Can You Get a DUI Driving On Cold Medicine?

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 24, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Let's take a moment to stop and consider what DUI really means. Yes, it means drunk driving. If your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is over the often applied legal limit of .08%, you can be charged with DUI. But the letters actually stand for "driving under the influence" or, in the case of DWI "driving while intoxicated." Neither of these names indicate that this crime is limited to driving under the influence of just alcohol or controlled substances.

The aim of state DUI laws, generally, is to prohibit driving while under the influence of anything that would impair your performance behind the wheel. For example, in Alabama, the state law says it is prohibited to drive "under the influence of any substance which impairs the mental or physical faculties of such person to a degree which renders him or her incapable of safely driving." This may include a wide range of legal prescription drugs.

Prescription Medication

The following story shows that you can be arrested for driving under the influence of a legally prescribed medication. According to a report by the Sparta Expositor, a local woman was charged with DUI for driving while under the influence of methadone. While not exactly Cold-Eeze, the legal drug methadone was prescribed to 26-year-old Jodi Lynn Cole, who then assumed it was fine for her to use and drive. Cole even explained to the arresting officer, reports the Expositor, that since her doctor had prescribed the drug, it was not illegal for her to take it and drive. The officer thought otherwise.

Sgt. Chadra Daniels reportedly saw Cole's erratic driving before pulling her over and administering four field sobriety tests. Cole failed all four. As Officer Daniels explained, it does not matter if the substance you take is legal or not. If it affects your ability to drive safely, you could be charged with a DUI.

Jodi Lynn Cole was charged with DUI and taken into custody, reports the Expositor, but the result would have been the same if she had taken NyQuil.

OTC Cold Medications

After all, you can be held responsible for a car crash you cause because you fell asleep behind the wheel (in other circumstances, sleeping is perfectly legal). Similarly, you can be charged for driving under the influence of any legal drugs, prescribed or not, that cause you to drive in a way that could affect the safety of others.

Maybe this cold and flu season, you might consider a designated driver before you drive medicated? A DUI is much harder to cure than the flu.

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