Prescription Drug DUI Attorney in Phoenix

Did You Know That Prescription Drugs Can Lead To An Arizona DUI Arrest?

Many prescription drug labels advise patients not to operate machinery after taking the medication, but beyond that common advisory lurks potential DUI charges in Phoenix, Scottsdale, or any other area within the state of Arizona.

Prescription Pills Flowing Out of Pill Bottle

With some of the strictest DUI laws in the nation, Arizona’s DUI Laws have a no-tolerance policy aimed at convicting a driver who is even slightly impaired and under the influence of prescription pills under DUI laws covered in Arizona Revised Statute §28-1381.

After an arrest, jail time is a real possibility, even when consuming legally obtained prescription drugs or the use of medical marijuana prescriptions.

Prescription Pills Causing Impairment

Drugs that cause drowsiness are also impairing the ability to drive safely. Quite a number of prescription pills cause impairment at some level. These include prescription medications that contain codeine, opioid pain relievers, anti-seizure muscle relaxants, motion sickness, sleeping pills, anti-seizure, diarrhea, as well as over-the-counter cold and allergy medications.

Prescription-only drugs are defined in Arizona Revised Statute §13-3401 as medications deemed by the medical community to be safe when taken as prescribed by a physician. Arizona law also requires proper labeling of the drug and directions for using the prescribed medication. Prescription medications do not include controlled substances like narcotics, illegal drugs, or dangerous drugs, including street drugs.

Taking non-prescribed prescription drugs risks adding additional prescription drug charges.

Drug Recognition Experts

Determining an impairment caused by a prescription drug requires special training. Arizona law enforcement has established a training program for police officers to become drug recognition experts (DRE). They are called to the traffic stop to evaluate the DUI suspect.

The DRE officer looks for signs of a driver under the influence of illicit or prescription medications, including the size of the pupils, pulse rate, muscle tone tightness or flaccidity, needle injection sites, and interrogates the driver to help determine the type of drug and a toxicology test. The driver may refuse to participate in the breathalyzer and the DRE evaluation at the cost of a license suspension or revocation.

Training law enforcement officers to detect someone impaired by and under the influence of drugs is a three-phase program consisting of 88 hours of instruction.

Phase 1 is a DRE pre-school lasting 16 hours in which the candidate officer learns drug evaluation techniques, procedures, and strategies.

Phase 2 gives the candidate comprehensive instructions on how to evaluate the drug examination, physiology, the various effects drugs have, and the legal considerations that come into play. After the classroom instruction is finished, the candidate takes a written test.

Phase 3 is the field certification lasting for 60 to 90 days. During this phase, the candidate learns to evaluate a person who is suspected of driving while impaired by drugs and alcohol and is supervised by a certified instructor. At least 12 drug DUI evaluations must be performed. After that is a comprehensive exam.

A DRE officer must be recertified every two years.

Punishments for a Prescription Drug DUI

If convicted, a prescription drug DUI has the same minimum penalties as an alcohol-related misdemeanor DUI. The following penalties are applied:

Mandatory Jail Terms:

A minimum of 10 days of jail time, but nine days may be suspended, or a maximum jail sentence of six months in jail

Mandatory Jail Time For Prescription Pill DUI Convictions


A term of probation of up to 5 years may result from your conviction.

Drivers License Suspension:

Suspension of your driver’s license for 90 days, with restricted driving to work or school for the last 60 days

Suspended Drivers License

Insurance Changes:

You may be required to purchase SR 22 insurance (a certificate of financial responsibility)
Higher auto insurance rates will likely follow a conviction.

Ignition Interlock Device Installation:

The judge may require you to install at your expense an Ignition Interlock Device for six months to detect reoffending.

Financial Repercussions:

Fines and fees may total almost $2,000, including court costs

Ongoing Drug Testing, Counseling & Drug Treatment Programs:

Mandatory drug testing
Drug counseling, abuse education program, or treatment program
Potential community service

Prescription Drug DUI Defenses

Prescription drug viable defenses are different from those for alcohol impairment, and you want legal representation from a DUI defense lawyer to challenge prescription drug DUI charges.
  • It may seem ridiculous to be charged with a DUI for taking medications, including prescription pills, that you are taking under a Doctor's Orders, who has determined that you needed and that you followed their instructions. If your doctor told you driving while on the medication was fine, that can be a defense. If the drug label did not warn against driving while taking the medication, that also could be a defense.
  • The DREs although trained to some degree in detecting impairment, don’t have the expertise of a physician regarding controlled substances, and their judgment can be questioned, especially over alleged prescription pill use and reasonable doubt established.
  • Our bodies metabolize drugs at different rates so what may have been impairing to one person while driving a motor vehicle may not impair someone else. Side effects of the medication can be introduced as defense evidence if suitable.
  • The body also builds tolerance to drugs over time. If only a therapeutic amount is in the system, that is a defense. Unlike alcohol, drug elements can stay in your system much longer.
  • If the arresting officer did not draw blood and perform a blood test, it could be argued that the state’s evidence is insufficient. DUI blood test results are considered the "gold standard" for a DUI charge.
  • Was a urine sample obtained? The results of the urine test can be challenged regarding handling, contamination, or the testing equipment. Also, drugs found in urine have already been used by the body. There is no evidence the drug is active in your system.
  • Was a chemical test performed on the alleged prescription drugs? Were they dangerous drugs at all?
  • If you were not breaking a traffic law, it might be that police didn’t have the necessary probable cause, reasonable suspicion, and sufficient evidence that you were driving while impaired and had no legal right to stop you, violating your Fourth Amendment protections.
  • Were you in actual physical control of the motor vehicle? Were the keys to the car or truck in your possession during the alleged offense?
  • Defense attorneys will also remind you that you have constitutional rights, including the 5th Amendment and the right to remain silent. You should always invoke your rights and not speak with the police.
  • Other defenses may be available to avoid a prescription drug DUI conviction because each DUI case differs in the circumstances involved.

Aaron M. Black Law for Prescription Drug DUI Defense

Should you or someone you care about be charged or are under investigation for a prescription drug DUI offense, it is crucial to be represented by an experienced prescription drug DUI defense attorney with years of experience, such as myself, for your DUI case. In my decades-long career as an aggressive DUI defense attorney, I know that good people can find themselves in legal trouble. That is why I work diligently to ensure they have the best defense possible. Unlike many Phoenix DUI defense lawyers, I've never worked on the "other side" as former DUI prosecutors.

In my investigation, I will scrutinize the state’s evidence, attack the DRE results, and the personnel records of the investigators involved looking for inconsistencies and errors. I also will work to develop information and evidence that is favorable to your case.

Legal Advice

You will receive personalized legal services and sound legal advice at Aaron M. Black Law, a Phoenix DUI Attorney. You will always be talking directly to me, never an assistant, at every step of your case.

Begin your DUI defense immediately by calling my phone number, 480-729-1683, at any time on any day, and I will respond promptly unless I am in court or in a trial. Or use the online contact form on my website.

As an experienced criminal defense attorney, I defend prescription drug DUI charges throughout Arizona, including the cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale, as well as Maricopa County, Pinal, Yavapai, and Coconino County Superior Courts.

  • State Bar of Arizona
  • State Bar of South Dakota
  • American Bar Association
  • Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice
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