Free Consultation

(253) 272-8666

Are you facing
criminal charges?

We will fight to protect you.

Request A Free Evaluation

Washington’s Prescription Drug DUI Law Explained

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that can lead to severe legal consequences and negatively impact your life. When most people think of DUIs, they often associate them with alcohol or illegal drugs. However, you may be surprised to learn that even prescription drugs can lead to DUI charges in Washington state.

If you are taking prescription medication and need to drive, these drugs may affect your ability to operate a vehicle safely. An officer could pull you over and charge you with a prescription drug DUI, which can carry penalties such as steep fines and jail time. In these situations, it is important to seek the help of a DUI defense attorney who can defend your rights and freedom.

The Definition of a DUI in Washington State

In Washington, you are guilty of driving under the influence if you operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of or affected by any intoxicating liquor, cannabis, or any drug, including prescription medications. You are considered under the influence when your mental and physical capacities are impaired to the extent that you can no longer drive safely and responsibly.

Even if you have a valid prescription for a medication, you can still be charged with a DUI if the drug impairs your ability to drive. The key factor is not the legality of the substance but rather its effect on your driving capabilities. If you are drowsy, confused, or otherwise unable to drive safely, you can be arrested if you get behind the wheel in this state.

RCW 46.61.502. Driving under the influence.

(1) A person is guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, cannabis, or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state:

(a) And the person has, within two hours after driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or

(b) The person has, within two hours after driving, a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or

(c) While the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, cannabis, or any drug; or

(d) While the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, cannabis, and any drug.

Common Prescription Drugs That Could Lead to a DUI

Many prescription medications can cause side effects that impair your ability to drive safely. Some common drugs that could lead to a DUI include:

  • Xanax: This anti-anxiety medication can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and slowed reaction times, making it dangerous to drive while under its influence.
  • Percocet: As a powerful pain reliever, Percocet can cause drowsiness, confusion, and impaired coordination, all of which can affect your driving ability.
  • Adderall: While this medication is prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it can also cause side effects such as dizziness, blurred vision, and restlessness.
  • Vicodin: Another pain medication, Vicodin can cause drowsiness, confusion, and impaired judgment, making it unsafe to drive while taking this drug.
  • Ambien: This sleep aid can cause drowsiness and impaired coordination, even in the morning after taking the medication.
  • Oxycodone: Similar to Percocet, oxycodone is a powerful pain reliever that can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and impaired judgment.
  • Ativan: Another anti-anxiety medication, Ativan can cause drowsiness, confusion, and slowed reaction times, all of which can impair your ability to drive safely.

Penalties for a Prescription Drug DUI in Washington

In Washington, a prescription drug DUI is charged as a gross misdemeanor. If convicted, you could face up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000. Additionally, a prescription drug DUI conviction can lead to personal and professional consequences, such as difficulty finding employment, increased insurance rates, and damage to your reputation.

A DUI conviction will remain on your criminal record, which can have long-lasting effects on your life. It is crucial to take prescription drug DUI charges seriously and seek the help of a Washington criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and future.

Common Defenses to Prescription Drug DUI Charges

If you are facing prescription drug DUI charges, you have the right to defend yourself against the potential penalties. You could raise several defenses, depending on the circumstances of your case and your lawyer’s assessment of the situation.

Common defenses may include:

  • You Were Not Under the Influence: If you can prove that the prescription medication did not impair your ability to drive safely, you may be able to argue that you were not under the influence. You could present evidence such as expert testimony or medical records to show that the drug did not affect your driving.
  • The Officer Did Not Have Probable Cause: For a DUI arrest to be lawful, the arresting officer must have probable cause to believe that you were driving under the influence. If your attorney can show that the officer lacked sufficient evidence or reasonable suspicion to make the arrest, the charges may be dismissed.
  • The Officer Made Errors in Testing or Collecting Evidence: If the arresting officer did not follow proper protocol when administering field sobriety tests or collecting blood or urine samples, the evidence against you may be deemed inadmissible in court.
  • There Is Insufficient Evidence for a Conviction: The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were under the influence of a prescription drug while driving. If there is insufficient evidence to support this claim, your charges may be reduced or dismissed.

Why You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney on Your Side

Facing prescription drug DUI charges can be overwhelming and stressful, but you do not have to navigate the legal system alone. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your rights, explore your defense options, and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.

Your attorney will thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding your arrest, review the evidence against you, and challenge any improper procedures or violations of your rights. They will also negotiate with prosecutors to seek a reduction or dismissal of your charges or represent you at trial to present a strong defense on your behalf.

Don’t let a prescription drug DUI charge derail your life. If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of a prescription medication, contact a Tacoma DUI defense attorney today to discuss your case and start building your case.