Prescription Drugs Can Lead to a CO DUI

Many people know just how much trouble you can get in for drinking and then operating a motor vehicle. However, fewer people seem to realize the legal jeopardy that arises from using drugs and driving – even when those drugs are prescribed to them.

The unfortunate reality is that anything you take that impairs your ability to operate a vehicle safely can result in being charged with a crime. In Colorado, you may be charged with either driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while ability impaired (DWAI).

Often, the courts will make a distinction between cases involving drugs and those involving alcohol by calling them driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) or driving while impaired by drugs (DWID).

To find out more about how these types of charges can impact your future, keep reading.

Driving With Prescription Drugs

When you are driving under the influence of drugs in the state of Colorado, it will typically fall into one of the three categories:

  • Illegal drugs
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs

DUIDs involving prescriptions can be very complex. That’s because drugs, even prescriptions, can impact a person’s ability to drive in a variety of ways.

Some substances act on the central nervous system, depressing it and slowing down reaction times or causing sleepiness. Stimulants can increase erratic or aggressive driving. Still, some other drugs can cause blurred vision, reduced coordination, dizziness, and other side effects that may impact your ability to drive safely.

Even marijuana, which is legal in Colorado, can cause you to get a DUID or DWID if you use it and get behind the wheel. Basically, anything that can interfere with the ability to safely drive and focus on the road can lead to charges involving impaired driving.

DUID Laws in Colorado

In Colorado, a person is considered to be driving with ability impaired if they are adversely impaired even to the slightest degree. For driving under the influence of drugs, the legal threshold is that they are substantially incapable of operating a vehicle safely. In either case, it doesn’t matter if the drug was prescribed by a doctor or not. If you are impaired even a little, then you can get arrested for a DUI or DWAI in the state of Colorado.

How Are You Tested?

If you are pulled over and the police suspect you are under the influence, then they may give you a breathalyzer test – but that only detects alcohol. For drugs, you may have to take a blood test in order to find out what substances are in your system and how much there are present.

Of course, the case against you may also include the results of a field sobriety test and any other signs that gave the officers probable cause to pull you over, such as erratic driving. Once you were pulled over, they may have suspected you were under the influence because of:

  • Slurring your speech
  • Exhibiting unusual behavior
  • Glazed eyes
  • Inability to focus or communicate clearly

Is Drugged Driving a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

In Colorado, driving while under the influence of drugs is typically a misdemeanor offense. However, it can be elevated to a felony in cases where a person has three or more prior convictions for DUI or DWAI offenses, including vehicular assault and vehicular homicide.

The misdemeanor penalties for drugged driving in the state depend, just as with a regular DUI, on your criminal history. If it’s your first DUID, then you can face up to 12 months in jail, pay $1,000 in fines, and be required to complete community service. You’ll also have points added to your license.

For a second DUID, you also can spend up to 12 months in jail and be required to pay as much as $1,500 in fines. You will also have your license revoked for one year, and be required to complete community service.

For a third DUID, or more, you have much the same consequences as a second DUID, but you will lose your license for a period of two years instead of one.

Is Drugged Driving a Felony or a Misdemeanor?

DWIDs are much the same as DUIs, but you may spend less time in jail for and get fewer points on your driver’s license for these infractions.

For felonies, you can spend up to six years behind bars in a Colorado state prison and be made to pay fines of as much as $500,000. You must also complete three years of parole post-release.

In short, if you have prescriptions that can impair your ability to drive, you should refrain from driving while on them – or you can face serious consequences.


About the Author:

Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.