DUI by Prescription Medication

One of the most common misconceptions in Driving Under the Influence cases is that a person cannot be convicted of driving under the influence of a drug that prescribed to that person.  In Tennessee, driving with prescription medication in one’s system is not a defense to Driving Under the Influence (DUI).


Under Tennessee law it is unlawful for any person to drive or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while “Under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, controlled substance, controlled substance analogue, drug, substance affecting the central nervous system or combination thereof that impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle by depriving the driver of the clearness of mind and control of himself which he would otherwise possess.” Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-401(1).  Tennessee law further specifies that, “The fact that any person charged with violating § 55-10-401 is or has been entitled to use one (1) or more intoxicants, alcohol, marijuana, controlled substances, controlled substance analogues, drugs, or other substances that cause impairment shall not constitute a defense against any charge of violating this part.” Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-411(e).


Driving under the influence of drugs (both illicit drugs and prescription medication) is reported to be on the rise, as recently highlighted in The Washington Post.  Two recent reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claim that the incidents of driving under the influence by alcohol (drunk driving) are down, but there has been an increase of cases involving those driving under the influence of marijuana and prescription drugs:

The 2014 survey found that about 8 percent of people on the road on weekend nights had alcohol in their system, and slightly more than 1 percent were above the legal limit. That was 30 percent below the 2007 figure, NHTSA said, and an 80 percent drop since the first survey was taken in 1973.

But the number of people with drugs in their system was found to be on the rise. It jumped from 16.3 percent in 2007 to 20 percent of weekend nighttime drivers in 2014. Drivers with marijuana in their system soared by almost 50 percent.

See Ashley Halsey III, Fewer People  Driving Drunk, But Drug Use On The Road Is Rising, The Washington Post (Feb. 8, 2015), available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/fewer-people-driving-drunk-but-more-are-driving-while-on-drugs/2015/02/08/b6c4ad2a-ae59-11e4-9c91-e9d2f9fde644_story.html.


If accused of driving under the influence of drugs (DUI by drugs), it is important to immediately consult with a Tennessee DUI attorney familiar with Tennessee DUI laws and the issues surrounding DUI by drugs or prescription medication.  For more information about the crime of DUI or about your legal rights with respect to an allegation of driving under the influence of an intoxicant, the lawyers at Oberman & Rice are available by calling (865) 249-7200.  You may also wish to visit www.tndui.com for more information about the offense of driving under the influence in Tennessee.

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  1. #1 by Anthony ADAMS - December 17th, 2016 at 10:50

    I only take what my dr prescribd c to me im a 100% disabeled veteran and 100 SSI DisAblrd i have been out of service serval years and never had a any problems i had t have several sereries ln 3 months lost almost 100 lbs and i actually was in hospital in jaxson general 3 to 4 months total i actually died 4 time in there and and i had to get my medication adjusted but with all the problem i dorgot to ask them i have PTST and was Leaving Dr Golds Office in Paris Tn hes my Physicratic . Can i grt this dropped any way

  2. #2 by Darla - February 3rd, 2017 at 19:31

    I am a 62 year old female who was released from hospital a 2 week stay diagnosis with major depression al 2 weeks. After.being released there were no groceries. The following morning I went to Sonic to eat. After eating I got very sick vomiting, dizzinesd and couldn’t concentrate. I took my daily prescription medicine called Vyvanse. The psychiatrist prescribed me a depression medicine called Geodon with side effects nausea, dizziness, concentration and not knowing where I’m at. Being considerate of patrons I drove away to the picnic table to not cause any attention. The police was called and I was arrested for DUI. Will this be a conviction?

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