Here's a common misconception about getting pulled over for drunk driving: You can't get charged for driving under the influence (DUI) if you haven't had anything to drink, or any illegal drugs.
The fact is that you absolutely can be charged for DUI in the state of Washington, even if you're stone cold sober.
The laws of Washington are startlingly vague when it comes to what you have to be “under the influence” of, to be charged with DUI. The statute states that you can be found guilty for being under the influence of “intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug.” Any drug is incredibly broad, and, just in case you were wondering if “any drug” could possibly include something that you were prescribed by your doctor, rest assured, it does: One section of Washington's DUI law states, “the fact that a person charged with a violation of this section is or has been entitled to use a drug under the laws of this state shall not constitute a defense against a charge of violating this section.”
This means that, even if you've been told, by a medical professional, you need to use a particular drug for your own well-being, you can still be pulled over by a police officer, arrested for DUI, and face both fines and jail time for using that drug.
To make matters worse, in Washington, driving “under the influence” means that your driving ability has been “lessened in any appreciable degree.” Many side-effects of prescription – or even over-the-counter – drugs can, in theory, “lessen” your driving skills “to any appreciable degree.” Claritin, an allergy drug that you can get at Walgreens, has a common side-effect: Drowsiness. Being drowsy while behind the wheel can lessen your driving skills “to an appreciable degree.” Therefore, Claritin can make it possible for you to get arrested for DUI.
With this in mind, an important part of being charged with DUI is that it's up to the police officer to gather enough evidence to prove that you are, in fact, under the influence of drugs or alcohol. An officer responding to what they think is a drunk driver will always have a breathalyzer handy, but these devices can't detect most prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Therefore, police officers often rely on drivers to admit that they've been taking prescription drugs, whether through voluntary sobriety testing, or simply by asking questions. The aura of an officer in uniform makes many drivers uneasy, so they answer every question that they can, just to show that they're abiding by the law. Unfortunately, many people have a misconception about what the law actually is, such as the fact that prescription or over-the-counter drugs are enough to make you drive “under the influence.”
If you or anyone that you know are facing DUI charges for being under the influence of legal drugs, call the law offices of Kevin T. Trombold. For nearly 20 years, attorney Trombold has defended thousands of people against DUI charges. Call 206-971-0067 for a free consultation.