But They’ll All Get You Busted!
Clifford Gravett, Esq.
“I can’t believe I got a DUI! I’ve never done anything like this in my life.” I hear this statement, or some variation of it, in my office on a regular basis and those saying it aren’t necessarily the type you would expect. They’re not weekend partiers or alcoholics who can’t control their drinking. No, the people making these statements are just like you and me. In fact, many of them don’t even drink, or if they do, they’re responsible drinkers. So how, you might ask, do they end up getting arrested for a DUI?
The mistake they make, which lands them in jail overnight and in my office the next day, is they drive after taking prescription medications. Generally, they are not aware that what they’ve done is illegal or makes them a danger on the road. My hope is that this article may help Mesquite residents stop mixing medication and driving so they won’t be arrested, lose their licenses, and, most importantly, won’t pose a risk on the roads in our community.
Under Nevada law, it is illegal to be in control of a motor vehicle with any measurable amount of certain types of drugs in your blood. Many prescription pain killers are either narcotic (cocaine-based) or opioid (opium-based) and contain substances you cannot have in your system while driving.
Thus, if you take prescription pain killers prescribed to you by your doctor for a legitimate medical condition (a back injury or torn ACL, let’s say) and get pulled over, you are likely going to be arrested and ultimately convicted of a DUI. This means jail time and suspension of your license. Neither the arresting officer, the city attorney, nor the judge is going to care that the drug was prescribed and taken according to the prescribing instructions. Driving while under the influence of such drugs is both illegal and unsafe.
Another troubling trend I’ve seen recently is individuals driving after taking prescription sleeping medications. In addition to banning specific drugs, Nevada law also prohibits a person from driving while under the influence of any substance “which renders the person incapable of safely driving or exercising actual physical control of a vehicle…”
This means that sleep aids, even though they may not contain specifically prohibited substances like pain killers, can still land you in jail for a DUI if taken prior to driving. Sleep aids, whether prescribed or over-the-counter, can render a person unable to safely drive and should be treated the same as alcohol: if you’ve had one, don’t drive.
Perhaps the most unusual type of DUI I’ve seen here in Mesquite is where an individual mixes sleep aid medications and alcohol. Sleep aids, whether prescribed or over-the-counter, can invoke extreme reactions when mixed with alcohol, even in moderate amounts.
Sleep aids and alcohol are both depressants and—on their own—dull the senses and motor skills necessary to drive safely. When the two are mixed, they can impair a person’s judgment and cause them to act completely out-of-character and do unpredictable things, including getting out of bed and attempting to drive a car (although they often don’t make it far, and sometimes only onto the neighbor’s front lawn).
My clients invariably tell me that the effect of mixing alcohol and sleep aids is something like the worst kind of sleep walking you could imagine, although the end result—waking up in jail—is all too real. If you take sleep aids, I strongly recommend cutting out alcohol completely because once they mix you can’t really predict what will happen.
I’ve seen an alarming increase in prescription drug-related DUI’s here in the valley in the last year. Remember, any substance which affects (or might affect) your motor skills or your ability to think clearly should not be taken prior to driving. If you have any questions about how a particular medication might affect you, discuss it with your doctor and/or pharmacist and, when in doubt, don’t drive.
Clifford Gravett lives in Mesquite and is an attorney with Bingham Snow & Caldwell. He is licensed to practice in Nevada, Arizona and Utah. He can be reached at (702) 346-7300, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 840 Pinnacle Court, Suite 202 in Mesquite.