An Overview Of Prescription Drug-Related DUI Cases In Utah

What Are The Laws In Utah Regarding Prescription Medications And Operating A Motor Vehicle?

That’s a good question, and a lot of people need information about that. In Utah, you can be given a DUI if you’re on a medication. The prosecution will have to prove that you are under the influence of that medication or a combination of medication and alcohol, and that that has rendered you incapable of safely operating your vehicle. There are two or three important ideas there: that you have medication in your system, that you’re under the influence of it, and that it renders you incapable of safely operating your vehicle.

Do You Know Or Have Any Idea What Percentage Of DUI Cases In Utah Involve Prescription Medications?

I don’t have a hard and fast number, but I would say that about 40% of DUIs in Utah involve prescription medication at this point.

Do You See That Number Rising?

I do. Utah is kind of unique. I think we are at the top of the list for people who die from prescription drug overdoses. I think, if you look at the numbers and the statistics, Utah is in the top 3 states that have the highest number of prescription drug overdoses. I do think the numbers are rising. I believe it’s just because there are more medications out there now. There are scientists and doctors and pharmacists and drug companies who are making and creating more and more medications. They’re being used more often for treatment and in medicine. I think it will continue to rise, absolutely.

Is There A Typical Client That You See In These Cases More Often Than Others, Like A Certain Age Group, Gender, Or Profession? Is It Surprising?

You would think that maybe the elderly would have more prescriptions and have this kind of problem more often, but my experience has been that it cuts across all categories of people—all ages and different levels of income. I couldn’t, based on my experience, narrow it down to one age group or economic group of people. I think it affects everybody. Everyone has access to prescriptions.

What Are The Most Common Prescription Medications That You See People Taking Who Are Being Charged In These Types Of DUI Cases?

One big one that I see is benzodiazepines, which would be like Xanax or Klonopin. Those are used to treat anxiety or given as muscle relaxants. Then you have the opioids, like hydrocodone and oxycodone. They’re for the treatment of pain. I’m not a doctor, but it seems like people are getting these medications for anxiety-related issues, stress-related issues, depression-related issues, and of course pain issues. I think that’s why I see those kinds the most.

In Your Experience, Are Most People Who Are Arrested For Suspicion Of DUI Of Prescription Drugs Surprised When They Are Arrested?

Yeah. I take a lot of prescription drug cases here. Most of the time, there is a video, and you can hear some of the conversations that take place between the officer and the driver. The driver will be explaining, “Well, I’m taking these medications as my doctor prescribed. I don’t know why you’re arresting me. I’ve done nothing wrong.” They are surprised, and when they get in front of someone like me, and I explain to them why the officer did what he did and the law behind it, they are even more shocked. That would be a fair statement.

In Most Of These Prescription Medication DUI Cases, Is It People Who Are Taking Their Own Prescription Medications, Or Do You See More Cases Where People Are Abusing Or Using Someone Else’s Illegally?

In most of the cases that I handle, people are taking their own prescriptions. When the police do the inventory search of the vehicle, those prescriptions (if the bottle is in there) become evidence. I review those. Most of the time, they’re not charged with anything else other than DUI and usually a traffic-related offense of swerving or failure to maintain the lane or something like that. I don’t see too many who are abusing other people’s prescriptions.

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