When most people think of DUI charges, they imagine someone who had too much to drink or indulged in illegal drugs. However, in Tennessee, law enforcement can arrest and charge you with DUI based on simply taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
It is important to understand that it does not matter if you took a drug duly prescribed to you according to the doctor's instructions. You can be charged with DUI if a prescription drug or drugs impaired your ability to drive.
Medications to be careful about
Many commonly prescribed and over-the-counter medications have known side effects that could affect your ability to drive safely. The major categories of prescription drugs to watch out for include medications that treat anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and migraines. Many types of cold, cough and allergy remedies also have sedative effects.
How medications can affect your driving
Side effects that can impair driving commonly include drowsiness, vertigo, mood swings, blurry vision and lack of coordination.
Sometimes, a combination of medications results in side effects even when taking each medicine alone may not have. Likewise, even a small amount of alcohol can increase the strength of any side effects.
Lack of knowledge is not a defense
You can face DUI charges even if you did not know about the side effects. Medication labels may not always include a strong, easily understandable warning; your doctor and pharmacist may have failed to discuss likely side effects with you. Generally, these arguments do not tend to produce an effective defense for most.
Your defense may be stronger than you think
However, this does not mean you do not have a defense. Possible issues may include whether the stop was legal in the first place, whether the officer on the scene followed proper procedures, whether an improper search took place and whether any chemical testing was accurate. An experienced defense attorney can examine the facts of your case and develop an appropriate defense strategy based on your situation.