Prescription Medication DUI FAQ
What Are the Laws Under Maryland Regarding Prescription Medications and Operating a Motor Vehicle?
It’s actually fairly complicated. In Maryland, you cannot operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, or drugs obviously. The alcohol is fairly straightforward, they look for signs of alcohol use, they get field sobriety tests and they’ll have the breath test.
When it comes to drugs, whether it’s illegal drugs or whether it’s a prescription medication, it gets more complicated for the state to prove its case. Essentially, what they need to show is that they need to have what’s called a Drug Recognition Expert, observe the person, and then look for evidence of drug use and impairment.
They will sometimes give the field sobriety tests, but those aren’t really designed for drugs, they are designed for alcohol to determine the specific threshold of alcohol. The state really needs a drug recognition expert.
The bottom line is you can’t drive while you’re intoxicated or impaired by any substance. And people have problems with that. The doctor’s changed their medications and they have side effects and hit someone while they’re driving, certainly, they know it’s a mitigating factor and at times can be a defense.
Are There A Lot Of Legal Prescription Medication DUIs Coming Through And Are The Numbers Rising?
No, not so much. Not a lot of cases have been seen where someone’s taken their prescribed medication the way they are supposed to and they have problems. In 27 years, they can count on one hand with fingers to spare the number of times The Law Office Phillips & Allen PA have seen that, and they haven’t seen any increase.
If you’re talking about the use of prescription medications illegally without a prescription, their office has seen more of them and they do see them on an increase, and in response to that, that’s why law enforcement has drug recognition experts to try to deal with that. And it is expected at some point for the legislature to work up some kind of a chemical test like they do with alcohol, to help them with drugs. One of the things they can do is they can take or do a blood test.
Who Is A Drug Recognition Expert? How Qualified Are They And What Kind Of Training Do They Have To Have In Order To Be Considered As DRE?
They have to go through basically the law enforcement certification process and they look for certain things. This work is difficult for them because different medications will do different things. Some of them will make the eyes dilate, some will make the eyes pain, and some will affect how the eyes track something in the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus clues that they’re doing a drunk driving case.
Some of the illegal drugs will have an odor. They also use the dogs to look and see if they get an alert and if they do, then they find the pills. They’ll count the number of pills in the bottle and when a prescription was gotten to see if someone took too many of them.
They look for the person having motor control issues; are they off-balance; are they having issues with eye-hand coordination; is their speech slurred? There is some overlap with the alcohol indicators but it is different and it is more complicated.
Is Alcohol Often Involved In Cases When There’s A Prescription Medication Taken Illegally Or Too Much?
Yes. Often is kind of a vague word. I would say about 50 per cent of the time, give or take.
What Are The Most Common Prescription Medications Seen In These Types Of Cases?
The big ones are the painkillers and there is a whole laundry list of those things. More often, it’s the painkillers and you do see the Adderall which is used for kids with attention deficit disorder but while shockingly, it calms down someone that doesn’t have ADD, it’s essentially a very strong stimulant and a lot of the college kids use it to stay awake to study and cramp for the test. They get it by raiding their little brother or sisters. The Benzos are still popular, the downers, and they have very similar effects to alcohol.