Prescription drugs and DUI

Even if you are taking a legally prescribed controlled substance, it is possible that you could be cited with “metabolite DUI” or even DUI. Under Utah’s law, Section 41-6a-516, if you are driving with “any measurable controlled substance or metabolite of a controlled substance” in your body you can be charged with what is known as a “metabolite DUI.” This charge is similar to the normal DUI charge and is also a Class B Misdemeanor, meaning you could be looking at up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000 and a suspension of your driver’s license. However, unlike a DUI charge with alcohol, the prosecution does not have to prove that there was actually any impaired driving; rather they just have to prove that you ingested the controlled substance before you drove.

Since the prosecution has a much lower burden of proof than with an alcohol charge, it may seem that this charge is impossible to fight, but there are two statutory defenses that you can raise if you take your case to trial. These defenses include: (1) you ingested the controlled substance without your knowledge (for example, at a party or if someone slipped a drug into your drink); or (2) you have a prescription for the controlled substance (and you complied with the prescription’s instructions for dosage).

Additionally, if you have any controlled substances in your system, you can be charged with a DUI under Utah Code Section 41-6a-501. Unlike “metabolite DUI,” the prosecution does have to prove that the controlled substance caused you to be impaired. The prosecution must prove that the drug rendered you incapable of safely operating a vehicle. This can be very difficult to prove since drugs can have differing effects on different people. Therefore, in drug DUI cases, the prosecution will need more than just a blood test to prove their case. The prosecution will also need an expert to testify about the effects of the drug and whether or not it could cause impairment at the level ingested. Even if you have a legal prescription for this drug, you could still be convicted of DUI if it is determined that you were intoxicated while you were driving. In order to avoid this, make sure that you comply with all instructions provided to you by your doctor and pharmacist when taking your prescriptions, and if a prescription states “do not operate heavy machinery while taking this drug” be aware that your vehicle is a heavy machine!

If you are pulled over and charged with either a drug related DUI or metabolite DUI be sure to contact an attorney to help you with your defense.