In Georgia, driving under the influence of a drug that affects your ability to drive safely can serve as grounds for DUI charges. It may surprise many people to learn that a drug in this context does not just refer to illegal substances such as methamphetamines or heroin.
You may face charges even if you took nothing other than a duly prescribed medicine or even a common over-the-counter remedy. This is true even if you took the proper dosage.
Any amount can be too much
The law does not set forth a specific limit for how much of a given substance is too much. Various medications contain different substances or combinations that could affect driving. The effect on any particular person can vary depending on factors such as that person's metabolism, health conditions and other medications.
How officers decide to stop you
Police officers must have reasonable cause to stop you. Most often, this means they observe a pattern of driving that indicates potential problems. Common signs of an impaired driver include weaving in and out of traffic, aggressive driving, drifting out of the lane and delayed responses to changing traffic conditions.
What happens after the stop
Once officers stop you, they may ask you if you have been drinking or taking any medications. They may ask you to blow into a portable breathalyzer; if you did not drink any alcohol, this will not yield any results. They may also want you to take a blood or urine test, which reveals the presence of medications or illegal drugs. At the scene, officers may also administer the standard field sobriety test, which checks the ability to balance, focus the gaze and perform basic cognitive tasks.
Common medicines to watch out for
Many types of prescription medications can have serious side effects, including drowsiness, vertigo, physical slowness and difficulty thinking. Among the more common medications with the potential for these side effects are drugs prescribed for anxiety, insomnia and pain. Over-the-counter cold, cough and sleep remedies may also affect driving in a similar way.