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Tampa Attorney for Drug DUI Cases

Driving under the influence (DUI) in Florida can result from either intoxication due to alcohol consumption or because of impairment due to illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or even over-the-counter drugs or medication. DUI drug cases typically involve chemical tests of your blood or urine (or an allegation that you refused chemical testing).

Contact an experienced DUI attorney at the Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL. We are experienced in fighting DUI cases that involve allegations of illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs or medications.

Call 813-250-0500 to discuss your best defenses during a confidential and free consultation.


Why DUI Drug Cases are Different from Drunk Driving Cases

When drugs are suspected as the reason for the impairment, the arresting officer might request a urine test or a blood test. The arresting officer will then send the sample off to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab. The defense will often move to suppress or exclude the DUI test results at trial. When the test results are not admissible, it can often cause the entire case to be dismissed.

DUI drug cases are typically more difficult for the prosecutor to prove at trial because they tend to require testimony from expert witnesses. In many of these case, the defense is served well by hiring their own expert witness that can contradict the State's theory of the case and hopefully aid in getting the prosecutor to drop or reduce the charges before trial.

In the event that the case does go to trial, the expert testimony from a defense witness is extremely important in DUI cases involving impairment from drug use. Prosecutors with the State Attorney's office in Hillsborough County, Florida, and the surrounding counties throughout Tampa Bay aggressively prosecute drug DUI cases.


Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drug Cases

Many common prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause driver impairment and affect the driver's normal faculties, such as the driver's ability to talk, walk, and make emergency decisions. Many people are surprised to learn that prescription drugs or over the counter medication can lead to a DUI arrest. Many over the counter medications can have a tremendous impact on your ability to drive, particularly when that medication is mixed with any other drug or an alcoholic beverage.

If the officer suspects that you are under the influence of any illegal drug, prescription medication or over the counter drug, the officer may request a breath test, followed by a urine or blood test. Additionally, the officer may ask you questions about what medication you took, the dosage, and the times that the medication was taken.

If you are stopped by the police for DUI because the officer suspects you are under the influence of any illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter medication, you are not required to answer any questions about the drugs or medications that you are taking.

Certain types of medications do not qualify as a controlled substance under Florida law. For instance, Ambien (or Zolpidem) and other types of sleep aids are not considered controlled substances under Florida law. Read more about DUI cases involving Ambien or Zolpidem in Florida.


Illegal Drugs and DUI

Of course, if you use illegal drugs and then drive under the influence of those illegal drugs you can be arrested for DUI. However, in many cases, the illegal drugs will show up in your blood or urine hours or even days after the effect of the drug has worn off and could not have contributed to any poor driving pattern.

For instance, in DUI cases involving the presence of a marijuana, a certain marijuana metabolite - Delta 9 Carboxy THC - will often show up in the blood or urine of the driver. However, in most cases this evidence is not admissible at trial because this metabolite can stay in the blood or urine or days or even weeks after the marijuana was consumed. See Estrich v. State, 995 So.2d 613 (4th DCA, November 26, 2008)(in Florida DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene of a crash involving a death the conviction was reversed because no evidence about the marijuana metabolite should have been admitted at the trial since it was irrelevant to the issue of DUI impairment).


Prescription Medications that Cause a DUI arrest

Medication to alleviate panic attacks, anti-depression, anti-anxiety, sleep and pain medication can cause adverse side-effects including fatigue, confusion, sleepiness, or lack of coordination. Prescription medications in DUI cases can include Valium, Ambien, Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin (oxycodone), Darvocet and Xanax.

Many individuals that take these prescription medications may develop a tolerance depending on the length of time that they have taken the medication and the dosage of the medication. In many of these cases the medications are being taken as prescribed. Medical issues or disabilities may explain a poor performance on a field sobriety exercise.


Over-the-Counter Medications that Cause a DUI arrest

Allergy, cold, flu or pain medication such as Dimetapp, Benadryl which can cause sleepiness, lack of coordination, vertigo and confusion. Many individuals taking these over-the-counter medications do so on a short term basis and are not accustomed to the intoxicating effects of the medications. Many individuals take an over-the-counter medication without even thinking about how that medication might effect their driving.


Marijuana in DUI Cases in Florida

In many DUI cases involving an allegation that the driver consumed marijuana, the urinalysis of the defendant’s urine sample will disclose “11 Nor 9 carboxy-delta 9 tetrahedroncannabinol” (also known as “carboxy-THC” or “THC-COOH.”

Carboxy-THC is a second-generation metabolite of the active ingredient of marijuana which is non-impairing and merely indicates ingestion of marijuana sometime in the past several days or weeks. Therefore, the presence of carboxy-THC has no probative value in establishing impairment and should be inadmissible because it is highly prejudicial to the defendant without having an probative value.


Defending DUI Drug Case

If your doctor has prescribed medication, think carefully about whether you are able to drive after taking that medication. Be aware that other drugs or even a small amount of alcohol that drastically compound the impact of that your medication might have on your ability to drive safely. While the charges are pending you should be particularly careful. The State Attorney's Office in Hillsborough County, FL, is particularly aggressive in prosecuting a wide variety of drug crimes.

If you were arrested after an allegation that you used a controlled substance or other drugs and drove an automobile then contact a DUI defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm today. Read more about our case results in DUI cases.

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This article was last updated on Tuesday, November 3, 2015.

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