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    Dui and prescription medication

    I know that you can get a dui for being under the influence of prescription medication. My question is when you pull someone over and suspect a dui with no alcohol being involved, is the only way to arrest them for dui with prescription meds is if they fail a field sobriety test? Obviously with alcohol, you have a set limit and have breathalyzer and blood test to determine the limit. Is it illegal to drive PERIOD while taking certain medications? Obviously I know there is a lot of common sense involved but was just curious about the actual laws and rules on this subject.

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    I'm not sure how GA law reads it, but most states reads it as if whatever you're on causes your normal faculties to be impaired, you're DUI. There's no per se limit as there is for alcohol. Most DUI-drugs occur because people are taking well over the prescribed limit, rather they be specifically prescribed to them or not.

    Just like alcohol, if people refuse both field sobriety and a chemical test (in this case urine), it's still pretty simple to get a conviction.

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    If you can show impaired driving, you don't really need a specific blood content or the like.

    DUI is broken into two parts, and you can be guilty of one without the other. One is being over the statutory limit, and the other is being influenced by a substance so that your driving is impaired. The statutory one is just easier to prove, so its the one more commonly used.

    Failing SFSTs will be one part that goes into the decision to make the arrest or not. Driving behavior prior to the stop, non-SFST specific clues, etc. will also go into the decision. In addition, there is drug recognition training that some officers attend that will allow them more expertise on determining level of toxicity and drug type during their interaction with the driver.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bnathanb1982 View Post
    I know that you can get a dui for being under the influence of prescription medication. My question is when you pull someone over and suspect a dui with no alcohol being involved, is the only way to arrest them for dui with prescription meds is if they fail a field sobriety test? Obviously with alcohol, you have a set limit and have breathalyzer and blood test to determine the limit. Is it illegal to drive PERIOD while taking certain medications? Obviously I know there is a lot of common sense involved but was just curious about the actual laws and rules on this subject.
    The key word in your question is "impaired". In theory, a person taking prescription medication could be impaired. Obviously you determine this on a case by case basis. In this situation, an Officer can articulate the reason(s) he stopped the vehicle, and it's entirely possible to prove a DUI case in court.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bnathanb1982 View Post
    Is it illegal to drive PERIOD while taking certain medications?
    Can't find anything to this effect in Washington State law.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bnathanb1982 View Post
    I know that you can get a dui for being under the influence of prescription medication. My question is when you pull someone over and suspect a dui with no alcohol being involved, is the only way to arrest them for dui with prescription meds is if they fail a field sobriety test? Obviously with alcohol, you have a set limit and have breathalyzer and blood test to determine the limit. Is it illegal to drive PERIOD while taking certain medications? Obviously I know there is a lot of common sense involved but was just curious about the actual laws and rules on this subject.
    Our decision to arrest is based on the totality of circumstances. If we build enough probable cause during the three (3) phases (vehicle in motion, personal contact, and SFSTs), then we arrest. It doesn't matter what is causing the person to be impaired. There is no set limit with alcohol either. This is a misconception. If they consumed enough alcohol to be impaired, they get arrested. I can easily articulate an impaired driver below the "per se" or statutory limit of .08%. Normally District Attorneys don't like to handle alcohol cases where the driver had a breath-alcohol under .08%, but it depends on the relationship/reputation of the arresting officer and how bad the driver was in fact, showing impairment while driving.

    I do not recall any state laws that advise it is illegal to drive on prescription medications, but it is evident that if the involved medication impairs your ability to drive, then yes, you can & will get arrested for DUI/DWI.
    Last edited by SgtScott31; 12-15-2008 at 10:39 PM.
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    I agree with the other officers statements regarding totality of the circumstances and inability to safely operation a vehicle.

    As to your question regarding Field Sobriety Tests- realize that the SFSTs are designed to test for alcoholic beverage impairment- which is a central nervous system depressant.

    So, if someone is under the influence of a depressant then the SFSTs will still be effective. However, if they are under the influence of another drug classification (such as a stimulant, cannabinoid or hallucinogen) then they most likely will not react to SFST in the same way that they would if they were using a depressant.

