Most often, people associate DUI charges with alcohol. They think the only way in which a person could be charged with the crime is if he or she blows a blood alcohol concentration greater than the legal limit. However, it does not take having a few beers or cocktails to be charged with driving under the influence.
Drivers in Florida can be charged with driving under the influence if they are caught driving or are in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of prescription drugs, narcotics or alcohol to the point in which his or her normal faculties are impaired, according to Florida Statutes Annotated § 316.193.
The term “normal faculties” can include the ability to see, hear, walk, talk, judge distances, drive an automobile, make judgments, act in emergencies and, in general, normally perform the many mental and physical activities of daily life, according to Florida law.
This means even if a person is impaired by a prescription medication for which he or she has a valid prescription, that driver still could face criminal charges if caught behind the wheel. For instance, if a person takes multiple pain pills and decides to drive, his or her normal faculties may be impaired. This could lead to a drugged driving charge.
Law enforcement officers are trained to look for various ways in which a person can be intoxicated by prescription and over-the-counter medication. Similar to alcohol intoxication, drivers could have bloodshot eyes, slurred speech or delayed reaction times. Additionally, they could appear tired or even hyperactive.
In some Florida cases, officers will rely on the judgment of drug recognition experts or DREs. These are law enforcement officers who have completed Drug Evaluation and Classification Program training in the Drug Influence Evaluation exercises and detecting drug-related impairment. These officers are skilled in spotting the use of some prescription drugs, such as:
Once an officer suspects a person is intoxicated by a prescription drug, he or she may request field sobriety tests, such as the walk-and-turn exercise or the horizontal gaze Nystagmus test. Additionally, the officer could request a submission to drug testing of the driver’s blood or urine to determine if a chemical is present in his or her system.
The penalties for a Florida prescription drug DUI are the same as those for driving under the influence of alcohol. When a person is charged with a first DUID offense, he or she could face a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail, fine of up to $1,000 and a driver’s license suspension for up to one year. A second DUID would be a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to nine months in jail, fine of up to $2,000 and a driver’s license suspension for up to five years.
A third DUI in more than 10 years after a prior conviction would be considered a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, fine of up to $2,500 and a driver’s license suspension for up to five years.
However, the penalties become more severe when a person is arrested for a third DUI within a 10-year period. This could be a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, fine of up to $5,000 and having a driver’s license revoked for 10 years. A fourth or subsequent DUI would be a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, fine of up to $5,000 and losing the right to drive permanently.
After being accused of driving while intoxicated, a person may feel like there are no options. In some instances, a person could argue he or she suffered a reaction to the drug or he or she used the diagnosed amount of legal medication. Having evidence and an experienced prescription drug defense attorney can help you build a strong defense.
Don Pumphrey Jr. is a Tallahassee criminal defense attorney who is dedicated to helping clients get the best possible result in their criminal cases. With nearly two decades of experience, Don has handled a variety of criminal cases, including DUI, drugged driving, drug charges, marijuana offenses, white collar crimes, violent crimes and more. He is a former prosecutor and former law enforcement officer. He now serves as a partner at Pumphrey and Prince, a firm based in Tallahassee, Florida.