Can I Fight an Arizona DUI for Prescription Drugs?

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Ryan W. Cummings - Criminal Defense - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Ryan W. Cummings

Located in Scottsdale, AZR&R Law Group, PLLC

Scottsdale, AZ
Phone: 480-418-5181
Fax: 602-480-7050

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Yes, it is often possible to have the charges reduced or dismissed altogether. Many people do not realize that a DUI charge is possible after taking prescribed medications. 

In Arizona, it is unlawful to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle, “While under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance or any combination of liquor, drugs or vapor releasing substance if the person is impaired to the slightest degree [emphasis added].” Any time that a drug or its metabolite shows up in your system – even a prescription – a DUI charge is possible.

Do the Penalties Differ?

Not really; a DUI conviction based on a prescription drugs carries the same minimum of 24 hours in jail, a base fine of $250 and license suspension. The only difference between pharmaceuticals and alcohol is generally the ignition interlock device, which might not be required.

Mounting a Strong Defense

Law enforcement officers may not have been sympathetic during a traffic stop and arrest. You may still be in shock at the treatment. Now is the time to take quick action to fight the charge or charges.

First, you need to prove that you had a prescription. Contact your pharmacy or physician to obtain this important piece of information. Take pictures of your prescription bottle to show when you filled it and that there were no driving restrictions. Count how many pills are left. This can help with the second requirement and show you followed the instructions closely.

Second, and often more difficult, is to prove that you were within the therapeutic range. You must prove that you took the recommended number of pills the day of the incident. An officer who has taken drug recognition training and holds a drug recognition expert credential may testify to erratic behavior. But field sobriety tests are subjective. A medical reason may explain your difficulties with the tests.

When it is not possible to negotiate a reduction or dismissal of the charge or charges, we take these cases to trial. It is often possible that one or several members of the jury themselves took prescription medications that day before driving to the courthouse. The sympathy that you may not have received from an officer may come from other jury members who are able to see themselves in your shoes.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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