DUI and Drugs; Can You Be Charged with DUI Because of a Prescription?

In a word, yes. There are situations in which taking a prescription drug, and then driving, can result in a DUI conviction.

In Georgia, the laws against Driving while Under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs are more extensive than one would typically imagine of what being charged with a DUI would look like.

Mostly, almost anyone can tell you it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher.

Additionally, most people know that driving while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs will also result in a DUI conviction, even if their BAC is less than 0.08.

But what about a situation in which an individual is legally taking a valid prescription drug? Can that individual be charged with a DUI for simply following their doctor’s orders?

What Are Georgia’s DUI Laws?

Under Georgia state law, it is prohibited for an individual to drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle while also meeting any of the following criteria:

  • They are under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.
  • They are under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.
  • They are under the intentional influence of any glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.
  • They are under the combined influence of any two or more of the substances specified in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this subsection to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.
  • The person’s alcohol concentration is 0.08 grams or more at any time within three hours after such driving or being in actual physical control from alcohol consumed before such driving or being in actual physical control ended.
  • There is any amount of marijuana or a controlled substance, as defined in Code Section 16-13-21, present in the person’s blood or urine, or both, including the metabolites and derivatives of each or both without regard to whether or not any alcohol is present in the person’s breath or blood.

What Are Georgia’s DUI Laws as it Relates to Prescription Drugs?

An individual can can be charged with a DUI under Georgia DUI laws when taking prescription drugs under the following circumstances:

  • They are under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive, or
  • They are under the combined influence of any two or more of the substances specified in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this subsection to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive.

Ultimately, if a prescription drug affects an individual’s ability to think, reason, respond, or otherwise impairs their conduct such to a degree that it is unsafe to drive, they can be charged with a DUI if caught driving after taking their prescribed medication.

While a prescribed medication may be safe to take and then drive, bear in mind that some medications, when combined with alcohol, may not be safe. For example, taking a prescribed medication and then having a glass of wine can lead to unsafe driving.

It should also be known, that if an individual takes their prescription and then is too impaired to safely drive, the fact it was a prescription will not be considered a valid defense to a DUI charge.

Specifically, the Georgia statute says, “The fact that any person charged with violating this Code section is or has been legally entitled to use a drug shall not constitute a defense against any charge of violating this Code section.”

Regardless if the medication is prescribed, the individual will be held accountable in the same way as if they were under the influence of any illegal or controlled substance.

There are, however, some exceptions to this rule.

When is a Prescription Medication Considered a Valid DUI Defense?

Typically, if an individual is found to have any amount of illegal or controlled substances in their blood, it will lead to a DUI charge.

However, there is a provision in the Georgia law code section 16-13-21, that can be considered a valid defense to the DUI charge.

For example, if a driver is found to have any amount of marijuana, or controlled substance in their blood and/or urine, including the metabolites and derivatives of each or both, but has been prescribed a medication containing these substances, and it has not impaired their ability to drive safely. Then this can be considered a valid defense to the criminal charge of DUI.

In contrast, if an individual has been found to have a substance such as cocaine in their system, and seemingly is not impaired, they may still be charged with a DUI. However, an individual with a valid prescription containing chemicals like those found in cocaine and is not impaired to drive safely, may not be charged or found guilty of DUI.

What Are the Consequences for a Prescription Drug DUI?

The consequences are the exact same for any other type of DUI. If someone pleads guilty or is found to be guilty and convicted at trial for a prescription drug DUI, they will face fines, potential jail time, probation, a chemical use assessment, and/or educational programs.

Are You Facing Prescription Drug DUI Charges? Call Our Skilled Decatur DUI Defense Lawyers Today!

If you are facing DUI charges due to prescription drug use, the experienced DUI defense lawyers at SHElaw Firm can help. Call us at 470-378-1162 24/7 and set up a consultation today! Shequel Ross has years of experience with dismissals, or reduced charges. SHE Wins!

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