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Understanding prescription drug DUI

Most people know that drinking and driving can result in facing DUI charges. However, even legally prescribed medication can impair your driving and lead to equivalent charges.

Under Oklahoma law, prohibited medications include any controlled dangerous substances. The law also includes in its scope any intoxicating substance. Many common medications may fall into these categories if they affect your ability to drive safely.

Any amount can count

Unlike alcohol, the law does not establish a specific amount of drugs that must be present in your bloodstream. If chemical tests using blood, urine or saliva samples show the presence of drugs at all, DUI charges may ensue.

Signs of impairment

Prosecutors must also show your driving was impaired. Most often, police officers stop drivers if they already suspect some form of impairment. Common indicators include erratic driving, weaving in and out of traffic, having trouble staying in one's lane, and delayed responses to changing traffic conditions. Once they make the stop, the officers may ask you to take a breathalyzer test, which only detects alcohol, not drugs. They may also ask for a field sobriety test, which aims to assess basic physical and cognitive functions.

Police officers may testify about other factors that led them to believe in your impairment, including general manner, dilated pupils and other physical symptoms. In some cases, a Drug Recognition Expert may be present at the scene who has received specialized training in recognizing signs of drug use.

Check your medicine's side effects

It is important to be aware that even taking your normal dose of a properly prescribed medication can affect your driving and potentially result in a DUI. Some people may even find themselves affected by an over-the-counter medication such as cold medicine. Pay attention if the label or your physician warns you about effects such as drowsiness, vertigo, blurred vision or impaired coordination.

People may process medications differently, and some have atypical reactions. Even a medication that usually will not affect most people's ability to drive may impair yours. To be on the safe side, avoid driving when you begin taking a new medicine or combination of medicines.

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Oklahoma City, OK 73105

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