Defenses to Arizona Prescription Drug DUI Charges

Many state and national campaigns attempt to combat driving under the influence; however, they primarily focus on alcohol and illicit drug use. As such, many people are unaware that Arizona law permits prosecuting individuals for driving under the influence (DUI) involving legal prescription medications. The cases generally focus on the person’s impairment rather than the drug’s concentration in their system. The penalties for prescription drug DUI in Arizona can range and may involve:

  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Driver license suspension
  • Community service
  • Ignition interlock device installation
  • Treatment programs
  • Traffic school
  • Fines and assessments

Even those taking the medications as directed may face Arizona DUI charges. Two DUI statutes, ARS § 28-1381(A)(1) and ARS § 1381(A)(3), govern prescription medication DUIs. ARS § 28-1381(A)(1) refers to cases involving “impairment to the slightest degree.” This statute makes it illegal to operate a vehicle while impaired by any drug or alcohol. This zero-tolerance law strictly prohibits driving under these conditions, regardless of whether the driver has a legal prescription. ARS § 1381(A)(3) involves “driving with an illegal drug in one’s Body” and generally refers to non-prescribed prescription medications and street drugs.

A potential defense may involve a violation of an accused’s Fourth Amendment rights. The Fourth Amendment refers to protections from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. Under the amendment, law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion of a crime to pull over a driver. Further, even if they have the appropriate suspicion, the law limits their investigation. In prescription drug DUI cases, an accused may claim that the officer lacked probable cause for the stop or arrest. Additionally, an Arizona DUI attorney may suppress the results of any unlawful methods the officers used to establish probable cause.

Presenting a valid prescription alone does not constitute a valid defense against a charge under 1381(A)(1). However, a valid prescription may be a valid defense to charges involving 1381(A)(3). In these cases, the government must prove that the prescription medications caused impairment. The government often relies on biased and subjective accounts from the arresting officer. In an effort to combat this fundamental shortcoming, police departments use drug recognition programs and certify “experts” to recognize impairment. However, an attorney can use their skills, resources, and experience to refute these claims.

Arizona DUI laws are complex, and anyone facing these charges should reach out to an experienced attorney for immediate assistance.

Contact an Arizona Prescription Drug DUI Defense Lawyer

If you face Arizona DUI charges related to prescription drug use, non-prescription drugs or alcohol use, contact the Law Office of James E. Novak. Our Maricopa County criminal defense law firm has successfully represented those accused of drunk and drugged driving crimes for nearly 20 years. Attorney Novak prioritizes every client’s needs, and their defense comes first. He believes that all clients deserve a vigorous defense, and he fiercely fights for their constitutional rights, future, and freedom. Our firm handles Arizona criminal defenses involving DUIs, assault, burglary, vehicular crimes, sexual offenses, arson, domestic violence, drug offenses, and more. Contact Novak Law at 480-413-1499 to schedule a free initial consultation.


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