Prescription drugs can sometimes pose a public health risk, which is why a physician must recommend their use. Many prescription drugs pose a risk of misuse, abuse or addiction without proper controls in place. Pain medication, sedatives, stimulants and psychiatric drugs, as well as erectile dysfunction medication and even cough medicines, are drugs people sometimes intentionally misuse.
Once you have a valid prescription from your doctor, you might think that you no longer have to worry about the legal consequences of possessing or taking a controlled substance. Especially in cases involving drugs that affect your cognition, drugs that control pain or drugs that make you sleepy, you could be at risk of an impaired driving charge despite your prescription.
The issue isn’t the legality of the drug but of driving while using it
Louisiana classifies all forms of impaired driving as driving while intoxicated (DWI). You will face the same charge and penalties as someone arrested while under the influence of alcohol if you get caught driving while impaired by a prescription medication.
You probably already know if there is a reason not to drive after taking a medication. Your doctor will likely have warned you that a drug might cause impairment. Checking the prescription packaging for warning labels about using heavy machinery, driving or experiencing drowsiness can give you a good idea about whether you incur a legal risk by getting behind the wheel after taking your medication.
Officers have to make judgments based on risk, not just your claims
If you have been taking the same pain management medication or a specific benzodiazepine drug for years, it may not affect you the same way it would someone who is only just started the medication.
You may have a higher tolerance and find that it no longer makes you feel drowsy or affects your cognition. If you get pulled over by police, you may not even hesitate to inform them about what medication you took. Officers might then arrest you based not on your driving performance but on the presence of a controlled substance in your bloodstream.
Those facing DWI charges due to prescription drug use may have multiple ways to potentially defend themselves against those pending charges.