A Lawful Prescription Is Not a Defense To DUI-Drugs

Posted by Richard Lawson | Jan 31, 2017 | 0 Comments

Georgia law not only criminalizes driving under the influence of alcohol, but it also criminalizes driving under the influence of drugs. O.C.G.A § 40-6-391(a) sets out six methods of proving that a person is driving under the influence (“DUI”) of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances.

As it relates to prescription drugs, the statute is broader than most would expect. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391(b) notes that legal entitlement to use a drug is not a defense to a DUI charge. This means that you can be charged with a DUI even if you are taking the medication(s) as lawfully prescribed by a doctor. Medications that can serve as a basis for a DUI offense include, but are not limited to, Vicodin, OxyContin, Ambien, Xanex, NyQuil, and Adderall. 

The penalties for a DUI-drugs conviction depend on your criminal history. If it is your first DUI-drugs conviction in 10 years, the Georgia law requires a sentence of a minimum of 24 hours in jail, a fine of at least $300, 12 months on probation, completion of 40 hours of community service, DUI school, and a clinical drug and alcohol evaluation. You also face a suspension of your driving privileges, potentially lasting up to one year. 

The penalties are more severe if this is your second conviction for DUI-Drugs in 10 years. In these cases, Georgia law requires a minimum of 72 hours in jail, a fine of at least $600, 12 months on probation, completion of 30 days of community service, DUI school, and a clinical drug and alcohol evaluation. With a second DUI, you face a period of “hard suspension” of your license, meaning no limited work permits are available.

If you are legally taking a drug, the State must prove that the medication rendered you incapable of driving safely. DUI-drug cases differ from DUI-alcohol cases in a few ways. Unlike alcohol, there is no agreed upon limits for impairment. Furthermore, many prescription drugs can remain in your system long after you took it and even though the effects have worn off. In fact, some medications as prescribed cause an active presence in your blood at all times. 

However, your case is not hopeless! If the officer suspected you were driving under the influence of drugs, he or she likely requested a blood or urine sample. The lab report will identify which medications were in your system, and it will also indicate whether it was within the therapeutic level. A qualified Georgia DUI Attorney can interpret these levels and potentially use it as a defense in your case. An attorney will also consider the particular medication/combination of medications, whether the medication has any impact on cognitive abilities, and whether the drug label includes a warning against operating a motor vehicle for a specific amount of time. Lab test results are just one element of your case. A DUI Attorney will also look into the circumstances leading up to the traffic stop and those surrounding the arrest.

If you have been charged with DUI – Drugs, speak with an experienced Atlanta DUI Attorney today. Atlanta DUI Attorney Richard Lawson is a former DUI Prosecutor with more than 20 years experience defending people accused of DUI throughout Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. Call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are here when you need us most.

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Richard Lawson

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