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Prescription Drugs and DUI in South Dakota

Under the South Dakota DUI statute, S.D. Codified Laws §32-23-1, drivers can face equal liability for abusing either prescription or illicit drugs as they face for abusing alcohol.  While it is easier to establish a driver’s inebriation by measuring their BAC through chemical testing, that does not change the fact that drivers still face equal liability for the abuse of drugs.  Even lawful use of drugs is not a defense to a charge of driving under the influence.  While a driver might have a valid prescription to take a medication, this does not limit their liability in terms of driving while under the influence of such medication if the medication does in fact hinder the person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle.  Thus drivers may face liability regardless of the nature of the drug (prescription or illicit).  This makes sense from a public policy standpoint, since any substance that inhibits driving ability can potentially lead to more traffic accidents and injuries.

State law varies significantly in the area of driving under the influence of prescription drugs.  Many states have “per se” laws for driving under the influence of drugs, meaning that any amount of certain drugs in the driver’s system can lead culpability.  In South Dakota, it is illegal for minors (those under the age of 21) to drive with any amount of prohibited drugs while driving.  Thus if the police determine the underage driver had even trace amounts of a prohibited drug in his system (be it prescription or illicit), the driver is automatically guilty of driving under the influence of drugs.


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