    In these cases you have to look at other signs, such as grinding teeth (bruxtism), fidgeting, needle track marks, blisters and chemical burns on the tongue/mouth/lips, chemical odors on their breath, white powder residue around the nose, attention span etc. to build your case. I have successfully used similar clues along with driving and a urine test to prove DUI in a court trial for someone who was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time they were stopped.

    There is a very successful certification program through the IACP called "Drug Recognition Expert" that trains officers to evaluate drivers for drug impairment.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KAA951 View Post
    I agree with the other officers statements regarding totality of the circumstances and inability to safely operation a vehicle.

    As to your question regarding Field Sobriety Tests- realize that the SFSTs are designed to test for alcoholic beverage impairment- which is a central nervous system depressant.

    So, if someone is under the influence of a depressant then the SFSTs will still be effective. However, if they are under the influence of another drug classification (such as a stimulant, cannabinoid or hallucinogen) then they most likely will not react to SFST in the same way that they would if they were using a depressant.

    In these cases you have to look at other signs, such as grinding teeth (bruxtism), fidgeting, needle track marks, blisters and chemical burns on the tongue/mouth/lips, chemical odors on their breath, white powder residue around the nose, attention span etc. to build your case. I have successfully used similar clues along with driving and a urine test to prove DUI in a court trial for someone who was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time they were stopped.

    There is a very successful certification program through the IACP called "Drug Recognition Expert" that trains officers to evaluate drivers for drug impairment.
    You made some good points, but although there are other tests that can be conducted (specifically by the DREs), depending on the medication/drug, they can very well show the same clues on the SFSTs. Yes the SFSTs are especially effective for those under the influence of alcohol, but you must remember that the WAT & OLS are psychomotor tests. They are designed to force the driver/suspect to multitask (count, watch feet, etc) just as they have to multitask to drive (steer, speed control, checking mirrors, brake, etc). The HGN is limited, but it can still be present in other CNS depressants, inhalants, PCP, and some stimulants. One can still make a good DUI-drug case without having DRE training and just the 3 phases (I already mentioned) outlined by NHTSA. Not that I would mind a DRE on scene with me, but it's a tough program, and the amount of DREs here in the southeast are sporadic at best. It's getting better though.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bnathanb1982 View Post
    I know that you can get a dui for being under the influence of prescription medication.
    Most certainly. We get a ton of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bnathanb1982 View Post
    My question is when you pull someone over and suspect a dui with no alcohol being involved, is the only way to arrest them for dui with prescription meds is if they fail a field sobriety test?
    This most certainly can be done. However, we must remember that the SFST's, as designed, tested and validated by NHTSA, were not designed to show the "loss of normal use" that most states have in their DWI/DUI statutes. The SFST's were designed to correlate the number of observed clues to a BAC level (i.e. 4/6 HGH = 88% chance that the person is above 0.08, 79% WAT, and 83% OLS, etc). However, most officers use the SFST's to show "loss of normal use", because they don't know or can't get the subjects BAC. The SFST's are very simple devided attentions tasks, and it can be argued that a "normal" sober person, should be able to do them without any problem.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bnathanb1982 View Post
    Obviously with alcohol, you have a set limit and have breathalyzer and blood test to determine the limit. Is it illegal to drive PERIOD while taking certain medications?
    Yes, with alcohol there is a statutarily prohibited limit (per se) and a BAC can be obtained if the person consents to give a specimen or you have a court order. Depending on what your state's statute says, it very well may be illegal to operate a motor vehicle while taking certain medications, although doubtful. Some medications will impair a person's ability to operate a motor vehicle, however, most, when taken at their theraputic level, will not.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bnathanb1982 View Post
    Obviously I know there is a lot of common sense involved but was just curious about the actual laws and rules on this subject.
    The actual laws and rules are going to vary from state to state. While the SFST's were not designed to show, "loss of normal use", they are very good at showing it. There are other tests that we (DRE's) use to show impairment caused by drug categories other than CNS depressants (alcohol). Depending on what type of medication the person is taking, the person will show different signs. Some of them have been stated in different posts above. This is why it is important to do the entire SFST's if you suspect a person is impaired on medication. The only prescription meds that will cause HGN are CNS depressants and disaciative anesthetics (dextromethorphan), because they don't prescribe inhalants. So if you stop after HGN because you don't see anything in the eyes, you could be missing some good signs of impairment, as there are more impairing drug categories that don't cause HGN than there are that do.

