Most people associate Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) with alcohol, but in Virginia, you can be charged with Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) if you take prescription drugs that interfere with your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
Even though these medications are prescribed by your doctor, they can have serious side effects that may be more intense than you anticipated. Although some have warning labels, the side effects can vary from person to person. Your doctor or pharmacist may not have fully advised you on the dangers of driving while taking it.
If you have been arrested for DUID in Virginia, contact a criminal defense attorney at S.L. England, PLLC.
Operating a motor vehicle while impaired by prescription drugs falls under Virginia's DWI law. The statute covers driving under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs, so the penalties are the same.
A first offense is a Class 1 Misdemeanor with a mandatory minimum fine of $250.
A second offense within five years has a mandatory minimum fine of $500 and jail time of one month to one year, with a mandatory minimum 20 days in jail.
A second offense within five to 10 years has a mandatory minimum fine of $500 and jail time of not less than one month, with a mandatory minimum 10 days in jail.
A third offense within 10 years is a Class 6 Felony, with a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 and a mandatory minimum 90 days in jail.
A fourth or subsequent offense within 10 years has a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 and mandatory minimum one-year imprisonment.
Legal vs. Illegal Possession
To legally possess prescription drugs, you must have a valid prescription from your doctor. If you have prescription drugs in your possession that were not prescribed to you, in Virginia, you could be charged with Possession of Controlled Substances in addition to DUID.
The penalties for Possession of Controlled Substances depend on the specific prescription drug involved. All drugs are divided into categories, called schedules, based on their abuse or dependency potential as well as their accepted medical use. Schedule I drugs have no accepted medical use and a high risk of dependency or abuse. Schedule V drugs have a low potential for abuse.
If you have prescription medication in your possession in Virginia without a valid prescription from a doctor, you could face the following penalties:
- Schedule I or II: Class 5 Felony, punishable by one to 10 years in prison and fines up to $2,500.
- Schedule III: Class 1 Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and fines up to $2,500.
- Schedule IV: Class 2 Misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,000.
- Schedule V: Class 3 Misdemeanor, punishable by up to $500 in fines.
Types of Drugs
Common prescription medications associated with DUID include, but are not limited to:
- Central Nervous System Stimulants
- Muscle Relaxants
To be convicted of DUID, the prosecution must prove to the judge or jury that you were impaired while operating a motor vehicle and that the prescription drug was the source of your impairment.
Every person metabolizes prescription drugs differently, so the law does not set a threshold that indicates impairment. Simply having a prescription drug in your system does not mean that you were driving impaired.
Your attorney can challenge the basis of the initial traffic stop that resulted in the DUID charge. The law enforcement officer must have probable cause to stop your vehicle.
A blood test determines if you have a prescription drug in your system at the time you were operating a motor vehicle. Your attorney can challenge the chain of custody or the integrity of the sample. The person who collected your blood sample must be legally qualified to do so and must use the correct blood tube. The instrument used to test your blood for prescription drugs must be maintained in good working order and calibrated. If procedure is not followed exactly, your attorney can challenge the collection of your blood and the instrumentation.
Contact an Experienced Virginia DUID Attorney
If you have been charged with a prescription drug DUID in Virginia or Washington, D.C., you need an experienced criminal defense attorney from S.L. England, PLLC, to fight for you. Simply having a prescription drug in your system does not mean that the medication impaired your driving.
Our attorneys can challenge the basis of the traffic stop, the chain of custody, the collection method, or the instrumentation used to test your blood. Each case is unique, and we will build the strongest defense for you. Call us today at (202) 489-0720 or contact us online.