Prescription drugs are medications that cannot be legally purchased without a prescription from an authorized medical professional, for example, a doctor or a dentist. A prescription drug differs from an over-the-counter drug that can be purchased without a prescription.
Prescription drugs are usually stronger or more effective and have more side effects than over-the-counter drugs. If a prescription drug is newer, it may not have been subjected to long-term testing and research.
This means that the side effects may sometimes develop over time.
What Is Driving Under the Influence of Prescription Drugs in Nevada?
Driving under the influence (DUI) of prescription drugs is the same criminal offense as driving under the influence of alcohol in the State of Nevada. A prescription drug is defined as any controlled substance that an individual obtains from a doctor to treat or cure a medical condition.
What Is the Difference Between DWI and DUI?
Although the specific laws vary by state, it is important to note that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of any intoxicant. DWI stands for driving while intoxicated.
DWI is a term that is generally used to describe an individual who is driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol or drunk driving. DUI refers to an individual driving under the influence.
This term typically describes an individual operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs. Although DWI and DUI are often used interchangeably, some states classify DWI and DUI separately, as they describe different circumstances and criminal charges.
Typically a DUI charge is the lesser of the two, indicating a lesser degree of impairment. A DWI charge often indicates a higher level of intoxication or impairment and, therefore, is taken more seriously.
There are also other acronyms a state may use, such as:
- Operating Under the Influence (OUI);
- Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence (OVI);
- Operating While Intoxicated (OWI);
- Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI);
- Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of an Intoxicant (OVUII); and
- Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII).
What Prescription Drugs Are Likely to Cause Me to Be Arrested for a Drugged DUI?
Examples of prescription drugs that may impair an individual’s ability to drive may include:
- Antidepressants: Can cause debilitating sedation;
- Decongestants: Can cause drowsiness and anxiety;
- Antihistamines: Can cause a slower reaction time and decrease coordination;
- Sleeping pills: Drowsiness continues throughout the day;
- Valium: A 10-milligram dose may give a person a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.10 percent; and
- Narcotic pain medications: Can impair a person’s ability to focus or react.
What Are Per Se Intoxication Laws?
If an individual is charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), the state’s per se intoxication laws may apply. Per se intoxication laws provide that if a driver is stopped by law enforcement because they are suspected of impaired driving, and their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher, that is enough to establish that the driver was intoxicated.
This means that a prosecutor only has to show that the individual had a BAC of at least 0.08% to obtain a conviction for driving under the influence. It would not be relevant whether or not the law enforcement officer did or did not perform any field sobriety tests or take any other measures to establish intoxication.
It may also be possible for a driver to be charged with DUI even if there is no evidence of per se intoxication. In many states, a driver may be convicted of DUI based upon driving while impaired, regardless of whether or not their BAC was at 0.08%.
A law enforcement officer, in many cases, is required to provide evidence of an individual’s impaired driving to the court. Evidence that may be used by law enforcement includes:
- If a driver visibly swerves;
- If a driver does not stop at a stop sign;
- If a driver slurs their words; or
- If a driver fails field sobriety tests.
In certain states, there are separate per se intoxication laws that govern driving while under the influence of illegal drugs. It is important to note that states may vary regarding whether there is an intoxication limit or a zero-tolerance policy.
Does Nevada Have a Per Se Intoxication Law?
Yes, the State of Nevada has a per se intoxication law that permits police to arrest an individual for DUI if their ability to drive appears impaired. This assumed impairment may come from:
- Consuming alcohol;
- Illegal controlled substances;
- Over-the-counter medications; or
- Prescription drugs.
How Do Police Determine Whether a Person is Intoxicated or Influenced by an Intoxicant?
A law enforcement officer must have probable cause before pulling a driver over and accusing them of driving drunk or impaired. Probable cause is the reasonable belief that an individual is committing or will commit a crime based on their actions.
In the context of driving while intoxicated or under the influence, this may include, but is not limited to:
- Running a stop sign or through a traffic light; or
- The officer pulled over the driver for something unrelated and observed drug or alcohol paraphernalia in the vehicle.
Once probable cause is established, the officer may ask the driver to step out of their vehicle to administer a sobriety test, which may include:
- A field sobriety test, for example, reciting the alphabet or some other activity designed to test agility and balance;
- A chemical breath test, most commonly known as a breathalyzer test; or
- A blood or urine test drawn from a sample;
- This test is conducted by a medical professional.
It is not illegal to refuse to consent to a field sobriety test. However, there may be consequences to the individual’s driver’s license or driving privileges.
In Nevada, a law enforcement officer can take the refusal as an indication of probable cause and submit the driver for full evidentiary testing, including breath or blood tests. However, as of 2013, officers must apply for a search warrant before forcing an individual to take a blood test.
It is also important to note that, in Nevada, an individual’s refusal to submit to field sobriety testing may trigger an arrest.
What Are the Penalties for Prescription DUI?
The penalties for a prescription DUI conviction are the same as those for a conviction of drunk driving in Nevada. This means that a first conviction for a prescription DUI will be a misdemeanor.
A misdemeanor DUI conviction in Nevada is punishable by:
- A term of 48 hours up to 6 months in county jail;
- A $1,000 fine;
- A 90-day suspension of a driver’s license;
- Attendance at a Victim Impact Panel;
- Eight hours of driving school; or
- Possible installation of a Breath Interlock Device for three to six months.
Can I Face Tougher Charges for a Prescription DUI in Nevada?
Yes, an individual may face tougher charges for a prescription DUI in Nevada. Whether an individual is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony DUI will depend on the number of offenses and whether the individual also caused injury or death to a victim.
Do I Need to Discuss My Case with an Attorney?
It is very important to consult with a Nevada DUI attorney if you have been charged with a prescription-drug-related DUI in Nevada. Your attorney may be able to get your charge reduced or even dismissed in some cases.
If this is not possible, your attorney will advise you of any defenses that may be available and will represent you in court.