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What is Sleep Driving? Ambien-Related DUIs

sleep drivingUnder the Ohio Revised Code 4511.19, operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs is just as serious of a charge as driving under the influence of alcohol. This is something that many Cincinnati residents don’t realize. At The Farrish Law Firm, L.P.A., we understand how disorienting these DUI cases can be—especially for individuals who didn’t realize that they were breaking the law in the first place.

If you’re facing drug-related DUI charges (called “OVI” charges in Ohio), it is imperative that you talk with an experienced Cincinnati DUI attorney. You will most likely be facing fines and jail time if convicted of a drug-related DUI, and working with a compassionate and trustworthy legal team will ensure that you have the best chances of getting a favorable outcome.

So what exactly does a drug-related DUI charge entail in the state of Ohio?

Drug-Related DUI: The Definition

According to state legislation, “No person shall operate any vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley within this state, if, at the time of the operation… the person is under the influence of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or a combination of them.”

It is a fairly simple procedure to determine if an individual is driving under the influence of alcohol; a breathalyzer can be administered right on the scene, and a urine/blood draw test can be administered off-site for a more conclusive blood alcohol concentration (BAC) analysis.

It is more complex, however, to determine whether an individual is technically “under the influence” of a drug while driving. It is important to understand that this law applies to drugs that are known to produce side effects that may make it unsafe to operate a motor vehicle. Taking two ibuprofen pills and driving to work, for example, wouldn’t result in a DUI charge if you were pulled over for speeding.

Which Drugs Are Included in the Legislation?

Consuming illegal substances, such as heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and amphetamines are all explicitly noted in Ohio’s legislation if a DUI charge is applicable. Certain prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs may also factor into a DUI charge.

According to the Revised Code 4511.19(A), this typically refers to drugs that are labeled as “controlled substances,” i.e., drugs that have been known to produce side effects including drowsiness, hallucinations, hyperactivity, impaired impulse control, and/or impaired cognitive abilities.

Prescription stimulants such as Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) and prescription sedatives such as Ambien (zolpidem) may be prescribed to individuals legally by a medical professional for the treatment of certain medical conditions. Nevertheless, an individual may still be charged with driving under the influence if operating a motor vehicle after having consumed one or more of these drugs legally.

The likelihood of being charged with a DUI because you take Adderall for narcolepsy, for example, may not be high unless you have consumed so much of the drug that your ability to drive has been impaired. In fact, an experienced DUI attorney might even make the case that a narcoleptic would be even less able to drive if he or she abstained from consuming this drug.

Taking an over-the-counter sleeping medication or a prescription sedative like Ambien for your insomnia, however, could result in a DUI charge if you proceed to operate a motor vehicle while the drug is still in your system and still impairs your ability to drive.

The Consequences

If you are convicted of drug-related DUI charges (OVI) in Ohio, the penalties will depend on:

  1. Which drug or drugs were in your system at the time;
  2. If this drug(s) was consumed with alcohol;
  3. If you knew (or should have known) that the drug could impair your ability to drive;
  4. How much of the drug was in your system while you were driving;
  5. If you have ever been convicted of criminal offenses in the past.

Penalties for drug-related DUIs in Ohio often include:

  1. Jail time or driver’s intervention program of no fewer than three days;
  2. A fine no less than $375;
  3. Suspension of driver’s license for no fewer than six months, with a possibility of being suspended longer;
  4. Possible attendance at a drug addiction treatment program;
  5. Possible impoundment of license plates;
  6. Possible required forfeiture of your vehicle.

Facing a Drug-Related DUI Offense in Cincinnati

Drunk driving tends to get more attention simply because it is easier to spot; it is also much more common. Data from MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) shows that around 4,000 drunk driving arrests occur every single day in the U.S., costing the country around $199 billion each year. However, drugged driving occurs fairly often on a daily basis as well. According to data from 2012, an estimated 10.3 million people drove under the influence of a drug that technically impaired their ability to operate a motor vehicle (and could have resulted in a drug DUI charge).

At The Farrish Law Firm, L.P.A., we take these DUI offenses very seriously. If you are facing a drug-related DUI charge in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, contact our firm today for more information about how our experienced DUI attorneys may be able to help.