Drivers Take Caution: California DUI Charges Extend to Cold Medicine, Prescription Drugs

On behalf of The Law Offices of Michael L. Davidson posted in DUI on Monday, March 7, 2011.

Many people have heard of DUI or the phrase “driving under the influence,” but what exactly does this mean? Some would say it only means driving under the influence of just alcohol or illegal drugs like marijuana. However, many people fail to realize that DUI means a person can be charged with driving under the influence of legal substances – like cold medicine.

In California, it’s true that people will face DUI charges if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more. But it’s also true that a driver in California can be charged with a DUI if they haven’t even been drinking. Officers can pull over and charge California drivers with driving under the influence of any substance – legal or otherwise – if they find, for example, erratic driving behavior. Unfortunately, this includes legal drugs like cold medicine.

Cold medicines definitely have their benefits. They ease cold and flu symptoms and simply make people feel better. But like any medication they also come with negative side effects. Cold medicine can make people feel drowsy, dizzy, and incoherent. And if individuals are experiencing these symptoms while driving, they can be pulled over and charged with a DUI if a police officer determines they are driving under the influence of the over-the-counter medication.

Cold medicines aren’t the old over-the-counter drugs that could lead to DUI charges; antihistamine drugs used to treat allergies also apply. Allegra, Claritin D, and Clarinex can all make individuals feel drowsy and less alert. Prescription drugs can also be problematic. Barbiturates and other anti-anxiety medication like Valium, for example, can also cause drowsiness and loss of mental focus. If individuals are found under the influence of these drugs and driving unsafe, officers can charge them with DUI.


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The Law Offices of Michael L. Davidson
411 Borel Avenue
San Mateo, CA 94402

Phone: 650-573-8000
Fax: 650-345-9875
San Mateo Law Office