Can you get a DUI after taking your prescriptions?

Many people believe that if they are taking medication prescribed by their doctor that this is some sort of defense against a DUI charge. Unfortunately, this is not true and in fact it is the exact opposite.

South Carolina’s DUI statute reads as follows:

It is unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle within this State while under the influence of alcohol to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired, under the influence of any other drug or a combination of other drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired, or under the combined influence of alcohol and any other drug or drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired.

- S.C. Code § 56-5-2930(A).

As you can see from the statute, you can become DUI due to impairment from:

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs or Substances
  • Combination of Alcohol with Drugs and/or Substances

You do not have to consume any alcohol to be prosecuted for DUI in South Carolina. What is required is that you have something in your system that would make you materially and appreciably impaired.

Drugs aren’t limited to just illegal ones like marijuana, cocaine, or heroin. They include anything considered a drug. This includes prescription medications like Klonopin, Vicadin, or Xanax.

Police have been trained to be on the lookout for evidence of prescription drug use when they are investigating a DUI. They might ask you if you are taking any medications, or if they see prescription bottles in your car they might try to question you about them.

You never have to discuss your personal medical history or prescriptions with the police. Your privacy in this regard is protected by both the U.S. Constitution, the S.C. Constitution, and even legislation such as the Federal HIPAA statute (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Everyone has an absolute right to remain silent.

If you do choose to waive your privacy rights, you should keep in mind that everything you tell the police can and may be used against you in court. This means that if you tell the police that you have a prescription for Skelaxin (common muscle relaxer), they can try to repeat this in Court and infer that it caused or contributed to impairment.

Police frequently try to use evidence of prescription drug use when confronted with a low breathalyzer result. If your reported BAC was low (say 0.07 or less), the prosecutor could try to argue that the effect of the limited alcohol in your system was intensified by the prescription.

We see a lot of clients who face allegations that their prescriptions caused or contributed to their DUI arrest. We’ve even seen examples were our client or a family member has gone out of their way to show the police their prescriptions believing that it is some sort of defense to the charge. Not only is this not a defense, it is frequently cited by the prosecutor as significant evidence of guilt.

If your DUI case involves allegations of prescription drug use it is important that you consult with an attorney before going to court. Contact our office for a free initial consultation. Our lawyers are experienced with representing clients facing DUI charges where prescription drug use is alleged.

Categories: DUI
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