Prescription Drug DUI in Washington


People tend to trust that their doctors are prescribing them medications that help them treat conditions such as pain, mental illness, problems with sleep, and so much more. Although it may be legal to own and use a medication your doctor prescribed to you, choosing to drive while under the effects of the medication can put you in a difficult legal position.

What Is Prescription Drug DUI?

In Washington, a prescription drug DUI is a criminal charge for driving while impaired by the effects of a pharmaceutical drug. Most people associate DUIs with alcohol, marijuana, and even illegal street drugs, but not as many readily think about their medications in the same context.

There are, however, many different kinds of pharmaceutical drugs that can cause impairment similar to that of any of the aforementioned substances.

Some of these types of drugs include the following:

  • Allergy medications (risk of drowsiness)
  • Antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Opioids and other painkillers
  • Sedatives
  • Sleep aides

Drugs that fall into these categories – and that your doctor may have prescribed to you – include Oxycodone, Percocet, Xanax, Ativan, Ambien, Adderall, and Claritin. Be very cautious when taking these drugs and avoid driving when you do to protect yourself from a DUI.

What Are the Penalties for Prescription Drug DUI?

Washington treats DUIs for drugs (pharmaceutical or otherwise) the same as DUIs for alcohol. This means that you can expect to face the same kinds of penalties as you would have if you were pulled over for drinking and driving.

A first-time conviction could carry the following penalties:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • $5,000 fine

A second, third, or subsequent DUI conviction (whether drugs and/or alcohol are involved) will lead to more serious penalties, such as a license suspension or revocation, requirement to carry high-risk liability insurance, and have an ignition interlock system installed on your vehicle if your driving privileges are restored.

Should you have a previous criminal history, or if someone was injured or killed in an accident you caused while DUI, you can face even greater penalties.

A Doctor’s Note Won’t Help You

Contrary to what many believe, having a doctor’s note for their medication won’t get them out of a prescription drug DUI arrest. When a police officer pulls someone over on the suspicion of DUI, they’ll be looking for any kind of evidence to confirm their suspicion that the driver is impaired by something.

If the officer doesn’t seem impaired and there is no smell of alcohol or marijuana in the car, the officer might stop the investigation and let them go. If the driver, however, offers that they were on a medication and have a doctor’s note to prove it’s legal, this might give the officer the probable cause they need to initiate a DUI arrest for prescription drugs.

Arrested for a DUI? We Can Help.

If you were arrested for a DUI of any kind, Hester Law Group can provide the legal support you need to fight your charges. We offer our clients personalized legal services and representation that can help them avoid or mitigate a conviction and the penalties one would carry.

For more information, contact Hester Law Group online now and request to schedule a consultation.