Even when a doctor has prescribed a drug for a patient, if the drug impairs the patient and the patient drives a motor vehicle, he or she can be charged with DUI in California. Prescription medicines frequently cited in DUI cases include Vicodin, Demerol, Dolophine, and Oxycontin. Vicodin, for example, is one of the most widely prescribed pain killers.

However, pain management medications come with warnings; taking these drugs can impair thought processes, reflexes, and reaction times, so driving or operating machinery should be avoided. There’s also a warning against combining the medication with other drugs or with alcohol. Law enforcement officers in California are trained to look for certain signs and symptoms of impaired driving such as constricted pupils, drowsiness, or drooping eyelids.

A prosecutor’s DUI case will largely rely upon an arresting officer’s testimony, blood and urine test results, and a Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE). A DRE is an officer who has taken the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Drug Recognition Program and is certified to identify individuals who are under a drug’s influence.

Penalties in California for operating a vehicle under the influence of prescription drugs are like penalties for any other DUI charge. In a first offense, the charge is usually a misdemeanor. The typical sentence is about $1,500 in fines, a temporary driver’s license suspension, and mandatory attendance in DUI school. First offenders rarely receive jail time unless aggravating circumstances are present at the time of the arrest.

If you are charged with a DUI while taking prescription medications, you need to talk to an experienced California DUI defense attorney immediately. A good DUI defense lawyer can help you by challenging police testimony and test results and by working to have your charge reduced or, in some cases, dismissed entirely. Protect your rights, your freedom, and your future; if you’re charged with DUI in California, talk to an experienced California DUI defense attorney right away.