Yes. In California, driving under the influence of any substance is illegal if it affects your brain, your nervous system or your muscles. This includes legal prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter medicine. It does not matter whether you have a medical reason to use the drug or not—you are not supposed to drive on these types of medications.
What types of prescription or over-the-counter drugs count as DUI?
There is no single list of which drugs count and which ones don’t. Rather, each drug is judged by its effects. Driving on medication like Tylenol would not count as a DUI because it doesn’t affect your brain or your control of your vehicle in any meaningful way. Driving on a drug that makes you drowsy, however, would count as DUI.
Here are the most common medications we see associated with DUI arrests:
- Decongestants that cause drowsiness or dizziness
- Cough medicine that causes drowsiness
- Antihistamines that slow reaction time and impair motor skills
- Ambien and other sleeping pills
- Xanax and other antidepressants
- Oxycodone, hydrocodone, Vicodin and other pain pills that cause impairment and dulling of the senses
- Medical marijuana which can strongly impair the driver and increase the chance of accident
Nearly any medicine could be considered cause for DUI, however, if it has effects on the mind, motor skills or reaction time.
What are the penalties for DUI involving prescription/OTC medicine?
The law treats DUIs essentially the same no matter what substance is involved. Basic penalties for the most common charges include:
- 1st Offense DUI (if no one was hurt):
3 days to 6 months in jail, heavy fines, license suspended for at least 4 months, 3 months of mandatory classes
- 2nd Offense DUI (if no one was hurt):
4 days to 1 year in jail, heavy fines, license suspended for 2 years, 18-30 months of mandatory classes
- 3rd Offense DUI (if no one was hurt):
6 months to 1 year in jail, heavy fines, license suspended for 3 years, 30 months of mandatory classes
All of the charges above are misdemeanor criminal offenses. However, there are cases where a prescription drug/OTC drug DUI will count as a felony, which involves prison time and other harsh consequences. These situations include:
It’s important to note that any type of DUI counts as a “prior,” regardless of what specific substance was involved. For example, if you have a DUI from six years ago that involved alcohol, and you are now pulled over under the influence of Xanax, your new DUI will count as a second offense.
Prior offenses more than 10 years old do not count in most cases.
Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 862-0199 and get your free consultation today.