You are probably aware that Vicodin is a commonly prescribed drug to help with pain management. But you may not realize that, in Nevada, you can get arrested for DUI if you are operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of Vicodin. This is true even if you have a valid prescription for the substance.
The law in Nevada can be found in Nevada Revised Statutes 484C.110:
Unlawful acts relating to operation of vehicle…
2. It is unlawful for any person who:
(a) Is under the influence of a controlled substance;
(b) Is under the combined influence of intoxicating liquor and a controlled substance; or
(c) Inhales, ingests, applies or otherwise uses any chemical, poison or organic solvent, or any compound or combination of any of these, to a degree which renders the person incapable of safely driving or exercising actual physical control of a vehicle,
to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle on a highway or on premises to which the public has access. The fact that any person charged with a violation of this subsection is or has been entitled to use that drug under the laws of this State is not a defense against any charge of violating this subsection.
- driving a motor vehicle while impaired by Vicodin,
- sitting in a car with a running engine after taking Vicodin, and
- driving a vehicle after consuming both Vicodin and alcohol.
DUI attorneys draw upon several defense strategies to challenge Vicodin DUI charges. Some of the most common include showing that:
- you were not “under the influence” of Vicodin,
- law enforcement made mistakes in collecting your blood sample, and/or
- a police officer arrested you without probable cause.
- fines of $400 to $1,000, and/or
- two days to six months in jail or 24 hours to 96 hours of community service.
Our Las Vegas DUI attorneys will discuss the following in this article:
- 1. What is Vicodin DUI in Nevada?
- 2. Are there common defenses to DUI of Vicodin?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Are there related offenses
1. What is Vicodin DUI in Nevada?
Nevada DUI laws make it a criminal offense for you to drive under the influence of drugs. “Drugs” includes Vicodin and other painkillers. This is true even if you have a valid prescription for the substances.1
Common painkillers, besides Vicodin, that may lead to a DUI arrest or DUI charges include:
- or other narcotic painkillers.
Signs that you may be under the influence of Vicodin, or another painkiller are:
- raspy, low speech,
- droopy eyelids,
- constricted pupils,
- slowing reflexes, vital signs, and reaction times, and
Note that if a police officer does arrest you on suspicion of Nevada drunk driving with drugs, you are required to submit to a chemical test of your blood and/or urine. This is opposed to a breath test or a urine test.3
But you are allowed to request that a medical professional of your own choosing take a second, independent chemical test of you as well.4
2. Are there common defenses to DUI of Vicodin?
You have the right to raise a legal defense to contest charges of DUI on Vicodin. Three common defenses often used by criminal defense attorneys include showing that:
- you were not “under the influence” of Vicodin,
- there were mistakes in your blood test, and
- law enforcement arrested you without probable cause.
2.1. Not under the influence
Your DUI lawyer may hire an expert medical witness to review your case. The expert may be able to offer testimony that:
- the symptoms you displayed suggest that you were not driving under the influence of Vicodin, and
- any medicine in your system was at normal, therapeutic levels.
If so, a prosecutor may decide to drop your charges.
2.2. Mistakes in testing
If you elect to have an independent chemical tester, your lawyer may discover that the police analysts made mistakes in either:
- carrying out your blood test,
- storing the samples, or
- reading the results.
If your attorney can show that the state’s evidence is inaccurate, it should be excluded and cause the entire DUI Vicodin case to be dismissed.
2.3. No probable cause
Police are usually not allowed to pull you over unless they see you commit a traffic violation or they suspect you of having broken another law. So, if your attorney can show that the officer in your case lacked sufficient probable cause to make a traffic stop, your case should be dismissed on constitutional grounds.
3. What are the penalties?
DUI of Vicodin is typically charged as a misdemeanor. A first offense is often punishable by:
- fines of $400 to $1,000 in addition to court costs,
- 2 days to 6 months in jail or 24 hours to 96 hours of community service,
- DUI School,
- Nevada Victim Impact Panel,
- completion of a drug abuse treatment program,
- 185-day driver’s license suspension, and
- ignition interlock device installation.5
Note that misdemeanor DUI convictions must remain on your Nevada criminal record for seven years. After that time, you can petition the court for a record seal.6
4. Are there related offenses
There are three crimes related to DUI of drugs in Nevada. These include:
- unlawful possession of Vicodin – NRS 453.336,
- under the influence of a controlled substance – NRS 453.411, and
- felony DUI – NRS 484C.410.
4.1. Unlawful possession of Vicodin – NRS 453.336
Per NRS 453.336, unlawful possession of Vicodin is the crime where you possess Vicodin without a valid prescription.
Note that if police stop you for DUI of Vicodin, discover Vicodin in your car, and then realize you do not have a prescription for the drug, a prosecutor will likely charge you with both:
- DUI of Vicodin, and
- Unlawful possession of Vicodin.
4.2. Under the influence of a controlled substance – NRS 453.411
Per NRS 453.411, under the influence of a controlled substance is the crime where you either:
- consume illegal drugs, or
- be found under the influence of a controlled substance (including Vicodin).
As with a violation of NRS 484C.110, a violation of this statute is charged as a misdemeanor and punishable by up to:
- 6 months in jail, and
- $1,000.00 in fines.
4.3. Felony DUI – NRS 484C.410
Under NRS 484C.410, felony DUI is the crime where you drive under the influence and either:
- it is your 3rd offense,
- you have a prior felony DUI conviction, or
- you cause an accident in which a person is injured or killed.
Felony DUI is treated as a Category B Felony. Depending on the facts of the case, the crime is punishable by:
- substantial fines, and
- years in prison, even life.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Las Vegas Defense Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
- NRS 484C.110(2).
- See Mayo Clinic website, “Prescription drug abuse.”
- Note that under Nevada law, all drivers arrested for DUI give “implied consent” to submit to a chemical test (such as a blood test). If the driver refuses to take the blood test, the officers must get a warrant. Then the officers may use “reasonable force” to constrain the driver to get the blood sample. See, for example, Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016). See also NRS 484C.160.
- NRS 484C.180.
- For general DUI penalties, see NRS 484C.400.
- See NRS 179.245.