Driving under the influence (DUI) charges are handed out to drivers whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels hit .08% or who are significantly impaired by a controlled substance. Illicit drugs and alcohol will undoubtedly lead to DUI charges, but drivers can also be charged for taking impairing prescription drugs in Maryland.
Medicines that impair driving
According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the following over-the-counter medicines can affect a person’s ability to drive:
- Antipsychotic drugs
- Anti-seizure drugs
- Anxiety medicine
- Cold medicine
- Diarrhea medicine
- Medicine for motion sickness
- Medications with stimulants (caffeine, ephedrine, etc.)
- Muscle relaxants
- Sleeping pills
The FDA has also warned that cannabidiol products can impair driving ability since they can cause drowsiness and lethargy.
Medications that cause impairment with alcohol
Some medications don’t usually impair driving ability by themselves but can when consumed together with alcohol. Notably, some of these drugs even become fatal thanks to the amplifying effects of liquor. These include:
- Depressants: When combined with alcohol, medications like Xanax and Valium can lead to dizziness, memory loss and even death.
- Prescription opiates: Drugs like Percocet, OxyContin and Vicodin can slow down breathing, lower pulse, knock drivers out cold or even cause death when taken with alcohol.
- Stimulants: Ritalin and Adderall mixed with alcohol can be dangerous since users can’t gauge their level of intoxication, leading to overconsumption. Users’ coordination and judgment faculties are also impaired, and they may pass out – or die.
An officer can charge a driver with driving while impaired (DWI) if the driver was impaired due to legal drugs or a combination of prescription medicine and alcohol. DWI charges carry lesser penalties than DUIs, but they’re penalties nonetheless.
A first-offense DWI charge carries jail time of up to two months, a maximum fine of $500 and a license suspension of up to six months. By comparison, a DUI charge for a first offense carries jail time of up to a year, fines of up to $1,000 and a six-month license suspension.
According to Maryland law, drivers can’t claim that the drug they took was a vital prescription medication as a defense against a DWI charge. However, they may be able to prove that they didn’t know that their medication or the combination of their drug and alcohol would impair their faculties. To properly communicate this and negotiate for lighter penalties, drivers should consider hiring a lawyer.