Prescriptions Drugs & DUI

DUI and related offenses, despite what many people believe, do not only involve alcohol. In reality, many individuals are stopped by the police and arrested or charged and convicted of the crime of DUI in Nevada without drinking a single alcoholic beverage.

In Nevada, people are often arrested, and convicted, of Driving Under the Influence for having drugs in their system. This does not just include ILLEGAL DRUGS. One of the fastest growing, types of DUI charge involves a situation where someone is accused of DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS.


We are constantly contacted at the Law Office of Hofland & Tomsheck by individuals who have been arrested or charged for DUI for Prescription Drugs (drugs that are legal if possessed in conjunction with a prescription from a doctor) who say “I was charged with DUI, but I have a prescription.” These individuals often believe that because a doctor wrote them a prescription for the substance they are accused of being under the influence of while driving, they can’t be charged with a crime. This is NOT TRUE. You can be convicted of a DUI in Nevada for driving after taking prescription drugs and then driving, even if you are taking medication pursuant to a lawful and valid prescription, and even if you have not taken any alcohol or illegal drugs.

Nevada law -- specifically NRS 484C.110 -- makes it illegal to drive or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of any controlled substance. This includes prescription drugs.

Unlike DUI charges for alcohol or illegal drugs, there is no measurable statutory minimum threshold of a prescription medication that is allowable before a persdson is presumed to be under the influence. What this means is that a person can be accused, arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence - - and many people are convicted of this serious crime - - having slightest amount of prescribed substance in their system while driving.

In Las Vegas, and throughout Nevada for that matter, the law (as found in Nevada Revised Statute NRS 484C.160) dictates that a driver of a vehicle is implied to have given consent for the testing of their blood or urine for the presence of a prescribed controlled substance if they are in “actual physical control” of a vehicle while on a public roadway. The police can therefore take a sample of your blood (as well as your breath or urine) even if you don’t want them to do so. In essence, when the police or other members of law enforcement think you are under the influence of prescription drugs, they can test you even without your consent.

What Types of Prescription Medications can Lead to a DUI Charge?

There are many types of prescriptions medications, including those that are commonly prescribed by doctors for many different reasons, which are believed to cause a driver to be “under the influence.”

Perhaps the most commonly prescribed medications which lead to DUI arrests and charges are what are known as “narcotic analgesics.” The medications are very commonly prescribed as “painkillers” for many different scenarios, including simple back injuries, dental procedures or automobile accidents. While some individuals abuse these drugs and use them for recreational purposes, or to get “high,” most people that use these substances to so for a legitimate medical reason pursuant to a valid prescription from a doctor. Some of the wide spread narcotic analgesics prescribed by doctors that lead to DUI charges are: Morphine Demoral, Oxycontin, Codeine, Lortab, Lorcet, Hydrocodone and Percocet.

While they are commonly among the most common source of Prescription Drug DUI charges in Las Vegas, “painkillers” are not the only medications which can give rise to DUI arrests or charges. In recent years, there has been a large increase in the prescription, and thus incidents of DUI charges related to same, of “sedative-hypnotics” which are more commonly referred to by the general term “sleeping pills” and include the very popularly prescribed drugs Lunestra and Ambien. These pills are widely advertised on television and are typically prescribed for individuals who express to their health care provider symptoms of insomnia, or the inability to sleep. As would make sense, these prescription drugs “depress” or slow down typical bodily functions, making the driver exhibit signs of “sleepiness” - - which can result in “impaired” driving. In many documented and notable cases, people taking these medications have experienced “sleep driving” - - and driven cars while being completely unaware they are driving and in actual physical control of a vehicle.

What am I Facing if I am Charged With DUI for Prescription Drugs?

Pursuant to Nevada Revised Statutes 484C.400, a first time offense for DUI with Prescription Drugs will include mandatory minimum penalties and include:

  • A Mandatory Fine of between $400 (usually far more when factoring in court costs) and $1,000;
  • Mandatory jail time of two (2) days and up to six (6) months;
  • 48 to 96 hours of community service;
  • Mandatory classes and victim impact panels
  • controlled substance counseling courses;
  • Possible drug abuse treatment program; and
  • Revocation of driver's license privileges.

The penalties outlined above are for a FIRST offense only. For each additional offense for DUI within a seven (7) year period the punishments get worse… or enhance. Many people do not realize that for a third or subsequent DUI offense, the charge is upgraded to a FELONY OFFENSE which requires a sentence of MANDATORY time in Nevada State Prison.

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