Published on 3/20/2023, 4:34:00 PM
Can I Get a DUI for Prescription Drugs in Maryland?
In Maryland, DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Impaired) laws are not limited to alcohol consumption.
Drugged driving, which includes the use of prescription medicine, is also taken very seriously.
It is essential to understand the difference between Maryland's two drugged driving offenses: 1. driving under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) and 2. driving while too far impaired by drugs and/or alcohol.
This article will discuss the legal consequences of drugged driving in Maryland, including potential defenses and the importance of seeking professional legal help for a drugged driving case in Maryland.
Controlled Dangerous Substances
Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS) are drugs or substances that are regulated under federal and state law. These substances can range from illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin to prescription medications such as painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs.
In Maryland Controlled Dangerous substances are broken down into schedules. For the purposes of drugged driving, unlike possession with intent to distribute all controlled dangerous substances are treated the same.
What if I have a Prescription for a CDS
A prescription for a CDS is a legally obtained authorization from a healthcare professional that allows an individual to possess and use a controlled dangerous substance. However, having a valid prescription does not necessarily protect you from DUI or DWI charges if you are found to be impaired while driving.
Having a valid prescription is a defense to driving under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance, but not driving while too far impaired by drugs unless:
You did not know the drug would have an impairing effect on you
TA - 21-902(d1i) Driving vehicle while under the Influence of a Controlled Dangerous Substance
Driving under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) is a criminal offense in Maryland. If you are found to be operating a motor vehicle while impaired by a CDS, you can be charged with this offense. This includes prescription medications if they have the potential to impair your driving ability, unless you were prescribed the substance. The maximum penalty for this offense is one year in jail, a $1,000 fine and 12 points on your license.
These penalties can increase if you have prior DUI or DWI offenses up to 10 years in jail with 3 prior convictions.
How does the State prove TA - 21-902(d1i)?
To prove this charge the State must put on a case that proves beyond a reasonable doubt:
- A person was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle
- That at the time a person was impaired by a controlled dangerous substance.
Impairment by CDS is defined as an impairment by some extent of a person's normal motor coordination such that their abilities have been reduced by the consumption of the substance. Possession of a controlled dangerous substance alone does not prove impairment.
TA.21-902(c1i) Driving vehicle while too far impaired by drugs and/or alcohol
In addition to the charge for driving under the influence of a CDS, Maryland law also prohibits driving while too far impaired by a combination of any drugs and/or alcohol. This offense, often referred to as a DWI c charge and , covers situations where an individual's ability to drive is compromised due to the consumption of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both.
This offense carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail, a $500 fine, and 8 points on a person's license. Just like all Maryland DUI Offenses the maximum penalty can increase up to 10 years if a person has 3 or more prior convictions.
How does the State prove TA.21-902(c1i)?
To prove this offense the State must prove:
- A person was driving or was in actual physical control of a vehicle; and
- At the time of driving the person was impaired by drugs or drugs and alcohol
- That person was incapable of driving safely.
Impairment is defined as an impairment of a person's normal motor coordination such that their abilities have been reduced by the consumption of the substance.
The State does not need to prove exactly what combination of drugs, or drugs and alcohol caused the impairment; however, it is a defense if a person was unaware that the drug or combination of drugs would make the person incapable of safely driving a vehicle.
Burden of Proof
In a drugged driving case, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the factors outlined above. This burden of proof is a critical element of the case and can be a determining factor in the outcome of the trial.
How are these two charges different?
The primary difference between a 21-902(d) and 21-902(c) charge in Maryland is the burden of proof as it pertains to the substance that a person is alleged to have taken. For the purposes of 21-902(d), the State must establish what the substance was and that it was in fact a controlled dangerous substance. However, both charges carry severe penalties and can have long-lasting consequences on your personal and professional life.
Drug Recognition Experts "DRE"
To combat drugged driving, Maryland employs Drug Recognition Experts (DREs). These specially trained officers have the skills to identify drivers who are under the influence of drugs. DREs use a variety of techniques, including field sobriety tests and blood tests, to determine if a driver is impaired by a controlled dangerous substance.
DRE examinations usually take place after a person has already undergone the typical standardized field sobriety tests that are used to detect alcohol impairment.
Most officers cannot opine as to "drug" impairment; however DREs are specially trained to recognize drug impairment. There isn't much science on this subject; however, DREs are trained through standardized materials and employ supposed scientific techniques including "pupilometers".
A qualified DUI lawyer should be able to cross examine a DRE and dig into the actual tests that underlie their often flawed opinions.
Do I have to give a blood test for drugs if a DRE asks?
The simple answer is no; however, A DRE is likely to ask for a blood sample at the conclusion of their additional tests. A person may refuse a blood test in the same way that they may refuse a breath test. A refusal of either a breath or blood test can be used against a person in a criminal case, and will trigger additional penalties at the Maryland Motor vehicle administration.
When a person is charged with a DUI or DWI related to either drugs or alcohol, license confiscation is typical. Once a person's license is taken, they are issued a DR-15A order of suspension. This document permits a person to drive for 45 days, after which a suspension will be imposed if a person takes no action.
A DUI or DWI conviction in Maryland can also lead to serious administrative consequences with the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). These consequences may include license suspension, revocation, or the requirement to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.
Maryland Drugged Driving Penalties
Penalties for drugged driving in Maryland can be severe and may include fines, imprisonment, and a loss of driving privileges. The specific penalties depend on the nature of the offense, any prior convictions, and other factors considered by the court.
What if I was prescribed the medication?
Having a valid prescription for the medication in question may provide a defense in some drugged driving cases, specifically those under TA 21-902(d1i).
However, this defense may not be sufficient if you were aware that the medication could impair your ability to drive safely and are charged under TA 21-902(c1i). It is crucial to consult with an experienced DUI attorney to evaluate your specific situation and determine the best course of action.
What if I didn't know the side effects?
Ignorance of the side effects of a medication is not always a viable defense in drugged driving cases. It is the responsibility of the driver to be aware of the potential side effects of any medication they are taking and to refrain from driving if those side effects could impair their ability to do so safely.
The State of Maryland is required to persuade a Judge or Jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that either a driver was aware that the drug would make them incapable of safely driving a vehicle or that the driver was not legally permitted to use the drug.
Trial in a drugged driving case
Trial is always a viable option in DUI cases. As a defendant you are faced with a choice, should I take a bench trial or a jury trial?
Bench Trial in District Court
In Maryland, a drugged driving case may be tried in District Court, where a judge (known as a bench trial) hears the case and makes the final decision. District Court trials typically involve misdemeanor charges and are much quicker than jury trials - typically taking only a single day.
Jury Trial in Circuit Court
If the charges are more severe or if the defendant requests a jury trial, the case may be tried in Circuit Court.
In a jury trial, a panel of twelve jurors listens to the evidence and decides the defendant's guilt or innocence. Circuit Court trials take substantially longer, and are usually reserved for cases where the State is seeking lengthy incarceration.
Contact a DUI lawyer today
If you are facing DUI or DWI charges related to prescription drugs or controlled dangerous substances in Maryland, it is crucial to seek the assistance of an experienced DUI attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can help you understand your rights, navigate the legal process, and present the best possible defense to protect your future. Don't wait; contact a DUI lawyer today to discuss your case and explore your options.