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Can you get a DWI over a prescription drug?

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2024 | DUI/DWI

Most of the time, when people think about arrests for driving while impaired (DWI), they think about people who have had one too many drinks at a party or a bar or someone who has indulged in a drug habit before getting behind the wheel of their car.

What they don’t think about are prescription medications – but these, too, have the potential to cause serious issues for drivers. DWI arrests due to prescription medication intoxication can and do happen.

How common is drugged driving involving prescription medication?

According to at least one study, only 28% of drivers think that driving while on prescription medication is a serious issue – and only 35% of drivers actually limit their driving while on certain medications. Yet, prescription medications are the most common kinds of drugs found in drivers involved in fatal wrecks, with opiates and benzodiazepines topping the list. That makes it a serious issue for law enforcement.

In Minnesota, it’s illegal to knowingly operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled or hazardous substance – and it doesn’t matter if that substance is alcohol, over-the-counter medications, street drugs or prescriptions (or any combination of those things). 

Quite often, drugged drivers make the mistake of telling on themselves when they’re pulled over for a traffic violation. They suddenly realize that their new prescription allergy medication, painkillers, antidepressants or anxiety medication came with a warning label and has affected their cognitive abilities and reaction times more than they realized. In a bid to either explain themselves or avoid a ticket, they tell the officer something like, “I’m so sorry! I just started a new medication!” Unfortunately, that’s admitting to drugged driving.

People make mistakes all the time. A single mistake with your medication doesn’t have to upend your entire life, however. If you’ve been charged with DWI due to your use of prescription medication, you’d be wise to keep your explanations to yourself until you can explore all your defense options.

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