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How Prescription Medications Affect Florida DUI Charges


Medication, whether prescription or not, can have powerful effects on the human body. Lawmakers recognized that controlled substances may seriously impact a motorist’s physical and cognitive capabilities, which is why Florida’s driving under the influence statute includes a prohibition on drugged driving. If you get pulled over by police on suspicion of DUI, you’ll probably have serious concerns about how any medications could affect a field sobriety test – or even a breath test under certain circumstances.

A Fort Lauderdale DUI attorney can protect your interests if you’re charged with violating the law, but an overview may also be helpful. 

Driving After Taking Prescription Medication: There are some controlled substances that affect you just as much – or more – as alcohol, so it’s understandable that police and prosecutors will aggressively go after drugged drivers. In recent years, with the opioid epidemic, the prescription medications raising the biggest concerns are: 

  • Opiates, including Vicodin, OxyContin, and Oxycodone;
  • Sedatives like Valium, Xanax, and Diazepam; and,
  • Stimulants, such as Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin.

These and other prescription medications can have a massive impact on your ability to drive, whether because they’re speeding you up or slowing you down.

Prescription Medication and Field Sobriety Tests: Unlike measuring your blood alcohol content (BAC) using a portable breathalyzer, police have no way to chemically test the presence of prescription drugs in your system in the field. As such, police may carefully observe your appearance, speech, and actions for indications that you’re under the influence of medication.

Plus, officers may request that you perform field sobriety tests for purposes of determining your level of impairment by medication. The assessment of your performance is very subjective on:

  • The one-legged stand test;
  • The walk and turn test; and,
  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus, a test that measures steadiness of your eyes as you focus on an object.

Medications That Can Register in Breath Tests: You should also keep in mind that certain medications may lead to positive results through a portable breathalyzer – as well as an official breathalyzer test if you’re arrested and taken to the police station. They include:

  • Over-the-counter medications for cold and flu;
  • Albuterol and other asthma medications that are delivered through an aerosol propellant; and,
  • Certain cough and mucus-relief drugs.

The problem with these medications is that, even though they may register a BAC, they don’t affect you in the same way as alcohol.

Discuss Your Options with a Florida Drunk and Driving Defense Lawyer 

Medications affect your ability to operate a vehicle in such a significant way that police crack down on drugged driving just as much as alcohol DUIs. If you were arrested, it’s always important to remember that you still have the opportunity to fight the charges. When you have experienced legal counsel on your side, you’re in a better position to point out weaknesses in the allegations against you. To learn more, please contact the Fort Lauderdale office of attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can schedule a consultation to review your circumstances and consider potential defense strategies.


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