As of January 1, 2013, driving under the influence of prescription drugs, over the counter drugs or other chemical substances could lead to a DUI in NH. Under the previous law, even when people were found to be grossly impaired by medications, like some muscle relaxers, they could not be charged with prescription drug DUI. Lawmakers believe that the increase in the use of prescription drugs and the development of new substances, like bath salts, required the closing of this loophole in the state's DUI law.
Many Americans use prescription and OTC drugs every day. Such medications can allow people to live a happier and healthier life. When taken properly and according to the doctor's orders, prescription and OTC drugs have many benefits. For better or for worse, doctors are prescribing more drugs than they ever have in the past, and indications are that it will not end soon.
Now, any substance or drug, whether prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal that can affect the mental or physical abilities of the driver to safely operate a motor vehicle potentially falls into the drug category. Numerous prescription and over-the-counter medications have explicit labels that direct the user to avoid driving or using heavy equipment while taking the medicine.
Some drugs can even alter a person's judgment, create tremors, reduce muscle strength, impair coordination, or create confusion. Other prescription drugs can increase the effects of alcohol, making it more likely that the driver will be impaired by alcohol consumption. Many New Hampshire citizens take prescription and over-the-counter drugs every day, and using any substance that causes these side-effects can lead to a DUI conviction.
Problems with the NH DUI Law?
However, some are criticizing the new law as being over-reaching. With such widespread usage, many people taking prescription and over-the-counter medications are not fully aware of the resulting side-effects. In fact, it is likely that police officers will have a difficult time determining whether a driver is under the influence of a certain drug. After all, unlike alcohol, a police officer cannot use a breathalyzer test to determine if the driver is intoxicated due to prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
The state has countered that New Hampshire does employ Drug Recognition Experts who are trained to utilize a 12-step procedure to investigate the cause of the alleged over-the-counter or prescription drug DUI. However, the Drug Recognition Experts are not trained medical personnel. In fact, the officers are essentially relying upon conjecture and guesswork as to whether a driver is intoxicated before making a DUI arrest.
With this new law, it would be wise to carry a prescription for any drugs being taken, in the event of a police stop. In addition, drivers should speak with their doctor, in detail, regarding an prescription medication side-effects, particularly those that might affect one's ability to drive a car. Any over-the-counter medication labels should be scrutinized and if they warn against operating heavy machinery, it might be best to seek other means of transportation while taking them, to avoid any chance of a DUI arrest.
If you are arrested for driving under the influence of prescription drugs you need to contact an attorney that has the proper training such as Attorney Russman who holds an IACP Drug Evaluation Certification from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.