Ask The Lawyer – Could you get a DUI of you haven’t been drinking alcohol?

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Rebecca Green Thomason - Attorney at Law

Rebecca Green Thomason – Attorney at Law

A DUI is not just for people who drink alcohol. It may be for the person who took cold medication in order to go to work. A person may be charged with DUI who in taking commonly doctor-prescribed medication.

DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence. You may be driving under the influence of alcohol and the percentage of alcohol in your breath is over the legal limit. The legal limit is .08%. This is unless you are under twenty-one then the legal limit is .02%. If you have a commercial driver’s license then the limit is .04%.
You may be charged with DUI even though you were not offered a breath test. This is based on our old drunk driving law. Long before there was a breath test of any type an officer could arrest a person for driving while intoxicated. They still can.
It is against the law for a person to drive “under the influence of a controlled substance to a degree which renders him or her incapable of safely driving.” Many people believe that a controlled substance is limited to heroine, cocaine, crack, marijuana, or other illegal drug. It is not. It maybe that your doctor prescribed medication for your arthritis, bad back, or tooth ache which is on the controlled substance list. Sometimes the pharmacist labels this medication with a warning against its use while driving, but not always. It does not matter. You may be arrested for DUI for driving while using  prescribed medication.

drinking and driving

It is also against the law to drive “under the combined influence of alcohol and a controlled substance to a degree which renders him or her incapable of safely driving.” This means that if you have taken your medication then had a drink you may be charged even if your breath test shows a blood alcohol level below the limit. I need to emphasize that it doesn’t matter that you are taking your medication just as your doctor prescribed. If the medication is in your system you may be charged.

The Alabama DUI law also has a catch-all section. A person may be arrested for driving “under the influence of any substance which impairs the mental or physical faculties of such person to a degree which renders him or her incapable of driving safely.”  This will apply to the person who sniffs glue, uses bath salts, or synthetic marijuana. It will also apply to the person who took Nyquil for their cold or many other over-the-counter medications.
The DUI penalties are the same for a law abiding citizen who takes their prescribed medication just like the doctor ordered and for the drug addict on crack. For the first conviction of DUI a person can be imprisoned for up to one year and pay a fine of as much as $2,100. In addition they lose their driver’s licenses for ninety days and are required to attend DUI school.
drunk driving billboard
You may have noticed the billboard that states I just blew $10,000. This is because it is easy to spend that much defending a DUI. And you don’t even have to have a drink to be charged and pay.
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