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Prescription Drugs and DUI in Maryland

In Maryland it is a crime to drive while impaired by drugs and/or alcohol. It is not a defense to “driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol” that the person charged was entitled under Maryland law to use the drug or combination of drugs/alcohol; this includes prescription drugs. The only exception is if the person was unaware that this drug or combination of drugs/alcohol would make him incapable of safely driving a vehicle.

Common prescription drugs associated with driving under the impairment of drugs or a controlled substance are: Percocet, vicodin, Xanax, valium, ambien, lunesta, Phenergan and flexeril. Generally the behaviors associated with prescription drug ingestion include: slurred speech, altered pupils, decreased motor function and changes in breathing.  (See www.willriddllaw.com).

To be convicted of driving while impaired by drugs or drugs and alcohol, the impairment must be to the point that the person “cannot drive a vehicle safely.” (§ 21-902(c)(1)). Similar to the standard used in a DUI case (where the state must prove the driver was “under the influence of alcohol”) there must be evidence that the driver was impaired by a drug, a combination of drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol.

The type of evidence used includes: a statement from the defendant, evidence of recent use, an arresting officer’s observations, testimony of a drug recognition expert, and/or a blood test proving the presence of the drug in the driver’s blood. Also, a blood alcohol or breath alcohol test may be used to show either the lack of alcohol or the presence of any trace of alcohol in the driver’s system. These other forms of evidence are often needed for a “driving while impaired by drugs” conviction because blood test typically only indicate the presence of a drug in the driver’s blood and not the amount or the effect the drug has on the driver.

A driver may not defend herself against this charge by arguing that she had a prescription and thus was entitled to use the drug or combination of drugs and/or alcohol under Maryland law. The only exception is if she was unaware that the drug or combination of drugs and/or alcohol would make her incapable of safely driving a vehicle.

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