Can You Get a DUI Driving On Cold Medicine?

Posted by Phoenix DUI Lawyer Nick Alcock:

Stop to consider for a moment what the three letters “DUI” actually stand for.   Most people out there know that it means “Driving Under the Influence.”   But how many people just associate DUI with the poor decision to get behind the wheel after a few too many alcoholic beverages? What everyone needs to know is that this crime is not limited to driving under the influence of just alcohol or controlled substances.

In Arizona, it is true that people will face DUI charges if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more.   But it’s also true that a driver can be charged with a DUI if they haven’t even been drinking.  Officers can pull over and charge Arizona drivers with driving under the influence of any substance – legal or otherwise – if they find, for example, erratic driving behavior.  Unfortunately, this includes legal drugs like cold medicine.

Cold medicines definitely have their benefits.  They ease cold and flu symptoms and simply make people feel better.  But like any medication they also come with negative side effects.  Cold medicine can make people feel drowsy, dizzy, and incoherent.  And if individuals are experiencing these symptoms while driving, they can be pulled over and charged with a DUI if a police officer determines they are driving under the influence of the over-the-counter medication.  Cold medicines aren’t the old over-the-counter drugs that could lead to DUI charges; antihistamine drugs used to treat allergies also apply.  Allegra, Claritin D, and Clarinex can all make individuals feel drowsy and less alert.  Prescription drugs can also be problematic. Barbiturates and other anti-anxiety medication like Valium, for example, can also cause drowsiness and loss of mental focus. If individuals are found under the influence of these drugs and driving unsafe, officers can charge them with DUI.  State DUI laws in Arizona are for the most part written and passed to prohibit driving while under the influence of anything that would impair your performance behind the wheel.

The bottom line is that if it affects your ability to drive safely, you could be charged with a DUI.  If convicted, the same penalties that would apply to someone who had too much to drink at their local bar would be the exact same if they had taken NyQuil to help combat a cough.

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