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Can you be arrested for DWI over doctor-prescribed prescription drugs?

Can you be arrested for DWI over doctor-prescribed prescription drugs?

In early September of this year, a National Football League team owner was pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. According to ESPN, a toxicology report showed that several prescribed drugs were present in his system, including the painkiller hydrocodone and alprazolam, which is used to treat anxiety. The man pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge, and the NFL fined and suspended him. As a DWI lawyer Minneapolis defendants can trust would know, whether or not the drugs were prescribed is inconsequential for an arrest.

Understanding the law

In Minnesota, driving while intoxicated encompasses the use of a variety of substances that could impair judgment, such as the following:

  • Alcohol, which is the most common charge
  • Illegal narcotics
  • Over-the-counter drugs
  • Prescription medication

It is important that motorists understand that prescribed or over-the-counter medications can be just as dangerous as alcohol when it comes to getting behind the wheel. For example, antidepressants can have sedating effects that will mirror the impairment of drinking alcohol. Antihistamines can slow reaction times, decongestants can cause someone to become drowsy and hydrocodone, the painkiller, can act similar to an opiate. A DWI lawyer Minneapolis defendants use can help people understand the effects of driving after taking these medications.

Outlining controlled substances

The Minnesota statute regarding DWI outlines use of a controlled substance categorized in Schedules I or II can result in a criminal charge, as can the detection of any drug that could be hazardous. A Schedule I drug is an illegal narcotic such as heroin or methamphetamine. Substances in Schedules II through V have an accepted medical use and are ranked according to both the severity of potential side effects as well as the potential for abuse.

A Schedule II prescription medication will have the highest likelihood of abuse and has the power to create a physical and psychological dependence. Methadone and oxycodone fall under this category. Schedule V substances have the lowest possibility of abuse though can still cause impairment. Cough medicine that contains codeine is an example of a Schedule V controlled substance that could still merit a DWI charge if found in a driver’s system because it could affect the ability to drive.

Proving a charge

USA Today released a report stating that proving someone was under the influence of prescription drugs at the time of an arrest may be difficult. For example, there is a clearly defined system of determining how much alcohol is in someone’s system, but detecting the amount of prescription drugs has not been developed as well, which means a jury may not be able to ascertain that a certain amount of a drug led to impairment.

Anyone facing a DUI charge should contact a DWI lawyer Minneapolis residents can trust.


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