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There is no per se limit for prescription medication when driving

On Behalf of | Jul 21, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Those accused of impaired driving in North Carolina face several very significant penalties. A conviction could result in jail time, big fines and also the suspension of someone’s driver’s license. Yet, those who regularly drink aren’t the only ones at risk of impaired driving charges under North Carolina law.

Police officers can arrest those who are under the influence of drugs, including prescription medication. Obviously, those driving after consuming prohibited substances like heroin or methamphetamine might face criminal charges if they get caught. What fewer people realize is that many prescription medications can lead to impaired driving charges as well in part because the state does not have a limit established for intoxication with prescription drugs the way that it has a limit for alcohol.

How per se limits work

A driver arrested for drunk driving in North Carolina will typically face accusations either that they operated a vehicle in an obviously impaired manner or that they exceeded the per se limit for their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Having a BAC higher than the legal limit is a criminal offense in itself regardless of how the alcohol in someone’s bloodstream affects their driving ability.

For those accused of drugged driving in North Carolina, there aren’t specific tests or limits that will determine the charges they face or their likelihood of conviction as there are with alcohol. The simple presence of controlled substances in someone’s bloodstream will typically be justification for their prosecution regardless of how well or how poorly they operated their vehicle.

Admitting to taking a prescription drug may not seem like a crime, especially if someone has consumed the medication for years. People become acclimated to their medication and may no longer experience the impairment that those new to a prescription might. However, the law does not recognize that kind of nuance.

Driving while under the influence of a drug that is known to affect driving ability is enough to warrant an impaired driving offense and could potentially lead to someone’s conviction in criminal court. The lack of a per se limit will therefore influence the defense strategy employed by someone accused of impaired driving related to prescription medication.

Although undermining the accuracy of chemical test results won’t be an option, there are still other defense strategies that may help those accused of driving after taking prescription medication. Learning more about the impaired driving laws in North Carolina may be a smart decision for anyone with pending criminal charges.