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Driver impairment and the law

A DUI, which is a driving under the influence charge, is a crime for someone who has driven a vehicle while under the effects of either drugs or alcohol. The drugs do not have to be illicit; in fact, prescription drug use can also lead to this charge. If you're stopped and questioned about your driving, know that you do have a right to speak with your attorney. If you are asked to perform a sobriety test, you should start your defense at that moment.

What makes a driver impaired by law?

A person is considered to be impaired if he or she is unable to safely operate a vehicle due to the effects of alcohol, prescription medications, over-the-counter medications or illegal drugs. For example, drowsiness is a side effect of the commonly used drug diphenhydramine, which is used for allergies. If someone falls asleep or is drowsy behind the wheel because of this drug's use, then that person could be accused of being impaired, even though the use of the drug is legal.

What kinds of tests are used to prove intoxication or impairment?

To prove that a person is impaired, there are several kinds of tests that might be performed. Field sobriety tests can be used for alcohol, as can Breathalyzer testing. Chemical tests can be taken at a hospital to see which drugs are in the body and to determine if side effects could be causing impairment.

None of the tests can prove a patient on over-the-counter medications was intoxicated, but the person's actions or odd behaviors may be held against him or her by police. This is one place to start if you've been accused of impairment, since you may be able to argue you did not know of the ill effects the drug could cause.

Source: FindLaw, "DUI Offenses Basics," accessed Aug. 23, 2016

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