How Are Prescription Medication DUI Cases Handled In Utah?

What Does The Prosecution Need To Prove In These Cases Involving Prescription Medication DUI? Is It Going To Be Difficult For Them To Prove?

Prescription DUI cases are more difficult because they have to show that the prescription was on board, that they were under the influence of the prescription at the time, and that it rendered them incapable of safely operating their vehicle. Usually, the person will submit to the blood test. The prosecution can get a report back that says, “Okay, well, this was in their blood.” There may or may not be a therapeutic range there for the drug level. If there’s no therapeutic range and there’s just a detection limit, all the prosecution has there is, “Well, it was in their system.”

They then have to show that they were under the influence of it. It’s tough for them to do that unless they have a drug recognition expert do an evaluation. They might be under the influence of it based on that evaluation. There might be constricted pupils, an accelerated heartbeat, sweating, nervousness, and other stuff like that.

They then have to prove that it rendered them incapable of safely operating their vehicle. That usually comes down to a driving pattern — weaving or an accident or something like that.

It’s different with alcohol. With alcohol, the prosecutor just has the .08 law. If their blood alcohol level is .08 or higher, then they’re presumed to be impaired or intoxicated. We don’t have that with medications. We don’t have a limit where, if you have a certain level of oxycodone in your system, you’re DUI. That’s why they have to prove those other elements, and it’s hard for them to do that.

Do You Find That These Cases Are Easier Or Harder For You To Defend Than An Alcohol DUI?

I find that these prescription DUI cases are easier to defend because, when you pull all the information from the lab and from the police officer, the video of the DUI report, and things like that, and you start trying to put it all together, and explain that to a lot of the prosecutors, they don’t necessarily always want to deal with it. They don’t want to bring in the technician from the lab and have them try and explain how they got this test result. Even just trying to get someone from the lab to come and do that, to go beyond saying what was in their system to saying that they were impaired — I don’t think they’ll do that, so it makes it easier to defend them because of what the prosecutors have to prove.

If It Is A Second Charge For A DUI And Let’s Say The First One Was For Alcohol Or Vice Versa, Then I’m Assuming That Doesn’t Make Any Difference Regarding Whether It’s Your First, Second, Or Third In Terms Of The Penalty, Does It?

No, it doesn’t. You can have your first one be an alcohol-related DUI and your second one be drug-related, but the penalties are still going to be the same if there is a conviction. It doesn’t matter whether they involve drugs or alcohol.

When It’s Listed On Your Criminal Record, Is It Listed As Just A DUI, Or Does It Say DUI With Prescription Drugs? Is There Any Indication To Anyone Who Might Be Checking Employment? I’m Thinking Of Nurses Or Anyone Else For Whom That Might Be A Big Factor.

As far as the background checks that I’ve seen — and I’ve seen a lot because I deal with repeat offenders — for the second and third offenses, they will be checking their backgrounds to see what they show and to verify whether there was a conviction or not. They don’t make any distinction between drugs or alcohol. In the ones that I’ve seen, I think it just says “DUI Drugs/Alcohol” or “Alcohol/Drug” and convicted on such and such a date. They don’t really make a distinction between whether it’s drugs or alcohol in the background check.

However, in Utah, the law states that a DUI conviction has to be reported to the DOPL, or the Department of Occupational Licensing. So yeah, if you are a nurse or a daycare provider or do anything that you receive a license for through DOPL, for your business or your trade, then they’re going to get a report of that DUI conviction.

I’ve seen a lot of cases where the DUI has led to me not only having to defend the person at the driver’s license division at the court, but also having to defend their nursing or their contractor’s license so they can keep working. Yes, it can definitely impact that.

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