs and fines, and increased insurance rates in the future (not to mention having a criminal record and some public humiliation).
Definitely seek a qualified attorney to handle this matter to see if there is some way to get the charges dismissed (through a suppression hearing or trial). Usually DAs will never dismiss a DWI charge on their own. You have to fight it.
For informational purposes only. This comment is not intended to be legal advice.