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Is it illegal for those legally using pain medication to drive?

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2022 | DWI Law

Chronic pain can have a serious negative impact on your physical and mental health. Thankfully, modern medicine has a broad assortment of tools available to help those coping with ongoing and overwhelming levels of pain.

There have never been more medications available for pain management, thanks in part to the development of synthetic opioid drugs. With the use of patches, for example, doctors can arrange for the constant, low dose release of powerful pain relief like fentanyl into a patient’s body.

However, whether a patient takes their narcotic pain relief orally or uses a transdermal patch, the medication they use has a strong association with cognitive impairment and even loss of consciousness. Can people legally drive while using prescription painkillers?

Police officers may arrest anyone who admits to using pain relief

Technically, it is illegal to drive while under the influence of any substance that impairs your ability. The substance doesn’t even need to technically be a controlled substance like opioids. Cough syrups and over-the-counter cold medications could impair someone’s driving skills.

Your legal possession of a valid prescription does not make your decision to drive while using pain medication legal. Although you may have developed a tolerance for the medication and believe that it has no effect on your driving, the officer who pulls you over may not agree.

Police officers cannot conclusively determine impairment levels for pain relievers. They also don’t have a per se limit to enforce, as they do when it comes to alcohol use prior to driving. Legally prescribe pain medication fall into a bit of a gray area, and many police officers will err on the side of caution by arresting anyone who has used pain relievers recently before getting in their vehicle.

People can defend against drugged driving allegations

Even if a police officer is correct in their claim that you drove while using medication, they may be wrong about the impact that medication had on your skill or even how recently you use the medication. The discovery process prior to court helps ensure that defendants know exactly what evidence the state has against them. You can review the evidence and determine what defense strategy may be an option in your circumstances.

Learning more about the rules that influence drugged driving charges is a smart move for those who take powerful prescription medication.

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Travis Noble is a graduate of the National College for DUI Defense at Harvard University, and he lectures at seminars nationwide on DWI/DUI topics. He is the lawyer whom other lawyers consult to defend their DWI clients. Most importantly, he has a track record of successfully defending some of the toughest DWI cases in Missouri and beyond.

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