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Can I be charged with DUI while taking prescription medication?

It is becoming increasingly common that people charged with DUI were not drinking at all. In this day and age, more and more people are prescribed with prescription medications, particularly pain medications. They are taking this medication legally and as prescribed by their doctor and do not realized that if pulled over by a police officer, a DUI arrest could be the result.

Many wonder how this is possible, "I wasn't drinking!" However, in Tennessee, driving under the influence is not limited to alcohol. Under TN statute § 55-10-401, it is illegal for a person to be in "physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of any legal or illegal intoxicant." This includes any drug, controlled substance or alcohol that could impair the driver's ability to safely control the vehicle. It does not matter if the medication is being taken as directed by the prescribing doctor. What does matter, under the law, is the affect on the person taking the medication while driving.

This can create a serious problem for people with severe or chronic pain. For people living with pain, it is necessary to take pain medication in order to function every day. This is not necessarily a defense to a driving under the influence charge according to the statute (§ 55-10-402). Those in serious pain may find that if stopped, they do not do well on field sobriety tests as well. These types of tests were designed to gage a person's alcohol impairment level, and not test the number of or amount of drugs in a person's system (whether prescription drugs or not).

If this happens, it is important to remember that there is hope and there are applicable defenses in this type of a situation for a DUI charge. The law presumes innocence and not guilt; the amount of a medication in your blood or urine test may not necessarily mean your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle was impaired. Your best option is to have a strong defense. If you were arrested for DUI, contact a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Law Office of Sam Byrd at 423-954-7949 for a free initial consultation. Attorney Byrd will help build a defense, explain your options and protect your legal rights and future.

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Law Office of Sam Byrd
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Chattanooga, TN 37415

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NCDD National College for DUI Defense: Samuel A Byrd