Most people understand that consuming alcohol before driving can result in DUI charges. However, there is some confusion about how DUI charges work when based on drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol.

If one consumes an illegal drug, charges can ensue if chemical testing reveals any amount of it in one’s system, even if there is no evidence the substance affected one’s driving. In such a case, providing proof one was legally entitled to take the drug can serve to defend against these charges.

Legal prescriptions can also lead to DUI

However, even taking legally prescribed medication as per your doctor’s instructions can lead to DUI charges if the medicine impaired your ability to drive safely. To get a conviction, prosecutors will have to show both the presence of the drug in your system and evidence of unsafe driving.

Some types of medicines to watch out for

Many common types of prescription and over-the-counter medicines can produce side effects that can prevent you from driving safely. The label on the medication will often list common effects such as drowsiness or dizziness and warn you to avoid operating machinery after taking the drug; this warning includes driving a car. Your doctor or pharmacist may also discuss likely side effects.

Common prescription culprits include painkillers, sleeping medications and anti-anxiety drugs. Over-the-counter medications for colds and coughs can also cause drowsiness, lack of coordination or dizziness.

Individual reactions can vary

It is also important to bear in mind that, due to various factors, a particular person can experience atypical effects. You may avoid a common side effect or, conversely, experience one most people do not. For this reason, when starting a new medication, it is wise to refrain from driving until you know how it affects you specifically. The same applies if you start a new dosage, switch to a different manufacturer or begin a new combination of meds.

Dealing with prescription DUI charges

If you face prescription drug DUI charges, a conviction can result in the same penalties as a standard DUI. Discussing your case with an experienced attorney can help you understand your options.