Can I Face a DUI for Prescribed Medication in Arizona?

dui for prescription medications -- pills pouring out of a pill bottle

Can I Face a DUI for Prescribed Medication in Arizona?

Driving under the influence (DUI) charges usually involve alcohol or illicit drugs. However, in Arizona, a person can also receive a DUI for driving under the influence of prescription medications, including medications that you legally have a prescription for. If your medication instructions say not to operate heavy machinery, that means no driving! Let’s take a deeper dive into how a DUI for prescription drugs charge works and how you can fight it. 

What Is a DUI for Prescription Medications?  

In Arizona, there are two laws covering DUIs and prescription drugs. Statute ARS 28-1381(A)(1) says that a person behind the wheel of a car can receive a DUI if they have a substance in their system that impairs their driving ability. This includes any drugs they have a valid doctor’s prescription for. 

Because of side effects like drowsiness or slowed reaction times, people commonly receive DUIs for the following prescription medications: 

  • Ambien
  • Opioids
  • Zoloft
  • Xanax
  • Percocet
  • Vicodin
  • Valium
  • Oxycontin

Law ARS 28-1381(A)(3) states it is illegal for a person to drive a vehicle when under the influence of any drug listed under ARS 13-3401 that they do not have a prescription for. This statute also covers illegal drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamines.

What are the penalties for a DUI for prescription drugs? 

Penalties for prescription medication DUI charges depend on whether or not it is that person’s first offense. First-time offenders usually receive a Class 1 misdemeanor charge for a prescription drug DUI with potential penalties including: 

  • Jail time between one day to up to six months
  • Probation for about five years 
  • Fees of about $2,000
  • A 90-day driver’s license suspension
  • Possible community service and/or drug and alcohol treatment 
  • Potential installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in their car for up to 12 months 
  • Possible impact to their car insurance

If a person faces a DUI for prescription drugs charge and has a previous DUI conviction within the last seven years, the potential penalties increase to:

  • Jail time from 90 days to up to six months
  • Five years of probation
  • Fees of about $3,500
  • A 12-month driver’s license suspension
  • At least 30 hours of community service
  • Possible drug and alcohol treatment
  • Potential installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) 
  • Arizona SR-22 insurance 

How to Fight a DUI Charge for Prescription Drugs

There are a few ways in which a criminal defense lawyer can defend a charge of DUI for prescription medications. These include incorrectly conducted tests, improperly gathered evidence, violation of your Fourth Amendment rights, and/or unknowingly taking a drug that could impair your driving. 

Incorrect Tests and Improper Evidence

While police officers have field sobriety tests they can use to measure a person’s alcohol level for an alcohol-related DUI, they do not have the same type of test for drugs. Instead, officers rely on specially-trained drug recognition experts (DREs) to determine whether or not a driver’s impairment relates to a drug in their system. 

These tests are not an exact science, and can sometimes become biased or misused, leading to mistakes. Additionally, issues may arise from any DUI blood tests or other evidence collected by police officers. Both of these circumstances can aid a DUI lawyer in getting the charges dropped. 

Violation of Fourth Amendment Rights

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution makes “unreasonable searches and seizures” illegal. A criminal defense lawyer can show that police officers did not have enough reasonable suspicion to pull over your car and administer DUI testing. If a judge agrees that your Fourth Amendment rights faced violation, any evidence collected would be inadmissible. 

Drugs Were Administered Without Your Knowledge

While at a friend’s house, you complained to them about how anxious you’ve been feeling lately. When you were in the bathroom, your well-meaning friend crushes up a Zoloft pill and puts it in your coffee. You unknowingly consume it and then leave to drive home, but the pill impairs your driving. An officer pulls you over and charges you with a DUI for prescription drugs. In this case, a DUI attorney can argue that someone gave you the drug without your knowledge or consent, hopefully reducing or eliminating the charges. 

DUI Attorney in Phoenix, Arizona 

Many times people believe that if they have a doctor’s prescription for a medication, a judge will drop their DUI charges. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Under ARS 28-1381(A)(1), it does not matter if you have a prescription for the drugs or not. This is why it is extremely important to hire a criminal defense specialist like Todd Coolidge if you or a loved one faces a DUI for a prescription medications charge. Call us today at 602-795-0770 in Phoenix or 480-264-5111 in Chandler. 

Photo by James Yarema on Unsplash