Most people mentally associate Florida driving under the influence (DUI) charges with alcohol. A large percentage of DUI arrests occur because someone had too much to drink and either drove poorly or failed a breath test.
However, alcohol is not the only substance that can impair someone’s driving ability. A large number of different prescription drugs can also diminish driving skill and increase an individual’s likelihood of causing a preventable crash. Florida police officers can arrest those who are under the influence of prescription medications, and prosecutors can pursue DUI charges against those motorists.
What do Florida drivers generally need to know about DUI charges related to prescription drugs?
There is no per se limit
The state can use two different approaches when developing a DUI case related to alcohol. Specifically, the driver could face accusations of either being over the legal limit for their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or demonstrating impaired ability at the wheel.
Someone facing a DUI charge stemming from a failed chemical test but not issues with someone’s driving is accused of a violation of the state’s per se statute. It is illegal on its own to have a BAC over the statutory limits. There is no such limit for prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs or illegal drugs in Florida.
Any detectable amount of drugs that could impair someone’s driving ability could lead to a DUI charge. Even if a motorist has used the same medication for years and feels confident that they have a tolerance that allows them to drive safely, admitting to consuming mind-altering drugs before driving or having them show up in a chemical test can be enough to warrant their prosecution.
The penalties are the same as for alcohol cases
Florida prosecutors largely treat drugged driving DUIs the same way that they treat alcohol DUIs. State law does not actually differentiate between these two offenses, meaning that the charge on someone’s record and the possible penalties are the same. However, judges may have a more negative view of drug driving in some cases and could be more likely to hand down severe penalties even for a first offense.
Drivers who understand the risks related to their prescription medications may have an easier time avoiding mistakes that could lead to their prosecution.