Driving Under the Influence of Prescriptions

DUI laws apply to prescriptions, too
You can be ticketed or arrested if your meds make your driving unsafe. Jacom Stephens/E+/Getty Images

I do not drink alcohol unless it is prescribed by a physician, and then only the amount prescribed. And yet - I was arrested for DUI at 8:45 one morning on my way to teach school.

That morning, my husband Bruce checked me out as to whether I should drive or not. I felt pretty good so I told him to go on to school. Little did I know that I was slurring a word here and there. I didn't hear it that way.

Bruce almost decided to drive me but gave in to me.

About 20 minutes into the drive, I started to feel sleepy. I tried all the tricks to stay awake, like putting the air onto freezing cold and singing with the radio. I did stay awake - but my driving became erratic. Two blocks later an unmarked police car stopped me, and the process began.

I failed to walk the straight line and stand on one foot. I was clearly slurring my words. The officer said I looked like someone who was under the influence, but I had no alcohol on my breath. We drove to an ambulance where the paramedic took samples of my blood. Then I was driven to the jail.

Discomfort and Humiliation

Handcuffs are not fun. They made it difficult for me to sit in the backseat of the patrol car. When we got into the jail itself, the officer took them off. Then began the many hours I would sit in a holding cell, with the waiting broken up some for various reasons.

First, they had to inventory my purse - one that desperately needed cleaning out. I had meds in it, so I had to explain those. Then the questions began about all my meds and what they were for. Before I knew it, I was having a breathalyzer test - which was negative.

The charges now rested on the blood tests for meds.

I was informed that I would be held until someone posted $350 bond AND 8 hours had passed. (The 8 hours holding time is standard for all DUI charges.) So I sat.

Around 2:00, they finally gave me access to a phone. I knew my husband's work was long distance, so I tried using my phone card. It did not work: phone cards weren't allowed. So I finally gave up and called my school. Imagine the humiliation when the phone call starts with a recording to the effect of "An inmate (insert your name) from the Polk county jail is calling. Do you accept this call?"

Thankfully, my friend in the office answered the phone. I asked her to call my husband so he could pick up our son. Then I talked to the principal and was assured that I had a job in the morning. Fortunately, my friend was on the ball and called my husband immediately. He was just infuriated that no one had called him earlier to let him know what was happening to me. (I've had no fallout from my husband - he is a prince of a man!) But it was 8:00 - 12 hours after my arrest - by the time I was freed.

I had to call personnel the next day to inform them of my arrest. That was the only time I talked to them before my court date. I found a lawyer - and forget all the lawyer jokes around me when you need one they are gold.

Court this last Monday.

Tough Consequences

I discovered that lots of people were coming to court and that most of them had DUIs - such a popular charge. My lawyer talked to the prosecutor and bargained the charges down. The blood work had not come in, and they had no idea when it would. I could take my chances with the blood work and a jury trial, or I could settle. I settled.

The terms were scary because I had to trust that a judge I did not know would accept the plea bargain. The plea bargain included 6 months probation, 50 hours community service, sitting in on a victim's impact panel, fines, and a substance abuse evaluation for which I will have to pay.

Instead of DUI, I was charged with reckless driving, a misdemeanor. Also, the judge was supposed to withhold adjudication.

When my name was called, I stood before the judge between my attorney and the prosecutor and answered about 10 questions from the judge. The judge agreed to withhold adjudication and imposed the terms to which I had agreed. From there I went to the courthouse probation office, just a little room to make an appointment to see my as yet unknown probation officer.

The Aftermath

By the time I got home, I was exhausted, shaking, alternately hot and cold, and unable to stay awake. The next day I had a monster headache, but after that I was fine. Since then, I have had to go to my Union for my protection to give them copies of all the legal documents. I've had to talk to the head of personnel, and I have to bring in my adjudication papers to personnel so my entire file can be examined for a pattern. So now I wait ... again.

I guess the moral of this story is to know your meds, be very familiar with how your body responds to them, and if there is the remotest doubt, have someone else drive. "DUI" means driving under the influence not only of alcohol and illegal drugs but also of medications prescribed by our doctors. If you don't know your meds, find out about them. Then get a second opinion before you get behind the wheel of a car!

Continue Reading