Driving under the influence charges can arise without alcohol

Getting arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) does not always involve the use of alcohol. Indeed, a South Dakota driver could be charged with DUI without ever drinking a drop of alcohol.

That's because any substance that impairs a driver's ability to operate their vehicle safely can result in the driver being arrested for driving under the influence.

Your prescription medicine could be a problem

Simply because your doctor legally prescribed your medication to you does not mean that you can't face legal consequences for driving under its influence. Many prescription medicines cause impairment that affects the patient's ability to drive a car or operate machinery safely. If you have any doubts about a medication's affect on your driving skills, refrain from getting behind the wheel after you take a dose.

You don't get a pass for over-the-counter meds, either

As anyone who has ever taken Nyquil to treat the symptoms of a bad cold or case of flu can attest, the fact that the medicine can be bought legally without a prescription has no bearing on its ability to impair those who take a dose. Ditto for Benadryl, the common antihistamine taken by many allergy sufferers. Both medicines contain ingredients that make people very drowsy and shouldn't be taken before driving.

Not a good mix

Sometimes, a drug's effects can be exacerbated by mixing the medication with another drug that enhances its sedative (or other) effects. You might think that you are able to drive when taking your regular dosage of prescription medicine. But its interaction with another prescription drug or over-the-counter (OTC) medicine could throw you for a loop.

What about marijuana?

While medical and recreational marijuana usage will both be a prominent feature of the upcoming November ballot, make no mistake: marijuana usage here in South Dakota remains illegal at this time. It is also illegal on the federal level. 

Driving while under the influence of marijuana could result in your arrest for DUI as well as for possession of marijuana if the arresting officer finds some on your person or in your vehicle. Even if it winds up getting legalized, that gives no one a pass to drive after smoking pot.

The problem is vast

In 2010, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducted a survey to learn how many drivers in the United States actually drove under the influence of illegal drugs. They learned that a staggering 10 million Americans self-admitted to driving after consuming illegal drugs in the prior year.

In fact, when they tested drivers who died in fatal crashes, they found that over 18% were positive for an illegal or prescription drug, as per statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That's a major problem.

Busted for DUI?

As a backlash, over-zealous police and prosecutors may wind up arresting drivers for marginal impairment. The problem here is that unlike tests for determining alcohol intoxication, there are few reliable indicators of prescription drug impairment. You could inadvertently get caught up in one of those dragnets.

If so, exercise your right to remain silent and seek the counsel of a Rapid City criminal defense attorney.

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