DAYTONA BEACH: Legal Drugs Can Still Lead to a DUI

The Daytona Beach News-Journal published a good story this week about the rise in DUI arrests involving both “legal” prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter drugs.

Whether it’s cold medicine, cough syrup, a legal prescription drug or alcohol, if you ingest too much and drive a vehicle, you can be charged with Driving Under the Influence.”Even if someone is taking prescription drugs legally, they can be charged with DUI,” said Sgt. Kim Montes, spokeswoman for the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) district that includes Volusia County. “If a trooper evaluates someone, either on a traffic stop or at a crash scene, and determines they are impaired from alcohol, illegal or legal drugs, or another substance, they can be arrested.”

The FHP recently charged a man with DUI Manslaughter in an Orlando case because they believe he had inhaled computer cleaner, Montes said.

Toxicology reports, which reveal the presence of substances in the blood that can lead to impairment, can take several months to complete, said FHP Lt. Bill Leeper. He noted authorities are awaiting toxicology results in at least one Flagler County crash involving serious injuries.

The Friends Drive Sober organization devotes a section of its website to prescription and over-the-counter drugs and their effect on drivers.

“Drugs impair our bodies in a variety of ways,” the site reads. “They may blur our vision; make us tired or too excited; alter depth perception; make us see or hear things that may not be there; raise or lower blood pressure; react too quickly, too slowly, or not at all. They cause problems with concentrating on the task at hand.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically lists cough and cold medications containing dextromethorphan as one of the most commonly misused over-the-counter drugs, “to get high.”

“The pivotal issue when it comes to controlled substances is impairment,” said Chris Kelly, spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office (emphasis added).

The short answer, he said, as to whether a person is guilty of Driving Under the Influence depends on two things: the impaired individual is “in [actual physical] control of the vehicle” and, per state statute, that “the person’s normal faculties are impaired.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) runs a panel for all controlled substances when blood is drawn, said spokeswoman Susie Murphy.

“We don’t typically test for huffing (inhaled) agents,” Murphy said. “We don’t test for over-the-counter drugs at all.”

But that doesn’t mean a person can’t be charged with DUI for taking over-the-counter medication.

“If someone were to ingest enough over-the-counter medicine, they could also be arrested for DUI if it is determined that they are impaired,” Montes said.

The Clearwater-based Blake & Dorsten, P.A. handles Driving Under the Influence cases throughout the Tampa Bay area. Former State of Florida DUI Manslaughter Prosecutor Nicholas J. Dorsten is now on your side.

us has taught DUI law, as well as courtroom demeanor and testimony, to future law enforcement officers at St. Pete College’s Police and Corrections Academies. While at the State Attorney’s Office in Pinellas County, Dorsten was recognized by RID Tampa Bay for his successful prosecution of DUI cases. He also trained new prosecuting attorneys for the State of Florida through the Florida Prosecuting Attorney’s Association’s.

To speak directly with an experienced and aggressive DUI defense attorney, please contact the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. at 727.286.6141. You can also email Nicholas at:

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