November 25, 2016

Driving under the influence of prescription drugs

Thousands of people across Florida take prescription medication on a daily basis. Consuming prescription drugs regularly is not an unusual thing to us, and neither is driving. However, some prescription drugs create side effects that make a person unable to operate a vehicle in a safe manner. In these cases, consumers are warned not to operate heavy machinery, but some do not follow this warning. We all know it’s illegal and dangerous to drive under the influence of alcohol, but what about driving under the influence of prescription drugs? Is it just as dangerous? Is it illegal?

What is the law?

Driving under the influence of prescription drugs that impair your normal faculties could lead to severe legal and monetary consequences. First, an individual driving under the influence of prescription medication to the extent their normal faculties are impaired could be charged with DUI.  Under Florida Statute 316.193:

(1) A person is guilty of the offense of driving under the influence and is subject to punishment as provided in subsection (2) if the person is driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle within this state and:

(a) The person is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in s. 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893, when affected to the extent that the person’s normal faculties are impaired;

Many prescription medications are included in the substances enumerated in sections 877.111 and 893 of the Florida Statutes. This law doesn’t have anything to do with causing a car accident; just like driving under the influence of alcohol, this law comes into play when a driver does not seem to be able to control their vehicle due to the effects of their prescription drugs.

Car accidents

Second, if an individual is involved in a motor vehicle accident and that individual is proven to be driving under the influence of prescription drugs, that individual could be found to be at fault (or partially at fault) for the motor vehicle accident because of the effects of the prescription medication. In determining fault for a motor vehicle accident, an individual need not be intoxicated, that individual could just be suffering from side effects of that medication. If the side effects from the prescription medication contributed to the cause of the motor vehicle accident then that individual could be determined to be at fault (or partially at fault) for the accident.  

If, for example, the driver had been notified that they are not to be operating heavy machinery while taking their medication, they can absolutely be found to be at fault for the accident. This may include seemingly minor side effects as well, including blurred vision, dizziness, or other side effects that impede upon one’s ability to drive.

What qualifies as medication?

While the terms “drug” or “medication” may seem like a vague, grey line, the law sees it very clearly and very reasonably. If the drug or medication you are taking effects your ability to drive safely, you may be pulled over for driving under the influence. This means that those under the influence of medical marijuana may also be at risk. In reality, it’s very simple: if you have to think about whether you may be a safe driver in your current state, do not get behind the wheel.

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