Almost everyone associates the charges of DUI, DWI or OWI with drinking alcohol and getting behind the wheel. However, it is also possible to get a DUI for driving while under the influence of any substance that impairs your thoughts or actions. This includes illegal drugs like marijuana as well as prescription medications like hydrocodone. Indiana law makes it a crime simply to have traces of the drug in your system when you are driving even if you are not impaired by it.
Indiana Code § 35-46-9-2 defines intoxication as being under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, drugs or any combination of those three, so that there is an impaired condition of thought or action and the loss of the normal control of a person’s faculties. Simply put, it is illegal to drive after drinking or taking anything that will impair your ability to drive. This applies to medications that you may be prescribed as well. For example, if you are given a prescription for pain killers that impair your thoughts and actions, you can be arrested for driving after you take them.
As a result, many medications contain warning labels that tell you not to drive or operate heavy machinery after taking them. This is why it is important to check all labels and read all the paperwork that comes with your prescriptions. Even if you do not see a warning label about driving on the bottle, it is still a good idea not to drive immediately after taking any medication until you know how it affects you.
In addition to operating while intoxicated, there are “per se” offenses. The per se offense makes it illegal to drive with a metabolite of a controlled substance (molecules of metabolized or processed substance) in your system. If you are pulled over or involved in an accident and a blood test comes back positive for a metabolite, you can be arrested. A metabolite can stay in your system for several days or even weeks after you use a drug, and you do not have to be impaired to be arrested and convicted under this statute. However, if you have a metabolite of a prescription drug in your system and you have a valid prescription for that drug, the prescription can be a used as a valid defense to the per se offense.
If you have been charged with a DUI, it is important to speak experienced legal counsel. All of the attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP have experience handling DUI cases. Bradley Keffer was formerly the Marion County (Indianapolis) Fatal Alcohol Crash Team Prosecutor and is currently a member of the National College of DUI Defense (NCDD).
If you have been charged with a DUI, do not delay in seeking experienced DUI defense counsel and contact Keffer Hirschauer LLP at 1-800-NOT GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.