Usually when you hear the word DUI, you think of someone driving while under the influence of alcohol or possibly illegal drugs. So you may be surprised to learn that it is possible to get a DUI from prescription drug use (known as a DUID). This offense can occur because of an unexpected outcome from a medication, a combination of drugs, or problems with dosing.
California Vehicle Code 312 states: “The term “drug” means any substance or combination of substances, other than alcohol, which could so affect the nervous system, brain, or muscles of a person as to impair, to an appreciable degree, his ability to drive a vehicle in the manner that an ordinarily prudent and cautious man, in full possession of his faculties, using reasonable care, would drive a similar vehicle under like conditions.”
Driving while impaired by a prescription drug can constitute a DUI. The question is, however, what level of impairment is enough for a DUI charge? Right now, there is no set measure for this. Until the time comes when there is a clear answer, law enforcement will look at a combination of factors such as the driver’s behavior (weaving, swerving, ignoring traffic laws) and the type of drug they are on. Because the symptoms of impairment may look different than those of alcohol use and there is no breathalyzer test administered, a police officer may bring in a drug recognition expert (DRE). This person is specifically trained to recognize the signs of impairment from drugs. If you are charged with a DUI, the DRE will likely testify against you in court.