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Can I get a DUI for driving after taking a legal drug?

You understand the severity of being pulled over with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit, so you are careful never to get behind the wheel after drinking too much. However, you and other Tennessee residents may be unclear as to whether there may be criminal repercussions for driving after taking a legal prescription or over-the-counter drug.

As FindLaw explains, DUI charges aren’t reserved solely for those who drink and drive. “Driving under the influence” means driving while impaired by any substance, including alcohol, illegal drugs and legal medications. In fact, some medications can have impairing effects that are more dangerous than driving drunk. Legal drugs that can get you into trouble if you are pulled over with them in your system include prescription medications like opiate painkillers, antidepressants, muscle relaxers and anti-anxiety pills, as well as over-the-counter medicine like decongestants, sleeping pills and antihistamines. These medications can cause the following impairing effects:

  • Sleepiness or reduced alertness
  • Confusion or “brain fog”
  • Impaired judgement
  • Slower reaction time or compromised motor skills
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness or fainting

If you are pulled over, an officer will usually look for signs of impairment, especially if you have no detectable alcohol in your system. You may be arrested for a DUI even without a chemical test, if an officer has reason to believe your driving was dangerously impaired. However, it can be difficult for law enforcement to accurately determine impairment when legal medication is involved. Therefore, a DUI charge requires experienced counsel, and this information should not replace the advice of a lawyer.

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