Prescription Drug DUI in Arizona

prescription drug duiDealing with a medical condition that causes you serious, chronic pain will often necessitate the prescription of specific medications. Prescription-strength pain killers, however, produce certain side effects. They could affect your alertness, which is why you shouldn’t drive when on such medications.

Can You Take Prescription Pain Killers and Drive in Arizona?

The answer is no if these medications cause impairment.

Pain killers like Vicodin and hydrocodone do result in impairment. Thus, even if you have a prescription for such medications, you cannot operate a vehicle. If you do, you will be committing a DUI and you’ll have to face the legal consequences.

People who drive under the influence of prescription pain killers could be charged with misdemeanor under one of these two legal provisions:

  • Impairment to the slightest degree: as it is defined in Arizona Revised Statute 28-1381 (A)(1). According to the legal provision, you are committing a DUI if you’re driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both. Even if you’re impaired to the slightest degree, you’re still committing a criminal offense.
  • Using medications under Arizona Revised Statute 28-1381 (A)(3): in this case, it’s illegal to drive when you’re under the influence of a medication that you haven’t been prescribed. This is a strict liability crime. Even if you’re not impaired, you will still face criminal charges. Having a prescription is a defense under these circumstances.

Understand the fact that even if you have a prescription, you will face the criminal process in the case of impairment to the slightest degree. Arizona is a zero-tolerance state that has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country. To avoid the possibility of facing the criminal process, you should refrain from driving while being treated with prescription-strength pain killers.

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Medications That Lead to DUI Charges

Go through the pain killer’s leaflet carefully. It should provide information about whether the drug causes impairment. If it does, the leaflet will feature a recommendation for refraining from operating vehicles while using the medication.

The pain killers that lead to the biggest number of DUI charges are the so-called narcotic analgesics.

These pain relievers slow down reflexes and increase the reaction time. Commonly prescribed narcotic analgesics include Vicodin (hydrocodone), Oxycontin (oxycodone), Demerol, Percocet, Suboxone and Norco.

Pain killers like the ones mentioned above cause visible signs of impairment. Police officers will be looking for symptoms like drowsiness, constricted pupils, droopy eyelids, nausea and slowed down or slurred speech.

Penalties for Driving Under the Influence of Prescription Pain Killers

The penalties for driving under the influence of prescription pain killers will depend on the seriousness of the offense. If you’re just pulled over and you’re impaired, you’ll face the above-mentioned misdemeanor charges. Damaging properties, causing injuries or death will lead to a more serious offense and possible felony charges. The same applies to people who are repeat offenders.

The minimum penalty for a medication-related DUI is one to 10 days in jail, a fine of up to 2,000 dollars, a 90-day license suspension plus a one-year license revocation, SR-22 insurance, the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID). While the IID installation is no longer mandated for all DUI cases, the decision is left to the judge’s discretion. This means you may still have to install the device in your car, regardless of the fact you didn’t consume alcohol.

The maximum penalty for a DUI committed under the influence of prescription medications is 180 days of jail time, license suspension and revocation, a five-year probation period, the mandatory installation of IID, alcohol/drug counselling, community service and having to obtain SR-22 insurance.