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Law Offices Of Wiley Nickel, PLLC


Know how prescription drugs can affect DWI Tests in North Carolina


If you are stopped for driving under the influence of alcohol and you fail a field sobriety test it is highly likely that you will be arrested on the spot and charged with DWI. In North Carolina, if you are 21 years or older and your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or above, you are legally impaired. If you are under 21 years of age and have any alcohol in your bloodstream, then you are legally impaired and should not be driving as the state has a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving.

There are also times where you may not have been drinking but are taking legal prescription medications. Those legal prescription drugs can affect your ability to pass field sobriety tests even though you have not been drinking.

Before you take any prescription medication, make sure you read and understand the labeling and the instructions. If the medication says you should not be driving or operating heavy machinery after taking it for several hours, then you should not get behind the wheel. If you absolutely must drive, be sure that you understand how the medication affects you. Never drive if it is the first time you have taken the medication.

Some medicines can also affect motor skills, including judgement, response time, strength and coordination, all of which are necessary to drive safely. Field sobriety tests often use coordination, balance and focus to determine if you should be operating a vehicle, so certain medications could produce a false negative. Certain drugs also cause the blood to absorb alcohol faster, so it takes lower levels of alcohol to become intoxicated.

Some prescription medications should never be used while you are driving or operating any type of machine. This includes stimulants; painkillers with narcotics; sleeping pills; sedatives; and cold, flu and allergy medication that make you drowsy. Some diabetes medications can also affect your ability to operate a vehicle safely.  Even if you blow under a 0.08 BAC the police can still arrest you for suspicion of DWI if you are “appreciably impaired.”  Legal and illegal drugs (i.e. marijuana) could give the police probable cause to arrest you for DWI even if you have not consumed any alcohol.

If you have taken a certain medication and are unaware of how the side effects will decrease your ability to pass a field sobriety test, you may have reasonable doubt in court when it comes to proving whether you were at fault for driving under the influence in North Carolina.

Protecting your future is vital whenever you are charged with a crime like DWI in the Raleigh area. The most important thing you can do if you are arrested for DWI, whether you were drinking or just under the treatment of legal, prescription medication, is to consult with an experienced Raleigh DWI Attorney immediately.

The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC handles DWI and DUI cases in the Raleigh, North Carolina area.  If you are charged with DWI (based on alcohol or prescription drugs) in Wake County, NC call us at 919-585-1486.  Our office is located in Cary, NC and we offer free consultations for those charged with DWI or DUI in and around Raleigh, NC.

Kristi Haddock