DUI Because of Prescription Drugs

When most people hear “Driving Under the Influence,” they picture a drunk driver or someone under the influence of illegal drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine. It is unlikely that a person appropriately taking prescription drugs prescribed by their doctor would come to mind, but it has become more and more common for someone taking their legal medications to be charged with a DUI.

It is not illegal to take prescription medication and drive, so it is important to be prepared to defend yourself if you are arrested in Georgia for DUI while only “under the influence” of your prescribed medication. Taking medication does not automatically make you an impaired driver, and you will need legal counsel who understands that and will be able to defend you in court.


In the state of Georgia, an officer of the law needs to have “reasonable suspicion” that you may be impaired to pull you over. While this may result in a ticket or other inconvenience for the average citizen who is not impaired, the situation can quickly change if you currently take any prescription medications. If an officer of the law believes you may be impaired while driving, they may ask you about any drugs you take, including prescriptions, and you might be asked to take a blood test.

It is likely that the state will proceed with prosecuting your DUI charge if the blood test comes back positive, regardless of whether or not you have a prescription for the substance in question. You can refuse chemical testing, but the refusal to submit to a blood or breath test can be used against you in a court case.


The question the state will be asking is whether the medications you are taking or the interactions of multiple medications made you unsafe or less safe to drive. Whether your driving was impaired by your medication is a judgment call on the part of the police officer, who may not be correct. The likelihood that the state will choose to prosecute is increased if there was an accident or if your driving was extremely poor. Failure to maintain your lane, following too closely, and reckless driving will all make it more likely that you will be charged. Another factor that determines if the state will prosecute is if a blood test determines that the amount of the substance in your blood “exceeds therapeutic levels”; that is, that you had taken more the prescribed dosage of the medication.


There is no law that prevents people who take prescription medication from driving. Officers of the law may not be familiar with the therapeutic levels of drugs, so it is crucial that your legal representation is well-versed in defending drivers who have been arrested for a DUI when they have only taken prescribed medication. This is especially important if breath or blood tests detect alcohol in your system. Prosecutors and law enforcement officers often assume, and argue, that even a small amount of alcohol will cause dangerous impairment when mixed with prescription medications. This is not scientifically accurate. To effectively defend you, your attorney must have medical experts like pharmacologists and toxicologists who understand what the interaction between alcohol and your specific prescription might be and be able to testify to that fact.


In the case of a DUI charge due to prescription medication, you do have an advantage that very few other DUI defendants have: the empathy of the jury. A strong social stigma exists around DUI charges, and there is a very real possibility that stigma will influence opinions inside the courtroom. However, many people regularly take prescription medications and are more likely to be able to empathize with your situation.

Do not forget that in the United States you are innocent until proven guilty, and you always have the right to defend yourself. A prescription drug DUI is very different from an alcohol DUI. It requires a different area of expertise and a different approach to your defense. If you are charged with a prescription drug DUI in Georgia, make sure you reach out to an attorney with experience in defending drivers like yourself.