Driving Under The Influence Of Prescription Drugs Can Land You In Jail

In the last several years, nearly all city and municipality law enforcement around the country have significantly Prescription Drugs Driving focused on the consumption and sale of prescription drugs.  In Tennessee, impaired driving is not only limited to driving under the influence of alcohol. Driving while under the influence of some prescription medications or a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol can all lead to a Tennessee DUI charge even if the medication was prescribed to you.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Science Administration, a federal agency tasked with reducing the impact of substance abuse in America, released findings revealing that approximately 10 million Americans drive while under the influence of prescription drugs. This survey fleshes out the notion that a significant number of people don’t recognize that getting behind the wheel after taking some prescribed medications can get you arrested and land you in jail.

Tennessee Code Annotated 55-10-401 states the following:

It is unlawful for any person to drive or to be in physical control of any automobile or other motor driven vehicle on any of the public roads and highways of the state, or on any streets or alleys, or while on the premises of any shopping center, trailer park or any apartment house complex, or any other premises that is generally frequented by the public at large while under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, controlled substance, controlled substance analogue, drug, substance affecting the central nervous system or combination thereof that impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by depriving the driver of the clearness of mind and control of oneself which the driver would otherwise possess.

Common types of prescription drugs that can lead to a driving under the influence charge per the statute include:

  • Pain medications containing codeine or oxycodone opioids such as Oxycontin or Percocet as well as hydrocodone which is generic for Vicodin, Lorcet or Lortab
  • Antidepressants such as Valium (diazepam) Xanax (alprazolam) or Desyrel (trazodone)
  • Sleep medications such as Ambien or Lunestra

Trained ‘Drug Recognition Expert’ (DRE) officers in many cases assist in stops related to driving under the influence of prescription medications. DRE training involves differentiating between drug impairment and a medical condition. The DRE administers a 12-step evaluation which includes traditional field sobriety methods as well as nontraditional methods whereby they use blood pressure cuffs and/or pupilometers.

While DREs field sobriety methods can subjectively detect impairment, toxicology may later reveal that the level or concentration of a particular prescribed medication was not sufficient to support a DUI charge. In addition, if the police did not follow correct procedures during the stop or arrest there could be defenses available. That is why it’s important to acquire the services of an experienced DUI or drug offense lawyer if you have been charged with driving under the influence. If you have been charged with driving under the influence of prescription drugs, contact attorney Donna Wagner to schedule a consultation.

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