Prescription Drug DUI in Georgia: What Happens If You’re Arrested for It
Unbeknownst to many Georgia drivers, you can get arrested for DUI even if you haven’t had a drop of alcohol to drink—and even if you haven’t taken any illegal drugs. If you are on prescription medications that affect your ability to drive, an officer may arrest you for an offense known as prescription drug DUI—and the penalties for a conviction are the same as if your blood alcohol content (BAC) was over the legal limit.
How Drug DUI Works
What makes prescription drug DUI trickier than alcohol-related DUI is the fact that there are no prescribed standards as to how much of a certain drug is too much, and in some cases it’s also nearly impossible to measure how much of the drug is in your system. (By contrast, BAC is easy to measure, and the threshold for legal intoxication is a BAC of 0.08.) What’s more—prescription drugs are legal, so you can’t be arrested for having them in your system! Thus, the only way for an officer to determine whether you arrest you for drug DUI is based on your performance behind the wheel—whether she suspects the substances in your system (prescription or otherwise) are affecting your ability to drive safely.
Proving Drug DUI: What is “Less Safe?”
How can law enforcement prove you were driving DUI if the drugs you were taking were legally prescribed? The answer lies in the phrase “less safe” as it appears in Georgia Code O.C.G.A. 40-6-391 (a)(2) (2010): A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while…Under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive. Thus, to secure a conviction in court, the prosecutor doesn’t need to prove that there was a specific amount of the drug in your system—only that the presence of that drug caused you to drive less safe. When it comes to prescription drugs, prosecution must specifically show that the legal drug you were taking rendered you “incapable of driving safely.”
Ironically, the vagueness of this argument can also work toward your defense because ultimately the question of whether you were driving “less safe” is based mainly on the arresting officer’s opinion, which may be incorrect. Questions to address in your defense might be whether the doctor who prescribed the drug believes the dosage could cause impairment; whether you were properly advised as to the dangers of impairment; and how much time had passed since your previous dose before getting behind the wheel.
Nevertheless, if you’re convicted of a prescription drug DUI in Georgia, you could face stiff fines, license penalties including a hard suspension with no permit, and possible jail time, even for a first offense. For that reason, you shouldn’t defend against this charge without the help of skilled legal counsel. If you’ve been arrested for drug DUI, call Chehimi Law at 678-459-5659.