    The bottom line is, that if you think that the person is impaired or intoxicated, and can articulate it enough to have probable cause for the arrest, hook em' up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SgtScott31 View Post
    The HGN is limited, but it can still be present in other CNS depressants, inhalants, PCP, and some stimulants.
    To my knowledge and from what I have been taught in the DRE program, there are no stimulants that will cause HGN. HGN is limited to CNS depressants, inhalants and disassociative anesthetics (the category formerly known as PCP), and certain medical conditions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by usmcrob View Post
    To my knowledge and from what I have been taught in the DRE program, there are no stimulants that will cause HGN. HGN is limited to CNS depressants, inhalants and disassociative anesthetics (the category formerly known as PCP), and certain medical conditions.
    From what I was told in the DUI Instructor program, the acronym DIPS was used to indicate where HGN would be observed (Depressants, Inhalants, PCP, and I thought Stimulants). I could be mistaken. If that's what they told you in DRE, then I would be more inclined to believe them. Not that it's going to sway our decisions any on future DUIs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SgtScott31 View Post
    From what I was told in the DUI Instructor program, the acronym DIPS was used to indicate where HGN would be observed (Depressants, Inhalants, PCP, and I thought Stimulants). I could be mistaken. If that's what they told you in DRE, then I would be more inclined to believe them. Not that it's going to sway our decisions any on future DUIs.
    The way that we remember it is very similar:

    DID drugs (Depressants, Inhalants and Dissasociative Anetheitics) cause HGN and pupil size will usually be normal.

    SCHool drugs: (Stimulants, Cannabis, and Halucinogens) do not cause HGN, but will usually cause the pupils to dilate.

    Narcotics Analgesics are on their own as they are the only category that cause the pupils to constrict as well as don't cause HGN.

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    He is correct in the above, according to what I was taught over the summer. It used to be DIP and is now DID and no stimulants cause HGN. Although I do get thoughly confused on all of the different catagories and such and can never remember what the D in DID is supposed to be accept that is is the catagory/classification formerly known as PCP.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NORCOCOP View Post
    He is correct in the above, according to what I was taught over the summer. It used to be DIP and is now DID and no stimulants cause HGN. Although I do get thoughly confused on all of the different catagories and such and can never remember what the D in DID is supposed to be accept that is is the catagory/classification formerly known as PCP.
    I went through DRE school after it had changed, so it wasn't a hard transition. For the older guys, I call the "the artist formerly known as PCP category"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bnathanb1982 View Post
    I know that you can get a dui for being under the influence of prescription medication. My question is when you pull someone over and suspect a dui with no alcohol being involved, is the only way to arrest them for dui with prescription meds is if they fail a field sobriety test? Obviously with alcohol, you have a set limit and have breathalyzer and blood test to determine the limit. Is it illegal to drive PERIOD while taking certain medications? Obviously I know there is a lot of common sense involved but was just curious about the actual laws and rules on this subject.
    Well, I like many others on this forum, have done exactly what you're asking about, and I'll answer from an Arkansas perspective.

    Here you have either impairment which is proven by a series of standardized field sobriety tests or maximum allowable blood alcohol content level of 0.08%

    Once someone is pulled over for whatever reason, and intoxication is suspected, they're put thru SFSTs, unless it's impossible or unsafe for them, and then they're taken to jail to blow in the machine. The failure of SFSTs is the largest component in your decision to arrest. A portable breath test can be used to confirm your suspicions. I've never really beein in the habit of using one and only until recently did I have my very own. Sometimes they'll have drugs and alcohol in their system, and this will show the alcohol content. If the alcohol is non-existent or too low to be below legal presumption then a drug recognition evaluation can be performed which is a series of tests to indicate which drug(s) was used to become intoxicated (impaired) and what range their in. Other tests (blood and/or) urine can become available too. However, it is not necessary to have any chemical tests, yet you may find yourself sitting in court explaining why. You can still win your case, but these offenses are often fought quite heavily due to the penalties involved. I once went to an accident to find someone that I suspicioned to be intoxicated. He needed several stitches, and I arrested him in the ER without doing any SFSTs on him. He did consent to a blood test, but I'd already included the DWI as well as numerous other charges on his citation. Due to his health status I didn't take him to jail.

