On a recent post about DUI prescription drugs a reader commented that prescription drugs in fact do impair drivers and thus they are not innocent. I feel this issue needs to be clarified.
While many prescription drugs can cause impairment, there is a growing number of cases where a driver took prescription drugs, was not impaired but was charged for a DUI drugs violation anyway. A doctor prescribed drug is perfectly safe and non-impairing despite use when the person is in the therapeutic range which is totally different from person to person and over the use history by that person. Here is a common scenario:
A common citizen who is not impaired is driving down the highway late at night. The person doesn’t keep a perfect lane. A police officer working on a DUI patrol sees this and pulls the driver over.
When asked to perform the field sobriety tests, the driver (maybe from nervousness or drowsiness) stumbles. The officer assumes this person is impaired. Upon questioning the driver honestly reveals that he/she takes prescription medication. The officer assumes that the prescription drug is causing the perceived impairment and arrests the driver for DUI drugs.
Swerving and stumbling are not specific to impairment. Someone could be drowsy or clumsy. [Even some police officers can’t do the sobriety tests.] Furthermore, all prescription drug users are not impaired. The assumption that prescription drugs must have caused this impairment is faulty and downright ridiculous.
Like I have mentioned before, law enforcement is a human endeavor. Police officers make mistakes and this problem is compounded by the fact that they go through very little meaningful training on DUI or DUID.
If the police were perfect, we wouldn’t have criminal defense attorneys and we wouldn’t have movements like The Innocence Project.