The answer is YES. I have represented people who had not been drinking at all, but were charged with DWI because they were taking a prescribed medication. This happens with cough medicines, pain medications, anxiety medications and other commonly prescribed prescriptions.
These impairing substances are not detected by a breathalyzer, the same way alcohol is, but they can be found in your blood, which can be drawn if an officer has probable cause that you are impaired.
Many North Carolina residents taking these prescribed medications may not realize how their body will react to them and that they could actually be impaired by such prescriptions. Many people are under the misunderstanding that if the medicine is prescribed to them, then that is a defense to DWI, but that is completely not the truth.
How Does the Court View a DWI by Medical Impairment?
If someone is charged with DWI due to a medication, the prosecutor has the burden of proving that there was an impairing substance in their system and that such substance caused them to be “appreciably impaired.” Bad performance on field sobriety tests and the presence of an impairing substance have been enough for prosecutors in the past to convince a judge that someone should be convicted of DWI.
These types of DWIs are not dealt with any differently than alcohol related DWIs, when it comes to sentencing and punishment.
If you are taking a prescribed medication, please talk to your doctor about any possible side effects that could result from taking that medication and whether or not it is safe for you to operate a vehicle while taking that medication. If the doctor tells you not to drive while taking this medication, then be sure to make other transportation arrangements.
Do You Need Assistance with a DWI Charge in North Carolina?
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