    Some of the impairing medications will have a label instructing the user to avoid operating heavy machinery which a motor vehicle is. The statute basically says it's illegal to operate or be in actual physical control if you're intoxicated (thus too impaired to drive) or have an alcohol concentration of 0.08% [for an adult non-commercial driver].

    It's not illegal, per se, to drive while using certain medications, but it is unlawful to operate or be in actual physical control (not necessarily driving) while under the influence of such a medication that you are too impaired to drive.
    Last edited by ArkansasFan24; 12-17-2008 at 09:57 AM.

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    TN allows officers to request breath AND blood if necessary, and if the subject refuses either one, they can still be cited for violating the implied consent law. It helps us with those cases where alcohol and drugs are involved. If someone is all over the road and showing obvious clues during the SFSTs, but blows under the statutory limit of .08%, we can then request blood. If they refuse even after submitting a breath sample, they can still be charged with implied consent violation. Any other states allow this??
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    Quote Originally Posted by SgtScott31 View Post
    TN allows officers to request breath AND blood if necessary, and if the subject refuses either one, they can still be cited for violating the implied consent law. It helps us with those cases where alcohol and drugs are involved. If someone is all over the road and showing obvious clues during the SFSTs, but blows under the statutory limit of .08%, we can then request blood. If they refuse even after submitting a breath sample, they can still be charged with implied consent violation. Any other states allow this??
    TX implied consent law states allows officers to request a specimen of breath and/or blood. However, it is not a criminal offense to refuse. Consent or refusal comes into play in the administrative hearing for their DL. If they consent to give a specimen and it's under a 0.08 then their license is not suspended. If they give a specimen and it's over 0.08 then their license is suspended for 90 days. If they refuse then their license is suspended for 180 days. If we ask for breath and they blow under and we suspect something else and then ask for blood and they refuse, it still goes as a refusal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by usmcrob View Post
    TX implied consent law states allows officers to request a specimen of breath and/or blood. However, it is not a criminal offense to refuse. Consent or refusal comes into play in the administrative hearing for their DL. If they consent to give a specimen and it's under a 0.08 then their license is not suspended. If they give a specimen and it's over 0.08 then their license is suspended for 90 days. If they refuse then their license is suspended for 180 days. If we ask for breath and they blow under and we suspect something else and then ask for blood and they refuse, it still goes as a refusal.
    I think 1st time offense Implied Consent is civil penalty in TN, but 2nd and subsequent offenses are criminal. License is suspended for 1 year if they refuse.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KAA951 View Post
    I agree with the other officers statements regarding totality of the circumstances and inability to safely operation a vehicle.

    As to your question regarding Field Sobriety Tests- realize that the SFSTs are designed to test for alcoholic beverage impairment- which is a central nervous system depressant.

    So, if someone is under the influence of a depressant then the SFSTs will still be effective. However, if they are under the influence of another drug classification (such as a stimulant, cannabinoid or hallucinogen) then they most likely will not react to SFST in the same way that they would if they were using a depressant.

    In these cases you have to look at other signs, such as grinding teeth (bruxtism), fidgeting, needle track marks, blisters and chemical burns on the tongue/mouth/lips, chemical odors on their breath, white powder residue around the nose, attention span etc. to build your case. I have successfully used similar clues along with driving and a urine test to prove DUI in a court trial for someone who was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time they were stopped.

    There is a very successful certification program through the IACP called "Drug Recognition Expert" that trains officers to evaluate drivers for drug impairment.
    see response below
    Last edited by memphis-slim; 12-17-2008 at 03:28 PM. Reason: forgot to type response

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    I am going to assume you meant HGN and not SFST. The battery of SFST's are designed to test for impairment caused by all drug categories. That is why we perform them again during DRE evals.

    Also, HGN is not a test for alcoholic beverage impairment. As indicated in many of the posts above, HGN can be caused by drug categories other than CNS depressants.

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