When most people think of impaired driving charges, they probably think about alcohol or illegal drugs. The truth is that even the use of legally prescribed medications, taken as directed by a physician, can result in criminal charges in Massachusetts.
The fact that a medicine came from a doctor doesn't mean it can't impair your driving. Quite a few medications, from cough syrups to antidepressants, could impact an individual's ability to safely drive a vehicle.
A driver doesn't need to be weaving, driving erratically or putting others in danger for law enforcement to pull him or her over. In some cases, simply grazing the center line with a tire could be enough reason for an officer to stop a driver. If an officer then learns that the driver takes prescribed medication that can potentially impair, it's possible for an arrest and criminal charges to result. The consequences for such charges can be severe.
The fastest solution isn't always the best solution
Many people who get charged with a drugged driving crime related to a prescribed medication may choose to plead guilty. The motivation is often reduced charges or less strident penalties. Far too many people assume that simply getting the process over as quickly and quietly as possible is their best option. That is rarely the truth.
Pleading guilty can prevent the embarrassment of a criminal trial or protracted engagement with the criminal justice system. However, no matter how light the sentence, you will remain saddled with a criminal record for the rest of your life. That could make getting a new job or renting a home more difficult. Depending on your profession, you could lose promotions or other advancement opportunities because of your criminal record. A drugged driving conviction could also have an impact on your social life as well, with people hesitating to ride in your vehicle.
Prescribed medications affect people differently
Drugged driving criminal cases can be complex, even for first offenses. Drugs do not impact everyone in the same way. Perhaps you've been using the same medication for years, and you know how it affects you. If you do not experience impairment from a medication, you may be able to safely drive while taking it. Maybe it had been so long since you'd taken the medication that its effects had already worn off when you were stopped.
Many drugs that are noted for causing impairment have reduced effects after patients acclimate to them. Some individuals may have higher tolerances for certain medications, while others may simply avoid negative side effects of the medication.
Dealing with a legal problem
Medical background information, special tests and establishment of the amount of the medication in your system can all help you defend yourself against accusations of impairment. Your prescription medication should make your life better, not cause you legal problems.
Get the legal advice you need if you are unsure about how to proceed.