Prescription Drugs and DUI

Regardless of you not having had any alcohol to drink, it is entirely possible to be arrested and convicted of DUI if police claim you were driving under the influence of prescription drugs. This is just as serious of a charge as if you were drunk.

Even if you have a valid doctor’s prescription for the drugs, this is not an automatic defense to a charge of driving under the influence of prescription drugs.

A charge for driving under the influence (DUI) is a legal concern that comes up with an unfortunate degree of frequency in Nevada.  While a DUI is most often associated with driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence of prescription drugs can be very dangerous as well and can lead to serious consequences that all Nevada drivers should fully understand.

The Medication Myth: A Legal Prescription is Not Permission

The legal ramifications of being charged with a DUI while under the influence of a prescription medication often seem to be misunderstood. The most common misconception is the belief that if you have been legally prescribed a medication, you will be held less responsible if that medication affects your ability to drive than you would be if you were driving while impaired by alcohol.

The Reality of a Prescription Drug DUI

The state of Nevada views any instance in which a driver operates a motor vehicle after ingesting a prescription drug that will impair their driving ability as a crime on level with driving while impaired by alcohol intoxication. Just because a drug has been legally prescribed to you to treat a legitimate issue does not give you permission to use it indiscriminately when there are side effects that could impair your ability to drive. Simply put, the issue is not that you have a prescription, but that you made the decision to drive while under the influence of the prescription.

Some of the most commonly prescribed drugs that are known to impair driving ability are pain medications, some forms of antidepressants and sedatives meant to treat sleep disorders, although even some decongestants and antihistamines can cause impairment if taken at a high dosage. These are a few examples of drugs that are known to impair a driver’s concentration, cloud their judgment, slow down motor skills, and decrease alertness:

●      Ambien or Lunesta

●      Valium

●      Codeine

●      Hydrocodone/Oxycodone

●      Xanax

●      Percocet

●      Lortab

●      Vicodin

●      Oxycontin

For the sake of even further clarity regarding Nevada’s stance on DUIs, the official law states: “It is is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of a controlled substance or under the combined influence of intoxicating liquor and a controlled substance; or inhales, ingests, applies or otherwise uses any chemical, poison or organic solvent, or any compound or combination of any of these, to a degree which renders the person incapable of safely driving or exercising actual physical control of a vehicle, to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle on the highway or on premises to which the public has access.”

Prescription Drug DUI Procedures

When you are pulled over by an officer who has reason to suspect that you are impaired by any substance, you’ll be asked to perform a field sobriety test and a breathalyzer test. While you are not required to take either of these tests, if you submit to them and pass or refuse, but continue to act in a manner that causes suspicion of drug impairment, the officer who pulled you over may involve another officer who has been trained in what is called drug recognition evaluation (or DRE).

If the decision is made to arrest you for a suspected DUI, at that point Nevada law requires you to submit to a blood test, and in some cases, both blood and urine tests. The implied consent rules in Nevada mean that your refusal to submit to these tests can be used as evidence against you if your case goes to trial.

Unlike in cases where a DUI arrest is made for alcohol intoxication, in which your driver’s license is confiscated immediately, your license will not be suspended for a suspected prescription drug DUI until the test results officially come back as positive for drugs.

Penalties for Prescription Drug DUIs

First Offense

If this is your first DUI offense, the penalties are identical to those someone charged with a DUI for alcohol would receive. This is a misdemeanor offense, and the penalties are:

●      2 days to 6 months in jail, though this can sometimes be substituted for community service hours instead.

●      Mandatory participation in the Nevada DUI school and a victim impact panel meeting sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, both of which you will cover the cost of personally.

●      Court costs and fines, usually ranging from $400 to $1,000 or more.

●      90-day driver’s license suspension (with the possible option for a restricted license after 45 days).

Second Offense

If your second offense is within 7 years following your first offense, the penalties are as follows:

●      From 10 days to 6 months in jail, which in some cases can be substituted by going through the Nevada Misdemeanor DUI Court drug abuse treatment program.

●      Mandatory participation in a victim impact panel and a drug dependency evaluation, for which you will cover the cost personally.

●      Court costs and fines ranging from $750 to $1,000 or more.

●      1-year suspension of your driver’s license.

Third Offense

If your third offense occurs within 7 years following your first offense, it becomes a felony charge and the severity of the penalties increase significantly:

●      From 1 to 6 years in prison, with the possibility of attending the Nevada Felony DUI Court drug abuse treatment program for some cases.

●      Mandatory participation in a victim impact panel and a drug dependency evaluation, for which you will cover the cost personally.

●      Court costs and fines ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 or more.

●      3-year suspension of your driver’s license.

