DWI and Prescriptions or Over-the-Counter Medications
Driving while impaired (DWI) charges are no small matter, and even a first-time offense can jeopardize your future. If you’ve been charged with DWI because you were driving while taking a prescription or over-the-counter medication, you need to understand that your case will be handled no differently than an alcohol-related DWI. The fact that you were prescribed the medication by your doctor or were taking the recommended dosage is not a defense to DWI.
If you find yourself in this situation, you should reach out to an experienced Charlotte DWI defense attorney. At Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys, we have helped many people charged with prescription drug DWI. To schedule a free and confidential consultation of your case, contact us today at (980) 237-4579.
DWI Includes Drugged Driving
DWI charges aren’t limited solely to driving while under the influence of alcohol. However, under North Carolina law, it is illegal to drive under the influence of any “impairing substance.” This term is broad, and North Carolina General Statutes § (NCGS) 20-4.01(48b) considers someone to be under the influence of such a substance when their “physical or mental faculties, or both, are appreciably impaired.” As a result, you can be charged with DWI if you have ingested any substance – including a prescription drug – that causes mental or physical impairment in any way.
Prescription and Over-The-Counter Medication DWI
Although prescription and over-the-counter medications are safe when taken as directed, they can have side effects that result in impairment. These medications can cause the following effects, often without warning:
- Blurred vision
- Slowed reflexes
- Loss of balance
- Inability to focus or pay attention
Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications affect everyone in different ways. Common situations that lead to impairment involving prescription and over-the-counter medications include:
- Taking your medication on an empty stomach
- Medication reacting poorly with a new prescription or over-the-counter drug
- Lack of sleep
- Accidentally taking more than prescribed
Determining Impairment in a Prescription Drug DWI Case
Common indicators that law enforcement will rely upon to determine your impairment include:
- Watery or bloodshot eyes
- Slurred speech or difficulty speaking
- Lack of balance or difficulty with motor functions
- Disorientation, confusion, and inability to follow directions
If an officer observes these signs, they may then ask you to perform a field sobriety test to review your potential impairment further. It’s important to note that, unlike an alcohol-related DWI, there is no test similar to a breathalyzer for prescription drug DWIs. As a result, you will also be evaluated by a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), who is an individual trained to identify drug-related impairment.
What Are the Penalties for a Prescription DWI?
For a first prescription Level 5 drug DWI offense, you face the following potential penalties:
- A minimum of 24 hours in jail
- A fine of $200
- A license suspension of up to one year
The penalties grow more severe if you have prior DWI convictions, or aggravating/grossly aggravating factors exist in your case. Due to the complicated nature of NC DWI sentencing, it’s important to consult a Charlotte drunk driving attorney to learn more about the potential consequences you face if convicted.
Defending Against a DWI Charge in Charlotte
If you’ve been charged with DWI caused by prescription or over-the-counter medications, we strongly recommend that you discuss your case with an experienced DWI defense attorney at our firm. We can raise the following defenses as we fight for you to get a fair result:
- The officer did not have probable cause to pull you over.
- The prosecution has failed to prove that you were impaired.
- The prosecution has failed to prove that you ingested any impairing substance.
To successfully raise these defenses, you need an experienced attorney who knows the law and how to challenge the prosecution’s evidence.
Contact a Charlotte DWI Attorney for Help
If you’ve been charged with a prescription drug DWI, you need someone on your side who will fight for a fair result. The experienced DWI defense attorneys at Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys provide hands-on, aggressive legal representation to people who have been charged with DWI in the Charlotte area. Call us today at (980) 237-4579, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation and discuss how we can help you.