A person could be charged with both being impaired by a medication and the separate charge of simply having the medication in their system.
They would have a defense to having the medication in their system if it was prescribed and if they were taking it as prescribed. However, that same person could still be convicted of a DUI for being impaired to the slightest degree because they were under the influence of that prescription medication while driving.
Sleep Driving Cases Can Be Prosecuted As DUI
People who take muscle relaxants or sleeping pills should generally not get anywhere near a vehicle. Unfortunately there have been cases involving Ambien, where the person who had taken it was sleep-driving.
There was one case in Arizona that concerned sleep-driving and whether the person could actually be prosecuted for a DUI for sleep-driving under the influence of Ambien.
I believe the Court of Appeals said yes, the person could be prosecuted even though they did not intend to drive and they had claimed they did not even have knowledge they were driving. It was only later when they woke up that they realized there was an officer there.
They had only become alert at that point and then realized the situation, and at that point they would usually still be in their pajamas.
So far the court states that someone could be convicted of the DUI based on the Ambien even though they did not realize they were driving and they were not aware of their surroundings.
Most People Arrested For DUIs Prescription Drugs Are Surprised They Were Doing Something Illegal
Most people who are arrested for prescription medication DUI are surprised they were doing something illegal. The whole point of prescription medication is to help people and to make them normalized, as opposed to making them impaired, or get them high.
Prescription medication is to allow people to better adapt to society in one way or another, so when people take their medication, they think they are doing what they are supposed to do and it is probably something they had been doing for quite a long time.
People would generally not anticipate they might be charged with a criminal offense for living their life or for being able to live their life. Arizona law, especially in regards to prescription medications, can be quite brutal and that is in part because of people who abuse their prescription medication or who break into their grandmother’s cabinet and take her prescription medications.
The laws are so broad that they can sometimes snare people who are rightfully taking their prescription medications by themselves even without the addition of alcohol or other types of drugs. It is possible for Grandma to literally get charged with DUI for simply taking her prescription medication and nothing else.
These are not bad cases to take to trial and they are not bad cases to put in front of a jury, but it would cost grandma a lot of money to hire an attorney to fight the case all the way to trial if necessary in the hope that the jury would understand and find her not guilty.
A jury might find grandma guilty even though maybe every one of those jurors could easily be arrested for DUI themselves because of the prescription medication they were taking and driving on.
Protocol Police Officers Follow When The Intoxication Is Not Caused By Alcohol
Officers would often be looking for signs and symptoms of impairment, not necessarily what the person was impaired by. They have been trained on what to look for, and they have been trained on what type of field sobriety tests to perform in order to observe signs and symptoms of impairment.
In my opinion, the field sobriety tests are unfair because they are not a true representation of impairment. I feel that no one could pass those tests unless they were a ballerina or a gymnast. The police officers would basically not really tell the person all the rules, and they would not tell the person what would be considered as a strike against them.
In reality, nearly everyone fails these tests whether they are drunk or completely sober. The officer would be looking for signs and symptoms such as bloodshot and watery eyes, an odor of alcohol, slurred speech, droopy eyelids, eyelid tremors, hand tremors, nervousness or dilated pupils.
It would not be uncommon for the officer to tell the person to stick out their tongue so they could look for the green film or raised taste buds which they have been trained to identify as a sign of possible use of marijuana or possibly some other drugs, whereas in reality, a lot of people have raised taste buds and it does not mean anything.
If the officer believed the person was impaired by alcohol, but the result came back quite low when they tested the person through the portable breath test, then the officer would not just let the person go with a warning because they were not impaired by alcohol. The officer would nonetheless arrest the person because they would suspect drugs and other medication that might be causing the impairment.
They would then let the blood test results determine what they should be charged with, so they would let the prosecutor and the court system deal with it. Officers have certain drug recognition exam experts at their disposal. These are people who are trained to look for specific signs and symptoms of impairment by drugs.
They could perform certain tests at the scene, although they would usually prefer to do it back at the police station or in the DUI van to determine whether the person was possibly impaired by drugs or medications. It would not be uncommon for someone to be charged with DUI drugs even though a drug recognition exam expert was not involved.
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