Those who have ever undergone a surgical procedure are likely familiar with the doctor's caution to secure a designated driver who is able to pick you up from the hospital and ensure you make it home safely. If you've chosen to ignore this caution and drive yourself home while still groggy from anesthesia or pain medication, you could find yourself being arrested for driving while under the influence (DUI). If you've found yourself in this situation, you're likely dismayed at the thought of potentially losing your driver's license (or even job) due to a criminal conviction. Read on to learn more about how DUI laws may apply to driving while under the influence of anesthetic or painkilling medication, as well as some potential defenses that could help you avoid a conviction.
When can you be charged with a DUI without being drunk?
While the terms DUI or DWI (driving while intoxicated) are often used interchangeably with "drunk driving," most states' statutes on DUI include many additional prohibitions against drugs or chemical substances that could potentially lead to impairment. Even in states where medical marijuana is legal, drivers may be charged with DUI if they drive shortly after consuming legally-prescribed marijuana.
These broad DUI laws can often mean that you may find yourself facing DUI charges for driving yourself home after surgery if blood toxicology tests or witness testimony can establish that you were under the influence of a potentially impairing drug. Even if you didn't administer medication to yourself at any time, by signing consent forms for the surgery, you'll have at least ostensibly reviewed the risks and side effects of the prescribed anesthesia and pain medication. You may therefore have a tough time arguing that you weren't aware of the potential effects of this medication on your concentration and reaction times.
Are there any ways you can contest a DUI received while driving home from surgery?
Unlike alcohol, which can be relatively easy to detect in the breath or bloodstream of a potentially impaired driver, many other types of drugs are not so easily monitored. There are also no clear cut limits for some types of drugs (like the 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold for drunk divers).
As a result, arresting officers and prosecutors must rely on actual evidence of impairment, in addition to a positive drug screen, to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving under the influence of disabling drugs or medications. If this evidence isn't sufficient to convince the judge or jury that you were actually impaired, the case will be dismissed or you will be acquitted. In some cases, you may even be able to have the arrest expunged from your record.
This means that you'll need to quickly enlist the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney -- particularly someone with a background in impaired driving cases. Your attorney will be able to conduct depositions of the arresting officer to nail down testimony, and can cross-examine this officer at trial to cast doubt on his or her claims that you were impaired. Your attorney may also seek statements from other witnesses (such as the nursing staff at the hospital or fellow drivers) indicating that you appeared to be driving in a safe manner. (visit a site like http://www.hartlawofficespc.net for more information)
While you may be reluctant to pay an attorney to handle your case, doing so can often pay off significantly if you're able to avoid a criminal conviction. Being convicted of a DUI can cause your auto insurance rates to skyrocket (or even allow your insurer to drop you), as well as result in a suspended license, which may affect your ability to hold down steady employment.