Because most DUI cases involve alcohol, we commonly refer to driving under the influence as "drunk driving." While all drunk drivers are under the influence, not all DUI arrests are caused by alcohol. Other mood-altering drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and amphetamines can seriously impair your ability to drive. In addition to a DUI charge, users of these illegal drugs also face criminal charges for possession.
While we often associate DUI with drunk driving, we do ultimately know that drugged driving also carries DUI penalties. However, most people are unaware that drivers can be charged with a DUI even if they are taking legal drugs.
Many legal drugs such as cough medicine, strong allergy medications, and even blood pressure medications could potentially result in a DUI charge. The key factor is whether or not these medications impair someone's ability to drive. Even if a drug is legal, it can still greatly alter a person's vision and hearing, reaction time, his level of alertness, or his mood.
Depending on the size of the person and the dosage taken, the effects could be enough to impair driving ability. Police are allowed to issue DUIs for legal drugs if they determine that the drugs caused impairment. If a police officer pulls you over for erratic driving, he could request a field sobriety test, blood test, or toxicology screening.
For instance, if you were fighting a cold and accidentally ingested too much of a certain cold medication, a toxicology screening might prove that you were impaired. Therefore, you could be charged with a DUI.
It is somewhat rare that drivers get charged with DUI for use of legal drugs but it still quite possible. The best way to protect yourself is to learn as much as you can about how certain drugs affect your normal functioning. Always read labels and warnings, and talk to your doctor to make sure that your dosage doesn't impair your ability to drive.
Take the time to learn how legal and prescription drugs affect you. By doing so, you can make it home safely and without risk of a DUI.
Source: The Daytona Beach News-Journal online, "Officials: Legal drugs can still lead to DUI," Julie Murphy, 24 January 2011