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Bay Area Criminal Defense Blog

Impaired Driving and Prescription Drugs in the East Bay

Posted by Lynn Gorelick | Jul 19, 2022 | 0 Comments

Drivers are aware that driving under the influence of too much alcohol is against the law in California. Recreational marijuana users know that even if they think they can drive fine while high, if a chemical test shows too much marijuana in the system, it can lead to a drug DUI. However, many people aren't aware of how many common prescription medications have impairing effects and can lead to an impaired driving arrest. 

If you were accused of drunk driving, driving on drugs, or being impaired on a combination of drugs or alcohol, don't let the prosecutor make you plead guilty before you have a chance to understand your rights. A DUI in Oakland or the East Bay will go on your criminal record and can even increase your insurance rates. After a drunk driving arrest, talk to an experienced California DUI defense attorney about your rights and legal options. 

AAA Study on Potentially Impairing Medications

The Automobile Association of America (AAA) has released a study on prescription and over-the-counter (OTC)medications and their impairing effects on driving. “Use of Potentially Impairing Medications in Relation to Driving, United States, 2021,” was released in July 2022 and has some interesting findings about prescription drugs and driving. 

“Many prescription and over-the-counter medications have potential effects that adversely impact driving, including dizziness, sleepiness, fainting, blurred vision, slowed movement, and problems with attention,” but drivers are not always aware that taking one or more prescription drugs can impact their driving safety.

The survey looked at a number of common OTC and prescription medications, including: 

  • Antihistamines and cough medicines (Claritin, Allegra, Benadryl) 
  • Antidepressants (Prozac, Zoloft, Wellbutrin)
  • Prescription pain medicines (Tylenol with codeine, OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin/ hydrocodone) 
  • Muscle relaxants (Soma, Flexeril) 
  • Sleep aids, barbiturates, or benzodiazepines (Ambien, Lunesta, phenobarbital, Xanax, Valium, Ativan)
  • Amphetamines (Adderall, Dexedrine, phentermine)

Of those surveyed, 45% of those surveyed who had taken at least one of these medications drove within 2 hours after using the potentially impairing medications. According to the drivers, between 20% and 50% said that their healthcare provider had not warned them of the potential safety impacts of taking the drugs and driving. 

How Do I Know If My Meds Impair My Driving?

The best way to find out how your medications impact your driving is to talk to your healthcare provider. Also, ask your doctor about any dangerous drug combinations or how the drugs will interact if you drink alcohol while on the medication. If you are taking a new medication, try and take the medication initially without getting behind the wheel so you will know how your body reacts. 

Under California Vehicle Code 23152(f), “it is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.” Under California's implied consent laws, drivers have given their implied consent to submit to chemical tests if they are arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, including blood tests if they are suspected of a drug DUI.

Ignorance is not a defense to drunk driving charges in California. If you claim you did not know the drugs would impair your driving ability, you can still be convicted of a drug DUI. However, an honest mistake may help your case if you are trying to get DUI diversion court or probation instead of jail time. Talk to your East Bay DUI defense lawyer about options to stay out of jail and keep the DUI off your criminal record.

Contact an East Bay DUI Defense Attorney

East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 39 years of DUI defense experience and understands the challenges involved in a prescription drug DUI case. Contact a local DUI defense lawyer who understands defense strategies and plea bargain negotiations.

About the Author

Lynn Gorelick

Lynn Gorelick has been an attorney for over 38 years. She is the Attorney Lynn Gorelick is the Immediate Past President of the California DUI Lawyers Association and a Faculty and Sustaining member of the National College of DUI Defense. Lynn is a Specialist Member of the California DUI Lawyers Association and lectures frequently to other attorneys regarding DUI and DMV issues.


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