Written by attorney Jose Luis Calvo

Florida DUI Convictions & Controlled Substances

As the numbers of alcohol-related DUI arrests decline, the number of DUI arrests for driving under the influence of drugs continues to rise. Many people are unaware they can get arrested for driving under the influence of their lawfully prescribed medications.

Thanks to state and federal anti-drinking and driving campaigns, the number of alcohol-related DUI arrests has decreased in recent years while the number of drug-related DUI’s has continued to rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over the last 10 years, the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription medication within the past month rose from 44% to 48%, and the use of two or more drugs rose from 25% to 31%, and the use of five or more drugs increased from 6% to 11%. (CDC)

What’s more, the CDC reports that from 2007 to 2008, 1 out of every 5 children aged 9 and 9 out of 10 Americans had reported using at least one prescription drug in the past month. According to the CDC, the most commonly used drugs included: asthma medications for children, central nervous system stimulants for teens, and antidepressants for middle-aged adults.

The CDC reports that from 2007 to 2008, nearly half (48%) of Americans used a prescription medication within the past month and in older Americans aged 60 and over, that number jumped to 76%. The CDC also says that those Americans with health insurance were nearly twice as likely to have used at least one prescription in the past month as compared to those who don’t have health insurance coverage. Therefore, as ObamaCare provides affordable health insurance to 44 million uninsured Americans in the upcoming years, the number of Americans on prescription medications will likely increase dramatically.

So, what does affordable health insurance have to do with a Florida DUI? Under Section 316.196 of the 2012 Florida Statutes, a person is guilty of driving under the influence or being in “actual physical control" of a vehicle when they are under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in Section 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893, and they are affected to the extent that their normal faculties are impaired. A lot of people are familiar with driving under the influence as it pertains to alcohol, but most people have no idea what kind of trouble they can get into if they drive under the influence of controlled substances, both legal and illegal. As health insurance becomes more affordable, Americans need to be made aware of the consequences of driving under the influence of any controlled substance, even lawfully prescribed medications.

Under Section 877.111 of the Florida Statutes, it’s illegal to drive under the influence of any compound or chemical containing toluol, hexane, trichloroethylene, acetone, toluene, ethyl acetate, isopropanol, nitrous oxide, alkyl nitrites, or any similar substance that disturbs the auditory, or visual or mental process.

Under Section 893.02 of the Florida Statues, there is a long list of controlled substances; “controlled substances" under Florida law refers to any substance that is named or described in Schedules I-V of §893.03, which is the Section that controls the possession, manufacture, distribution and administration of those drugs. Schedule I substances are the most severe because of their potential for addiction and abuse.

While the list is quite extensive, some of the more commonly known controlled substances include: codeine methylbromide, heroin, morphine, cannabis, mescaline, peyote, GHB, opium, cocaine, methadone, methamphetamine, testosterone, Dronabinol (synthetic THC), and many more.

To sum it up, anyone can be arrested and convicted of DUI if they are caught driving under the influence of a controlled substance, providing it can be proven that the drug, or combination of drugs and alcohol impaired their ability to drive. In Florida, the penalties for a first DUI conviction include fines ranging from $500 to $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail.

Because prescription drug use has increased so quickly over the past decade, this is still a relatively new area of law. Unlike an alcohol-related DUI where the effects of alcohol have been scientifically tested to the point where it has become criminalized to operate a motor vehicle with .08% or more blood alcohol level, such scientific testing has yet to be completed on all of the controlled substances, and such scientific testing will be an exhaustive undertaking.

A person can be arrested for DUI if it has been determined that their driving abilities have been impaired by alcohol or any controlled substance. Certain drugs depress the central nervous system and slow down the driver’s reaction time by causing drowsiness, and some of these include Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal, Ativan, Halcion, Librium, Valium, chloral hydrate, Buspar, and Ambien. Especially when depressants are taken in excess, they can lead to confusion, dizziness, impaired judgment and loss of motor coordination, which can be deadly when the person gets behind the wheel. If you have been arrested after driving under the influence of an illegal drug or any one of these prescription medications, it would be in your best interests to speak with a seasoned defense attorney to discuss all of your options and defense strategies.

Additional resources provided by the author

Calvo & Calvo is a Fort Myers, Florida DUI defense law firm. The attorneys at the firm handle all types of DUI cases including: DUI & drugs, DMV hearings, felony DUIs, out of state DUIs, Underage DUIs and many more. Attorney Jose L. Calvo is a former prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney. His wife, attorney Katheryn Elizabeth Smith Calvo is one of only seven attorneys in the Fort Myers area that is Board Certified in Criminal Trial Law, thus making her an expert in the field. Together, the husband and wife team is powerful when negotiating and when at trial. To contact an attorney from the firm, please call (800) 614-5138 or visit their website online at

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