DUIs That Result in Injury or Death

Occurring on the first or second offense, the penalties are:

●      From 2 to 20 years in prison and court fee and fines ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 or more.

If a DUI that results in a fatality has been preceded by three or more prior convicted DUI charges, the crime will be considered a vehicular homicide, which comes with a prison term of 25 years to life, with the possibility of parole after 10 years for either.

While crimes of this nature are very serious and are treated as such by the state of Nevada, there are instances in which circumstances have caused the appearance of a prescription drug DUI that can be proven as erroneous. If you have been charged with a DUI while taking prescription medication and believe you have a case, we may be able to help. Please contact our offices today to speak with an attorney experienced in Nevada’s DUI laws.

Las Vegas Lawyer for Prescription Drugs and DUI

If you have been charged with driving while under the influence of prescription drugs, it is imperative that you seek legal representation as soon as possible. Michael Pariente and John G. Watkins is an extremely qualified DUI defense team in Las Vegas who will take a conscientious approach to your case and ensure that all legal avenues are explored.

Pariente Law Firm, P.C. represents individuals who have been arresting for alleged drunk driving in Las Vegas, Clark County, Henderson, Paradise, Boulder City, and the surrounding areas. Contact Michael Pariente today at (702) 966-5310 so that he can start going over the facts of your case and creating a strong defense.

 

Prescription Drugs and DUI in Nevada

You can be charged with DUI if you have driven after taking prescription drugs under NRS 484C.110, the same law that covers driving while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.

If convicted of a DUI based on usage of prescription drugs, you face the same jail time, fines, and revocation of your driver’s license as you would for a DUI involving alcohol or illegal drugs. Jail time ranges from a maximum of 6 months for a first offense with no aggravating circumstances to up to 20 years in prison if a serious injury or death is blamed on your driving after taking prescription drugs.

Many prescription medicines can result in a DUI charge if you are accused of driving under the influence of them, including—but not limited to:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax);
  • Ambien;
  • Diazepam (Valium);
  • Vicodin;
  • Percocet;
  • Adderall;
  • Seconal;
  • Quaaludes;
  • Morphine;
  • Suboxone;
  • Methadone;
  • Atavan;
  • Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB);
  • Soma;
  • Klonopin;
  • Lortab;
  • Lorcet;
  • Codeine;
  • Fentanyl;
  • Lunesta;
  • Ritalin;
  • Darvocet;
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin); or
  • Prozac.

Even if you have a valid prescription for the medicine, you can still be arrested and convicted. Having a prescription makes no difference when it comes to your DUI trial.

However, if you do not have a valid prescription for the drugs, you may face additional charges such as unlawful possession (NRS 453.336) or even unlawful possession for sale (NRS 453.338) of prescription drugs.

 

Defenses to Prescription Drug DUI Charges in Clark County

Some defenses may be available to you if you are charged with driving under the influence of prescription drugs. If the prosecution attempts to use a field sobriety test against you, you might be able to demonstrate that disability, sleep deprivation, illness, anxiety, or some other medical issue impaired you rather than the prescription drugs.

Just testing positive for a drug does not mean you were actually impaired by the drug. Having some amount of drugs in your system may not be enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were actually under the influence of the drug while driving. This is especially true if you have been taking the medicines for a long period of time, because over time people tend to develop a tolerance for all drugs, including prescription drugs. A forensic toxicologist can testify on your behalf that you have developed a tolerance over time for the medicines you have been prescribed, and medical records can show the how long you have been taking the drugs.

You may also be able to successfully argue that you did not intentionally place yourself under the influence of the prescription drugs. If you took more than the normal dose of the prescription drugs by mistake, accidentally took the wrong medication, or had an unusually adverse reaction to a prescription drug, it can be a successful defense to the charge that you did not intentionally place yourself under the influence of the prescription drug.

You may also demonstrate that even if a prescription drug shows up in a urine test, it does not mean you were necessarily under the influence of the prescription drug while you were driving. Prescription drugs can still show up in your urine after they have passed completely out of your bloodstream, and you are no longer under the influence of the prescription drugs. Many prescription drugs will still show up in tests several days or even a month after you have taken them.

 

Finding the Best DUI Attorney in Clark County, Nevada

Michael Pariente of Pariente Law Firm, P.C. is an astute Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer who has the knowledge and experience to defend you. If you have been charged with driving under the influence of prescription drugs, choosing the right attorney, who will handle your case appropriately, is integral to your future.

Pariente Law Firm, P.C. proudly defends clients in Las Vegas, Clark County, Henderson, Paradise, and the surrounding areas who are facing charges for driving under the influence of prescription drugs. Contact Michael Pariente today at (702) 966-5310 or submit an online form so that he can begin fighting to protect your freedom.

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