Many people who decide to drive while chemically impaired may not even realize they broke the law in doing so. Although alcohol is the most common mind-altering substance involved in impaired driving charges, driving under the influence of any drug that impacts your ability to drive is a violation of Florida law. That could include driving after taking prescribed medication, even if you use it the exact way that your doctor recommends.
You may feel like you trust your own ability to drive safely after taking a medication you have used for some time. However, you may underestimate how the medication you take affects you. If law enforcement pulls you over for erratic driving and finds out that you have taken prescription medication or used medical marijuana, that could be adequate grounds for them to arrest you for impaired driving immediately.
Just because you can take the medication doesn’t mean you can drive
Having a legal prescription authorizes you as a patient to possess an otherwise controlled substance. Provided that you comply with the recommendations of your doctor, you can legally take medication that would otherwise not be available, ranging from sedatives to painkillers.
If you have certain qualifying conditions, you could also have a recommendation from a doctor and a state license for medical marijuana. However, just because you have the authorization to use a drug does not mean it is legal for you to drive after taking it. If it affects your normal functions, you can’t legally operate a vehicle after taking the medication.
Any medication that comes with a warning about driving, drowsiness or operating heavy machinery is likely a medication that could result in impaired driving charges under Florida law. That includes medical marijuana, even though there isn’t a specific impairment cutoff for the drug if you wind up taking a chemical, blood or urine test.
First offenses can have criminal and professional consequences
Even if you have never gotten in trouble with the law before, a drugged driving conviction is something you need to take seriously. There is no guaranteed leniency just because you don’t have a previous criminal record.
The potential penalties for a first-time drugged driving conviction could include a fine of between $500 and $1,000, as long as six months in jail, 50 hours of community service and the loss of your license for up to a year. Convictions can also impact your employment, your professional licensing and your ability to stay in a specific career path.
There may be options available for mounting a criminal defense or otherwise negotiating to reduce the impact of these potential charges on your life. Talking about your situation with a Florida attorney who has experience with both criminal defense and professional licensing can help you mitigate the consequences of pending charges.